Getting through an average day as a caregiver (and spouse, parent, friend, employee, neighbor) is stressful. When the holidays roll around, the stress builds even further. Plus, this time of the year is when people tend to cram more into their days, eat unhealthy meals, sleep sporadically and exercise less often. This is a recipe for the perfect storm!
Fortunately, there’s hope! Below are 10 practical tips to help you manage caregiver stress over the holiday season. Remember, you are NOT alone! However, it is up to you to use the resources available and reach out to others for help when you need it.
- Recognize Your Triggers
What makes the holidays particularly bothersome for you? Is it a feeling of grief or loss? Is it a family member who makes you uneasy? Develop strategies to deal with these issues, such as avoiding certain places or having short encounters with specific individuals.
- Know the Signs of Burnout
Realize that you are one person and can only take on so much. If you feel the stress building up, take care of yourself. Otherwise, you’re going to end up stressed and overwhelmed.
- Be Mindful of Your Emotions
Practice mindfulness. Be aware of the emotions you’re feeling and why, but don’t feel guilty about them. Stay focused on the positives of the holiday season such as seeing those you love and getting extra time off work.
- Practice Self-Care
Don’t let your basic self-care needs slip during this time of the year. Eat healthy, make time for exercise and get on a consistent sleep schedule. Limit sugary foods and caffeine. This healthy living also boosts immunity during cold and flu season!
- Connect with Your Support Network
Create time for friends that make you happy. Connect with online support communities to sound off about holiday frustrations, get easy meal ideas or have a good laugh with a funny meme. There are plenty of others out there going through the same thing!
- Have Stress Outlets Ready to Go
There will be times when you need to step away and de-stress, so have some tools available. A stress ball, lavender oil or relaxing music are all examples. Also keep yourself hydrated and don’t let yourself go hungry, as these can add to stress.
- Practice Positive Thinking
The holidays do have joy in them, so shift your negative thinking to positive thinking. Focus on what’s important and what you want the holidays to mean for you and your family.
- Simplify Your Commitments
You don’t need to do everything. Decide what’s important and say no to the things that aren’t. Set your boundaries ahead of time so you know what you can give time to and what to pass on.
- Ask for Help
Reach out for help. People don’t know you need it unless you request it. If you have family in town, ask them to help with the caregiving responsibilities. If the kids are off school, they can take responsibility by cleaning their rooms, setting the table and more.
- Start New Traditions
If there are things that are just too difficult to keep doing, change them! Grandma won’t be mad because you chose to cater versus making a fresh plate of lasagna (and if she is, she’ll get over it!). What is important is spending time together and making memories. Older generations, in particular, will appreciate this.