By Sarah Allen-Sutter
The holidays can be a wonderful time to enjoy gathering with family and loved ones. But let’s face it, this season of joy and merriment can also be extremely stressful, especially for caregivers. Here are some tips for addressing caregiver stress during the holidays.
1. Ask for help.
It can be hard to ask for help. You may feel bad for placing a burden on somebody else’s shoulders, but your shoulders need a rest! You deserve some support, so you can take the time to enjoy the holidays yourself. Simple ways to get some relief may be to ask another family member or friend to take over your caregiving responsibilities, even for a few hours. You could even request caregiving respite as a gift for the holidays. If you are able, hiring a personal assistant, temporary caregiver, or even cleaning services to take over some of your responsibilities can be a great help. There are also a few caregiver respite resources, such as adult day health, in Yolo County. You can find a list of options here: https://www.yolohealthyaging.org/caregiver-respite
2. Keep holiday activities simple.
Caregiving takes up a lot of mental and physical energy, leaving less energy to devote to planning and attending big holiday events. Depending on your loved ones’ mobility, traveling anywhere for the holidays may be extra stressful or not possible. Focus on keeping things simple. Have a nice evening in watching a holiday movie. If you are able, drive through a holiday light display. Watch a Christmas play or concert on TV. Video call relatives that are too far to see for the holidays. Try not to focus on what you and your loved one(s) are unable to do. Instead, reframe it as starting new holiday traditions! But keep it as simple as possible, so you can reserve your energy and focus on enjoying time with loved ones.
3. Keep meals simple too.
For many, meals are an important part of the holidays. Cooking or holiday baking may be a release for you—a way to take your mind of things—or, it may just be added stress. Regardless, you may not have the time or energy to concoct your usual holiday meals or baked goods, and that is okay! Scale down and simplify. If you are hosting, make fewer side dishes and desserts, consider purchasing pre-cooked food or hiring somebody to cook for you, or make it a potluck! Even simpler: eat at a restaurant or request that somebody else hosts.
It's not just big holiday meals that may cause stress. Even daily meals can be time-consuming to prepare. Remember to keep these meals simple as well using the above strategies, and don’t forget that it is not just your loved one with nutrition needs. Eat regular, nutritious meals to stay healthy and energized (and don’t forget to have an occasional holiday treat!).
4. Practice self-care.
As a caregiver, you may be used to giving and giving, probably even more so during the holiday season. Self-care may seem like something that can be pushed further down your busy holiday list, but it needs to be at the top. Especially during stressful times, you need to take care of your physical and mental health. Get outside. Get some exercise. Remember to enjoy healthy foods alongside occasional holiday treats. Good sleep is also key to keeping mentally and physically fit. Talk to your doctor and/or counselor if you are feeling anxious or depressed. Do what you need to do for you, so you can stay healthy, enjoy the holidays, and continue to care for your loved ones.
Hopefully these tips will help you manage caregiver stress during the holidays. Whether you have a traditional holiday season or a modified one, remember to try to stay present in the moment, savoring this precious time with your loved ones.