OK, I'll admit. I can be a bit of a "Grinch" when it comes to the holidays. I could honestly take them or leave them.
For many caregivers, along with the holidays comes feelings of loneliness, grief, stress, sadness and even depression.
As caregivers, we give a lot. And when the holidays come around we are expected to give even more. Fortunately, there are some things we can do to make the holidays less stressful for ourselves and our loved ones.
Here are a few:
1. Start new traditions
Tradition is one of the biggest triggers of holiday stress. Pressure from older and younger family members to keep things as they have always been can drive you crazy. Instead of trying to live up to old expectations, use this year as an opportunity to create new traditions with friends and family. Let someone else host the big family dinner. Have a family potluck. Order food from a restaurant or outside caterer. Plan a holiday vacation. As children grow older, and the older generations are no longer with us, sometimes a smaller more intimate celebration, might also be an option.
2. Plan and prioritize
Make lists for the tasks that you need to accomplish and cross things off as they are done. Menu planning, grocery and gift lists are just a few of the things you can plan ahead. The stress that comes with last minute rushing can usually be avoided. Review your lists for tasks you can eliminate, delegate or do yourself. Also, if possible, set a budget and stick to it. Looking at your finances in January and realizing that you overspent for the holidays will only add more stress to your life.
3. Keep it simple
Don't pressure yourself to make the perfect holiday. Perhaps this year you focus on Christmas and not Thanksgiving or vice versa. Living up to unreasonable expectations that you've set for yourself will only wear you down. If you are hosting, perhaps you can cut back on the menu or minimize the decorations this year. The most important thing is spending time with your loved ones not how extravagant of an event you can put on. Accept that things may not be perfect, and that's OK.
4. Consider your loved one
Consider what activities and outings are in your loved ones comfort zone and try to stick to them. If you are visiting family, make sure they are aware of your loved ones memory issues so that they are not blindsided. If you know your loved one has time limits, plan ahead to only stay at a function for a short time and leave. If you plan ahead, you and your hosts will be prepared. Consider designating a quiet space for your loved one in case they become overwhelmed.
5. Let your loved one help
Let your loved one help with a holiday task. You know what they are capable of and what might come easy for them. Maybe they can help decorate the tree or make ornaments. Or even if they can't cook anymore, they can set the table, or pick greens, or grab certain items for you. They can also help you make a holiday playlist.
6. Ask for Help
Don't be afraid to reach out to others to take on tasks that you might not be able to handle due to caregiver responsibilities. For example, maybe someone is going to the mall or grocery store and can pick up some items for you. Or maybe someone can sit with your loved one or your kids for a few hours while you do some Christmas shopping. People won't know what you need until you ask.
7. Take care of yourself
Make sure you take some time for yourself. Plan an outing with a friend or treat yourself to a nice dinner. Go see a holiday show or just play Christmas music at home. And if Christmas music isn't your thing, play your favorite genre of music to lift your spirits. On sunny days, make sure you get out the house, even if it's just for a walk around the block. Staying inside can definitely drain your energy. Schedule a manicure or a massage. Splurge on your favorite holiday treat. Make plans to attend one holiday party or event. Don't feel bad about prioritizing your needs. You deserve it! Remember, your health and your sanity are your gift to your loved ones.
Alone for the holidays?
The media bombards us with images of perfect holiday gatherings. Families smiling and enjoying each other. Young and old, celebrating traditions and the holiday season. I know, first hand, this is not always the case. Family moves away. Children grow older. Elderly relatives can't move around like they used to. The holidays just aren't the same. Here are a few new traditions you can embrace, if big family celebrations are no longer an option.
1. Get away from your source of depression. If your house makes you sad. Take a trip or a cruise or plan a vacation around the holidays.
2. Volunteer. There are tons of volunteer opportunities around the holidays. Visit a senior center or hospital. Spending time helping those less fortunate than you can make you more grateful for what you do have.
3. Spend the holidays with friends or neighbors.
4. Invite others who are alone to your home and celebrate together. Or plan to meet at a restaurant.
The holidays don't have to be a depressing time of the year. Hopefully, some of the tips above can help you keep your sanity and enjoy a pleasant and comfortable celebration for you and your loved one.