The holiday season can be a busy and stressful time, but for caregivers, the stress is intensified. Add to that the holiday blues many caregivers feel because loved ones aren’t able to participate in activities as they did in the past, and it’s no wonder you aren’t looking forward to the season’s festivities.
Five Healthy Ways to Manage Holiday Blues
Simplify the season, and learn to say no. Don’t think of it as being selfish. If you overwhelm yourself, then you won’t have the time, energy, or emotional capacity to care for your loved one — or yourself. Is it necessary for desserts to be homemade, or will store-bought do? Can a holiday party with all the trimmings be replaced with a potluck dinner or an intimate game night with friends?
Allow yourself time to grieve holidays past. Illness, dementia, immobility — all these changes can mean traditional holiday activities must change to accommodate your loved one’s new health issues. Grandma may no longer be able to make her famous pies for family gatherings. Dad may no longer feel up to playing Santa Claus. It’s OK to mourn those memories then realize you’re now free to create new memories.
Take care of yourself. Don’t skip medications or doctor’s appointments. Get a little exercise by taking a walk. Remember to eat and drink to sustain energy, but avoid fatty foods, sugar, and alcohol. Create a de-stressing routine, such as meditation or prayer. Spend time with a good book or play your favorite holiday music.
Ask for help. Make a list of family and friends, community agencies, and service providers that you can delegate tasks and responsibilities to during the busy holiday season. Many times people will ask what they can do to help out, but we’re so overwhelmed and “in the moment” that we don’t have an answer. Make a reasonable to-do list and assign each item to a willing helper.
Cut yourself some slack. Be flexible with your plans and, when necessary, be prepared to change your expectations to fit a situation. This will help keep disappointment and guilt at bay and allow you to participate in and enjoy holiday-related activities and events.