When a loved one needs around-the-clock care, the holiday season can trigger more stress and guilt than joy and peace. Even under the best circumstances, the holidays can be a complicated time. The day-to-day demands of caregiving combined with holiday expectations, can leave you feeling pretty overwhelmed. This year, try to be kind to yourself, reach out for help and allow for some wiggle room so you can not only survive the holiday season, but make memories you will cherish.
Adjust your expectations. From the get-go, try to be realistic about what you can and cannot do over the holidays (remembering to consider what you actually WANT to do). By setting limits and realistic expectations, you’ll be more likely to enjoy yourself. If you’re someone that loves to go all out, give yourself permission to scale back. Little adjustments like a potluck instead of a five-course meal, asking another family member to host and just saying “no” to another holiday gathering can make a big difference.
Ask for and accept help. Being open and honest with your friends and family about the demands of caregiving will make them more likely to reach out. Often people want to help but they don’t know how. Ask for an afternoon off to work on your holiday to-dos or try delegating tasks to willing family and friends. Say yes to prepared meals or a neighbour’s offer to decorate your porch. If you’re struggling to manage the difficult emotions that come with the holidays, visit an online message board, find a local support group or seek professional help from a counsellor or therapist.
Mix new with the old. If you feel like your holiday traditions are being left behind, try making a few updates. Instead of baking cookies together, focus on the fun of decorating them. If trimming the tree has become a challenge, ask your loved one to pass you ornaments or start untangling the lights. Invite carollers to sing at your door, take a drive to see the holiday lights or watch festive films to include your loved one in the season. Focus on the holiday joys you can experience together and the lasting memories you’re creating.
Make some modifications. As much as possible, try to stick to your loved one’s regular routine so things don’t get too disruptive or confusing. If you’re planning on hosting family and friends, make sure there’s a room in your house for your loved one to rest and recharge. Smaller family gatherings may be less exhausting and more enjoyable and technology is always a nice way to visit the holiday parties you can’t make.
Put yourself at the top of your list. Although this is always a challenge, when you’re busier than usual, self-care can start to slip. Try to prioritize getting exercise, eating healthy (with room for holiday cheats) and soaking up some Vitamin D outside. Take a break from the holiday hustle and do something you enjoy like reading, knitting or getting a massage. As always, taking good care of yourself will make you better at looking after others.