A Caregiver's Holiday Survival Guide

A Holiday Survival Guide for Caregivers

For most of us, while we love the holiday season, there’s also a crazy amount of stress — stress related to managing the household, the family and all the related activities, getting everything “done”, getting work ready for next year, closing out this year, and on and on. But to some, this stress has an extra dimension — the need to care for a loved one in addition to all of the other stuff. It’s not easy to manage, which is why caregivers often tend to give up their own enjoyment for the sake of their loved one’s safety and company, and the end result can be that it’s more about holiday survival than actually enjoying the holidays. But isn’t that what they’ve been doing all year long? Right, it is. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Learn to prioritize, care for yourself, and reach out for help, and make this holiday count.

Prioritize.

Becoming overwhelmed with work that needs to be done and endless lists of tasks is one of the biggest causes of stress. And what’s the best way to avoid drowning in work? The answer is: learn to prioritize.

There are so many things that seemingly need to be done during the holidays, and there’s seemingly nobody else to take care of them. Please note the word ‘seemingly’. There are many things that can be left out during the holidays, and you’d be surprised how even the smallest change to your schedule can make a great difference in maintaining your psychological peace and comfort during the holidays.

Start off by making a list of all the things that come to your mind — everything that you feel like you have to take care of. Decorating, budgeting, organizing parties, attending parties and other events, buying gifts, cleaning up, etc…. Once you have the list, try to think outside the box for once and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it have an immediate effect on your or someone else’s enjoyment of the holidays?
  • What’s the real reason you’re doing it? Habit? Choice? Obligation?
  • Are you really the only person who can do it? Why?
  • Do you enjoy doing it, or would you rather do something else / do it differently?

You may end up being surprised by some of your own answers. Sometimes all it takes is taking a moment to think about what you want, and how you want it. Change is often the tool for reaching peace. Try it for yourself.

Care for yourself as well.

There are two important things that a caregiver needs to keep in mind 24/7:

1) You as a caregiver are a full, worthy person.
2) Your loved one is a full, worthy person

The first point means you should beware cutting yourself off from your friends, hobbies and activities that make you feel happy and energized. Schedule coffee dates with your friends, call that cousin you haven’t talked to in a while, rent a movie you wanted to see, buy a new album by your favorite artist, just treat yourself. If you never get to do it, it’s the perfect time of the year, after all.

The second point means that whenever you start slipping into seeing your loved one as a patient rather than a person, you should get back in touch with their own personal life, involve them in yours, and most importantly: talk. Talk about your feelings, your fears, your joys and thoughts and new experiences.

Reach out.

This is the natural next step from the first point of prioritizing. Getting your family and your close ones involved in holiday planning, cooking, cleaning, decorating and shopping is the best way for you to keep your sanity. And if for any reason they can’t help you, consider hiring some help – be it a decorator, a cleaning service or a caterer. If you take some of the weight off your shoulders, you’ll see that not only will you enjoy the holidays more than ever, but also your loved ones — including the one you’re caring for — will be happy to see you shine.

Remember: it’s hard to make other people feel happy and appreciated if you don’t feel that way yourself.