The Holidays: Stress or Success

As we navigate through the journey of life there are circumstances, including aging parents, illnesses or disability in the family that may take precedence. 

The unpaid family member who devotes themselves to taking care of the multiple medical concerns of their loved ones, is the caregiver. 

The family caregiver is often sandwiched between looking after the needs of their aging parents, spouse or friend, while still wanting to create holiday memories with their busy children or grandchildren. 

Caregiving is stressful on so many levels, and when you add the expectations and demands of the holidays to this messy stew, the pot can really boil over. It is easy to become physically and emotionally overwhelmed as you try to create holidays to remember for everyone in the family. Anticipatory grief that this may be Grandma’s last Christmas, along with mourning for family members who have passed, is also heightened during these times of traditional family celebrations. 

I have experienced all of these scenarios, and I am a serial over-achiever. I want to do it all! I believe I can put on my cape and make the holidays perfect for everyone, but I realize that my personal expectations are just not attainable. If I spread myself that thin, I am likely to be the one that suffers the most, and my holiday dream limps off sadly and curls up in a corner. I am offering the following tips that have been suggested for caregivers like me to not only survive, but more importantly, to enjoy this time of holiday celebration. 

Be Realistic
Practice the KISS method. Keep it Simple Silly! 

Make your “To Do” list and then cut it in half. Just because you have always done it, or someone is expecting it, doesn’t mean you have to do it this year. Practice saying NO for demands upon your time. 

Be Kind to Yourself
Make time to do things that bring you joy. Ten minutes to get outside, breathe, meditate, read, create, exercise, or just sit will make a difference. Take time to clear your mind, get enough sleep, and try to keep alcohol and caffeine to a minimum.  

Take Shortcuts  
Contrary to popular opinion, money is a very thoughtful gift! Go to the bakery for cookies or ask friends to share. Accept all offers of help. Practice saying YES to all offers, and then let them do it without you being involved. 

Take some time to reflect on your priorities and write them down. What is most important to you? 

Allow Time to Grieve
Share it with people you trust. Give yourself permission to feel your emotions. 

Keep Yourself Safe 
This isn’t the time to hash out frustrations or bigger issues with family members. Do your best to limit time with family members who are critical or unsupportive of your caregiving.

Find time for humour, watch funny Christmas shows, build crazy snowmen, make snow angels, doodle ridiculous cartoons. Laughter really is the best medicine. 

All This Will Pass 
It may be like a kidney stone, but it will pass. Be mindful of the present and try to enjoy each moment. 

Practice Gratitude 
Even in the toughest times we can find things to be grateful for, and gratitude is a great stress reliever. Try counting your blessings as you are going to sleep and see if it helps you to wake up with a positive attitude.  

Get Support 
Lean on a trusted friend or relative. Call the Caregivers Network for East Kootenay Seniors toll free line. Join a support group in person or online. 

The Elk Valley Caregiver support group meets in Fernie at Mugshots the 4th Wednesday of the month at 3:15pm. The toll-free line is private and confidential.  
Reach out, you are not alone.  

For support or more info: 
Toll-free: 1-877-489-7044.  
Facebook: Caregivers Network for East Kootenay Seniors