A caregiver’s work is never done. This is true year-round, but especially during the holiday season. You have your own traditions and events to work into the schedule — the decorating, card-sending, baking, religious services, holiday performances, the grandkids’ school programs . . . . The list is nearly endless. Additionally, you have all the holiday activities that your loved one wants to maintain and will need help. Schedules can become overly-full, and your energy can run low.
While caring for yourself as you care for your loved one is important throughout the year, it can be particularly hard to keep up with during the holidays. To fully enjoy all the hustle and bustle that comes with the holidays, make self-care a priority and be sure to bring in help when you need it. Let’s look at some practical ways to find peace while giving care during the holidays.
1. Recognize Your Physical and Emotional Limitations
Although, as a caregiver, you likely accomplish more than a superhero would on any given day, the reality is that we are all only human. We are limited by what our bodies and minds can handle. Stress (even good stress) directly affects our bodies, making us more tired and susceptible to illness. Focusing on health during the holidays is essential to wellness in both body and mind. We all know what good health looks like, but we could use a reminder of just how important it is.
Sleep as Restoration
Sleep plays a vital role in your health. It’s involved in the healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels, and brain function, removing toxins that have built up while awake. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
Food as Fuel
Food can either fuel your body and give you energy or slow it down and damage it. Necessary nutrients are found in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, fish, seafood, and probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt and kefir. Processed foods, sugar, and simple carbohydrates all cause inflammation that wears down your body and can cause serious health problems like autoimmune diseases. Holiday treats are part of fun traditions, but be sure to enjoy them in moderation and compensate with lots of healthy foods.
Exercise as a Mood-Booster
Moderate exercise is good not only for your body but also for your mind. You don’t have to fit in an hour-long workout to get the benefits of exercise. Even just a simple, 15-minute, brisk walk can increase your energy and improve your mood.
2. Don’t Feel Pressured to Attend All Activities
During the holidays, we often feel like we must do everything. But there are no rules for the holidays! Do only the things you feel are meaningful to you and those you love. Even if you’ve always done a particular tradition or attended a specific event, you can change things up and do something different this year, including doing less.
Before the holiday rush begins, decide what you’ll prioritize and participate in, and set boundaries to protect your time and energy. It’s a good idea to communicate your plans to friends and family members ahead of time, so they know what is your plan. Although holiday expectations can be tricky, putting a positive spin on all the things that you will do together should ease any disappointment.
Check in with your loved one about what holiday activities they want to maintain, what is realistic, and how much help they will need. Include this into your plan, adjusting as needed. Remember this is a chapter in your life, and any adjustments you make now, may change down the road, and you could add back in favorite activities that you are setting aside now.
3. Bring in Help
Never feel that you have to do it all alone. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, as many of us have been led to believe; it’s simply practical! Help can come in the form of friends and family, a senior living living community, or professionals.
Help from Friends and Family
Friends and family members can be invaluable during the holidays. They understand when you have more to do than you can handle. Rely on your support system for help during the stressful times and for assistance getting things done. You can pool resources so that everyone benefits. For example, if a friend is making a shopping trip, she can pick up items for you at the same time. If you are running to the post office to mail packages, you can bring her packages to be mailed at the same time.
Help from a Senior Living Community
One of the best things about a senior living community is that there are many activities and events that are planned for you. Rather than taking time and energy to plan your own bake-off or party, join in one that the community is hosting. You’ll be able to enjoy the fun without the preparation work! Additionally, the senior living community may have a day stay program; check their activity calendar, find an event that your loved one will enjoy, and sign up for the day, giving you some much needed errand-running time.
Help from Professionals
You may want to hire professional help to take care of tasks that just won’t fit into your schedule. Take a look at your to-do list and consider what items could be done by someone else. House cleaning is one of the best things to hand off — you’ll immediately save yourself a few hours. There are professional decorators if decking the halls isn’t something you particularly enjoy. Meal services can provide fresh-cooked dinners so you can check that task off quickly. And sometimes, as much as you love the one you’re caring for, you need some help with caregiving itself. Professional caregivers can step in to offer assistance, giving you a chance to rejuvenate.
With this guide in hand, start preparing now for the holidays. Once you have a plan in place, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the holidays, feeling at peace.