The thought of decking the halls for the holiday season can often bring stress, rather than joy, to a caregiver’s spirits. Caring for a loved one adds dimensions of challenge to life, and with added holiday responsibilities for cooking, shopping, decorating, and meeting the demands of family gatherings and celebrations, caregivers can become easily overwhelmed.
As you move through the holidays, a few key suggestions can help minimize the stress of the season:
Conserve your energy. Shop online and use catalogs. Pare down on gift-giving. Prepare a list and asking a friend to do some of your shopping on your behalf, or shop WITH someone who can help double your efforts. Schedule time for relaxation and breaks away from your caregiving routine.
Let convenience rule. Ask another family member to host the holiday dinner or celebration this year. Suggest that the meal be a potluck, or have family meet at a restaurant and forget the preparation and the dishes. Use festive paper products and forget the clean-up. Purchase your baked good from a church or school bake sale.
Focus on balance. As much as possible, try to maintain a routine of regular exercise, healthy eating, and rest. Enjoy holiday goodies in moderation. Make time to care for your own health needs, including staying as physically fit as possible. Ask a friend or two to provides some hours of respite while you walk at the mall or borrow a friend’s hot tub.
Tell yourself that the way it was is not necessarily the way it always has to be. Create new holiday traditions if it’s necessary to break from old ones. Give yourself permission to allow things to feel and look different from the way they have in the past. Remember to keep the focus on people and making memories now.
Be as flexible as possible. The unexpected can always be expected to come up in the life of a caregiver. Investigate respite plans in advance. Think through the possibility of alternative plans in the event of unexpected medical events. Evaluate in advance how you might respond if you needed to choose between a caregiving priority or a holiday event.
Submit your expectations to God. Recognize that ultimately, the ultimate goal of our lives is to love God by loving people. A goal of loving people can never be blocked. The greatest gift we can offer this season is the gift of our love, and that gift is never limited by cash flow or financial expenditures.