The holiday season should be a joyous and festive time for everyone. But when you’re an informal caregiver, taking care of an aging loved one during the holidays can elevate your stress level to the breaking point. Finding healthy ways to avoid caregiver burnout with everything else on your holiday calendar is often easier said than done. If you will be caregiving over the holidays, these stress-relief tips will help ensure that this season is one you will always fondly remember.
Signs of Holiday Caregiver Burnout
Although caregiving during the holidays is heartwarming, it also comes with daily stressors that can quickly transform you into a Grinch if you aren’t careful. When you don’t get the physical and emotional support you need, that pent-up stress can cause numerous health problems that take the “happy” out of your holiday season.
Beware of these caregiver burnout warning signs:
- You have much less energy than you used to.
- You have trouble relaxing, even when help is available.
- You feel helpless, hopeless, and depressed.
- You are constantly exhausted, even after sleeping or taking time off.
- Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction.
- You are becoming increasingly more impatient and irritable towards others, including your care recipient.
Stress-Relief Tips for Caregiving During the Holidays
Juggling caregiving responsibilities with shopping, gift wrapping, baking, and decorating can place a strain on other relationships, including your marriage. Put the “happy” back in your holidays by taking these stress-management steps:
Know your limitations
No matter how hard you try, your loved one’s condition is probably going to get worse. It’s normal to feel guilty sometimes but also understand that there’s no such thing as the “perfect” caregiver. With that in mind, focus on making your loved one feel more comfortable and celebrate small victories along the way – like getting mom to help decorate the tree or wrap presents.
Set realistic goals
Break up large tasks into smaller “chunks” that you can realistically do without feeling overwhelmed. Create a prioritized list of caregiving responsibilities and establish a daily routine.
It’s also okay to say “no” sometimes, like when your child’s teacher asks you to bake cookies for the holiday school program.
Focus on you
Take care of your body, and your mind will follow. That means exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day. Don’t abuse drugs or alcohol, and avoid tobacco products altogether. Be sure to get all the recommended vaccinations and see your doctor at least once a year for a health screening.
Many informal caregivers tend to wall themselves off from the outside world, and that’s not healthy. Stay connected with your close friends and family members by taking a weekend getaway, going out to lunch, or attending your kids’ activities.
Pamper yourself at least once a month by getting a massage, buying a new pair of shoes, or going on a date with your significant other. After all, you deserve a reward for all the time and effort that you’ve been putting in!
Join a support group
Being around a group of like-minded individuals going through the same thing during the holidays will provide you with much-needed validation and encouragement. Join a local caregiver support group or find one online through the Family Caregiver Alliance.
Ask for help
Don’t let pride cloud your judgment when your health is on the line. Instead, ask for help from trusted family members, neighbors, or friends. Other sources of holiday caregiver relief in your community may include:
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