There is no denying that the holidays bring on additional stress for family caregivers. Whether hosting a family dinner or traveling to one, it is not uncommon for family caregivers to experience additional feelings of anxiety and/or apprehension as they begin to juggle the added responsibility of hosting, cooking, traveling and/or catering to family and friends during the holiday season. Below are a few suggestions that may help reduce the stress associated with this time of year:
Recognize your limitations
Being a caregiver to your loved one is often a full-time job that does not come with any breaks. For those relatives or friends who are not aware of your 24/7 responsibility, it is important to set limits and be specific about what you can and cannot manage. Being asked to host the holiday dinner, make the majority of food and/or coordinate the gathering may be things you've done willingly in the past but if you are now a caregiver, it is crucial you understand how adding more tasks to your "to do" list may cause more stress on your well-being. Recognizing when you are exhausted, overwhelmed and need a break are key to not taking on more than you can handle.
Reach out for help
Many family caregivers are either too proud to ask for assistance or feel it is their obligation to shoulder all the caregiving responsibilities on their own. Asking a relative or friend to lend a hand during the holidays, or any other time of the year, can alleviate some of the stress associated with caregiving. If you do not have a relative or friend you feel you can rely on, there may be services available to family caregivers within the community; all it takes is you reaching out and asking for help.
Allow yourself to feel….
Angry. Annoyed. Frustrated. Resentful; the list can be as long as you need. These feelings are normal and can also be accompanied by feelings of guilt. Being a caregiver is often a role that falls in our laps with little preparation and a whole lot of expectation. As we think of our future and proceed through the course of life, we generally envision ourselves establishing a career, taking care of our children and retiring to a peaceful, relaxing place. Having to care for a parent with a memory impairment like Alzheimer's disease or for a spouse with a terminal illness is generally not included in that equation. The truth is, however, life is unpredictable and in order to minimize our stress levels we have to accept that we are not superheros and must be open to receiving help. Part of that adjustment process is to allow our emotions to flow out of us and not hold it in. It also means obtaining support from friends, relatives or licensed professionals. This is often the only way to get through the journey of caregiving.
How do you manage caring for a loved one and the Holiday season? Please share your thoughts and questions below.
Christine M. Valentin
As a licensed clinical social worker, I help individuals caring for a loved one reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. This blog is meant to share with you, many of the suggestions I recommend to many family caregivers. Sign up to receive them directly.