The holidays are some of the happiest times of the year. From Halloween to New Year’s Day, the holidays are often filled with family, food and festivities. We bask in the Christmas lights, attend church services, have parties and pick out gifts for loved ones.
The holidays can also be stressful. Gifts and parties take time and money. Family can be…complicated. Schedules, expectations and expenses increase during the holiday season.
The demands of caregiving also increase. We help prepare for parties. We take extra care for visitors and guests. Our loved ones can be more tired (both physically and emotionally) during this season, which adds stress for caregivers.
There are ways to help reduce the stress for everyone, even during the holidays. With a little extra attention and a few strategic tips, caregiving during the holiday season doesn’t have to be quite as stressful or overwhelming. The best moments of caregiving can be appreciated and highlighted. From sharing special treats to watching our loved ones enjoy a concert or movie, the role of caregiving adds a wonderful dimension to this season.
These tips help highlight the best and make the most of the holidays.
5 Tips for Stress-Free Caregiving for the Holiday Season:
Pause & Plan
Take a moment to consider the extra events and needs this season brings. With social events, family gatherings and added expenses, what extras need to be considered for your loved one and yourself? Remember, you will have extras during this season, too. You may have family visiting or events to attend outside of your caregiving responsibility. Taking a moment to sit down, reflect and even create a plan can reduce stress and anxiety in the coming months.
Set Aside Time
You may need more time to recharge during this busy time. Set aside a few minutes extra each day for rest and relaxation. You might take 10 minutes to go for a walk or sit alone and simply breathe. You may need these extra breaks to help reduce stress and feel more balanced. The busier we get, the more time we need for rest – which is frustrating but true!
Ask for Help
You may be able to provide all the caregiving your loved one needs most of the year, but this might be a time for help. You can consider respite care, adult day care or even asking another family member for an extra set of hands. Can someone else run errands one day so you have time for your own gift shopping? Can a family member provide transportation one evening if your loved one has a concert or party? Asking for help allows others to be involved and offers a break and opportunity for you to enjoy your own traditions. Remember, asking for help is best when it’s clear and specific. Instead of asking, “Can you help more with mom’s care?” you might try asking, “Can you take mom Christmas shopping Saturday morning from 10-12?” People often respond better to clear requests, which help everyone plan accordingly.
Many of our expectations are subconscious. We don’t even realize we have them. They come from our childhood, our habits or the way things have always been. But circumstances change. People change, and families change. Take time to reflect on what you expect to happen this season, and then ask yourself if your expectations are realistic or even beneficial. Are you expecting mom to spend four hours Christmas shopping with the grandkids like she did last year? Can she do that this year? Can you do that this year? We are always adjusting to new normals, and the holidays are often the times when these changes are highlighted most. Before an expectation isn’t met and disappointment sets in, reflect on those expectations and set yourself and everyone else up for success.
Focus on the Goal
Often, we start a project or attend an event without really thinking of our goals. Are we there to shop and buy gifts, or are we there to enjoy time with a loved one? Is the goal to purchase items or to spend time? If the goal is to literally purchase items, how can this be done efficiently and quickly without hassle? If the goal is to spend quality time, then perhaps the actual purchases don’t matter as much. Maybe we can take our time and window shop. The key is to know the goal and be clear about what that is and how to achieve it. Why are we doing what we’re doing, and how can we do it well? That’s the question. So often, the goal gets lost in the details, in the shuffle, and when we get home or the last guests have gone, we realize the goal got lost along the way. Ask yourself and your loved one: what is the goal in this moment? And how can we get there in the easiest, most enjoyable way?
These tips require some time upfront, but they pay dividends as the holiday season gets underway. With some thought, reflection and understanding, the holidays can be filled with meaningful, mindful interactions and activities. Rather than rushing through the day with a to-do list of “fun” bullet points, the days can be spent with a focus on what matters most in the moment, for that day, with that person.
Caregiving is a beautiful relationship and responsibility. Using these tips, caregiving during a particularly stressful time of year can be easier, less burdensome and more enjoyable for everyone.
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