The holiday season brings traditions, meals, parties and gifts that can light up life for us. For some caregivers, though, the season can be truly unbearable. Many caregivers just want to get through the holidays and get the whole thing over with. Caregiving is stressful enough without adding on all the extra tasks that go with family gatherings, gift buying, meal planning, cooking, and other activities. Here’s 7 tips to help you not simply survive the holidays but actually enjoy some of the holiday cheer:
- Start your own tradition. Often we feel bound by past holiday traditions, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Rather than inviting 20 family members and guests to your home, and cooking for all of them, try a different approach. Suggest that someone else host Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Or enlist the help of friends and relatives for everything from cleaning to preparing food. A potluck is a welcome relief to get the holiday dinner done without over-stressing anyone-assign specific dishes to those who’d most enjoy preparing them and that ensures that each course is provided and no one stresses.
- Take advantage of shopping without the crowds. The Internet provides an easy (and enjoyable!) way to shop for food and gifts without leaving home. If you love catalog shopping, use them to plan your gifts, create your shopping list and stay focused when you go shopping – whether you choose to buy online or go to the stores (not everyone feels comfortable putting credit card numbers into cyberspace).
- Don’t forget to schedule time for YOU to enjoy the holidays. Don’t get all caught up in the hustle and bustle of crossing off each item on your ‘To Do’ list. Rather than looking at these things as chores, look for the pleasure and the fun within each experience. Block off time for a favorite holiday activity or two that you truly enjoy, even if you need to bring someone in for a few hours to watch over your loved one.
- “Everything in moderation” is great wisdom to help you through the holidays. Temptations are everywhere-from alcohol, to sweets, treats and rich food. Indulge by all means but don’t over-indulge. With the extra demands on your time, you want to be feeling well and healthy throughout the season.
- Expect the unexpected. Things will happen when least expected. As a care-giver, you are acutely aware how quickly things can change. Learn to roll with the punches and accept whatever comes your way. No point in stressing over things that are out of your control. See the humor in any given situation and laugh frequently.
- Ramp up your exercise routines. If you are only getting exercise once or twice a week, try to increase that. If you don’t have a routine, now is a great time to start one. Walking five times a week is a great way to stay in shape. Increasing your aerobic activity helps release frustrations and clears your head. Don’t let winter weather keep you hunkered inside your house-go to a gym or fitness center, throw on some snow-shoes or ice skates, go skiing or simply find a large mall you can walk in.
- Take vital and necessary breaks! Ideally caregivers should have a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly break.
Whether it’s simply a yoga class, meditation, reading or knitting or getting out of the house and going to the library, local museum, coffee shop, lunch with a friend or an evening out with friends to dinner, a play or concert, you really need these breaks. And don’t forget your yearly vacation-You should take a well-deserved vacation at least once per year. Planning ahead for these breaks is absolutely crucial. You may need to arrange for respite care for your loved one or enlist the help of friends, family or home health aides so you can get away. Don’t let the holiday cheer pass you by. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better able to enjoy the holidays with those you care for as well as your own family. We all do the best we can and that is all that should be expected of us. Happy Holidays and thank you to each and every caregiver who is helping aging parents navigate this often challenging season of life.