Many people struggle with emotions during the holidays, especially those who care for aging loved ones. The days get shorter and media messages create a false sense of the “perfect” holiday experience to which many cannot relate. We can enjoy the holiday season by celebrating our lives and those we love.
Stress & Holidays
Stress, frustration and anger can easily replace peace and good will for a number of reasons during the holidays:
- Caring for someone severely ill, disabled or cognitively impaired may leave caregivers feeling like they cannot participate as fully as they would like in holiday activities.
- Already overwhelmed with caregiving tasks, many view holiday preparations as an additional drain.
- Caregivers may feel resentful towards other family members who they feel have not offered enough assistance. Luckily, there are strategies for coping.
Strategies for Coping
- Communicate: It’s difficult to talk about a loved one’s decline. Honest communication about the realities of it allows others to assist. Sharing the truths of your situation may help reduce the isolation and lack of appreciation you may feel.
- Clarify your energy level: Let family members know that your caregiving duties keep you busy and that you only have so much energy for holiday preparation and hosting duties. Learn to say no!
- Adapt: Caregivers need to adapt their traditional role or experience of the holidays. Allow or ask another family member to host more time-intensive festivities. You may also need to modify your time to match the comfort level of your loved one. You will have to choose which events to attend based upon which are simplest, least exhausting and most enjoyable for you and the person you care for.
- Share your wish list: Whether it’s respite from caregiving, home repairs that you need or plain care for you, make your wishes known.
- Reflect on the rewards: Focus on the positive. Reflecting on the rewards of caregiving can help maintain your drive. If you need help with that, check out one of our caregiving seminars.
- Be flexible: When something doesn’t go the way you’d planned, laugh, regroup and make the best of it. Rather than letting the mishaps control you, control them by keeping your sense of humor, keeping a positive perspective and adapting to different solutions.
Caring for Yourself
Exercise: Taking a brisk walk is a great way to release pent up frustrations. Set aside time to walk as often as you can. You can even walk with or push the person you provide care for in a wheelchair. In the winter, you can walk at the Mall or an indoor track. Exercise also increases endorphins which reduces stress and elevates your mood.
Take breaks: Take daily, weekly, monthly and yearly breaks. Try to plan a daily break to do an activity you enjoy. Then, plan a weekly activity, such as a trip to the library or a movie. A monthly break might include a night out with friends. A yearly break could mean a vacation. Plan ahead and arrange for care of your loved one. Removing yourself from the situation for a period, can give you a fresh perspective as well as recharge your batteries.
Give a gift to yourself: Slow down and be kind to yourself. Take a break and enjoy the holiday. You do what you can and no one can expect more than that. Meditate. Practicing a daily meditation technique gives you the experience of deep rest.
Keep shopping simple: Use non-traditional methods, such as catalogs or internet. Consider gift cards. Financial concerns can be part of the stress of the holidays. Set a budget beforehand and try to stick to it. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.
Prepare for post-holiday let down: Often, despite our best efforts to create a wonderful holiday season, we may feel let down. We may feel burned out, crabby, apathetic, impatient and/or exhausted. Often, we set the expectations too high and/or linger on past memories of the holidays.
Seek support: Have coffee with a friend and talk about your feelings. Join or continue to attend a support group. Seek professional help if you find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, physically ill, unable to sleep, irritable, hopeless and unable to focus on routine chores.