With the holiday season nearly behind us, now is the perfect time to offer some advice about ways for caregivers to reduce their seasonal stress. I am convinced that shortcuts during the holidays, with an ever-present eye on self-care, can make a big difference in our well-being.
For caregivers who have a family member living in a nursing home, the holiday season can present additional stresses. In fact, the entire dynamic of the holidays is different. It is critical to step back, breathe, and relax! Since much of your time and attention centers around your loved one’s life in the nursing home, it is nearly impossible for you to experience the same type of holiday season that you enjoyed in earlier days. You and your loved ones will continue to celebrate, it will just be on a different scale. The more you feel the need to replicate the holidays of years past, the more undue stress you will place on yourself.
One of the best gifts caregivers can receive is the gift of time. Learning to manage the minutes more effectively is a skill worth sharpening. Here are a few ways to find more time for yourself, while reducing your stress level, during the holiday season.
Cooking: Remember the big family get-together of holidays past with their four-course dinners followed by a variety of homemade deserts? Well, cherish that memory, but don’t try to recreate it now. Instead, become familiar with all the wonderful ways that your local grocery store deli can produce a holiday feast. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how nicely they can cook a turkey or ham dinner with all the fixings. Having a dilemma about holiday deserts? Don’t! Instead, visit your local bakery and pre-order all the treats that you used to spend hours in the kitchen preparing. If you miss the pleasant aroma of baked goods fresh from the oven, just light a candle. Today, there’s a candle fragrance for just about everything. On busy days when friends and family stop in to visit you at home, don’t be shy about using paper products instead of your holiday china, and serving no-work appetizers or other convenience foods.
Decorating: If your collection of Christmas decorations anything like my family’s, then that means you have a lot of things to unpack, untangle, and arrange. A better idea is to keep your in-house decorations to a minimum. It’s not necessary to decorate every room in your home. If you reduce your decoration quota, then once the holidays are over, you’ll have fewer things to dismantle and repack. Another wise decorating idea is to assign specific tasks to family members. Tame your inner Clark Griswold and don’t attempt to do everything yourself.
Pampering: Self-care practices are very important for caregivers. Women, in particular, have the habit of putting everyone else’s needs before their own. No matter how busy you are, the holiday season is not the time to let your beauty routine fall by the wayside. Don’t wait until the last minute to find out that there are no available appointments. Instead, make all your personal care appointments as early in the holiday season as possible so you don’t miss out on looking your best.
Shopping: My advice in this category is simple: to save more time, shop online. Also, take advantage of sales throughout the year in your local area so when December arrives, most of your shopping is done.
I close with a relevant conversation that I once overheard in a grocery store. Lady one: “How was your Christmas?” Lady two: “Pretty good; I’m glad it’s over. I don’t know, there’s just so much pressure!”
Our holiday season should never be all about pressure or tension. And, it doesn’t have to resemble the perfection of a Norman Rockwell painting. Plan to reduce your stress during the next holiday season so you can experience its joy, beauty, and magic with your family and friends. I wish you an abundance of happiness in the new year!