It’s no secret the holidays are a stressful kind of beautiful chaos. There’s so much joy, tradition, family, and responsibility—it’s hard living up to all those expectations! Add the “to-do lists” of caregiving and we feel like we’re moving backwards instead of flowing into the reflective experience we picture in our heads. To prevent the holiday time warp, we’ve compiled a list of 5 ways caregivers can make this season as relaxing, rejuvenating, and intentional as possible—for everyone on their list.
#1. Simplify activities.
There seems to be an ever-swelling sense of “bigger and better” in our society these days. But the holidays should be a time for doing whatever brings joy to your loved ones and to you. Keep it simple so every person can relax their usual responsibilities and actually enjoy their time. Whether that means sipping tea and reminiscing about the different childhood memories of generations gathered, sitting at the table for an ornate or informal meal, or exchanging gifts both meaningful and intentional, use your precious time together to do one special thing—so you can truly revel in the beauty of it. Don’t try to cram too much into one day just because that’s the way you think it should be done. Simple is the new busy.
#2. Adjust to a different routine.
With caregiving comes change, and change isn’t always kind to tradition. Take it from someone who grew up in a family steeped in tradition: it is not easy to stray from those practices. However, depending on your specific caregiving situation, life may not be as simple as it was when these traditions took root. Be willing to be flexible, and know that family traditions may have to be altered. Don’t feel guilty about that, but instead embrace the uncomfortable push towards change. Get creative, and see if new traditions sprout.
However, allow yourself to mourn the loss of what once was—if you need that space. Last year there was a big change in my family’s traditions, and I didn’t handle it as gracefully as other family members did. I cried a lot and needed some time to process the fact that Christmas wasn’t going to look or feel the same as it had my entire life. And it was still beautiful, but in a shiny new way—not in the comfortable, broken-in way I was expecting.
#3. Live in the moment.
Time set aside to celebrate is rare. Embrace it! Try your very best to really take in what is happening. Don’t let the holiday exist only as a blur in your memory. Choose specific details from the day and cling to them. Focus on all five senses: What does the room smell like? What does your loved one’s laugh sound like? What does your meal taste like? What sight do you want to remember forever? Be present as you’re hugging everybody goodbye: how do those hugs feel? Try to remember one funny moment and one treasured moment.
#4. Delegate (without guilt!).
Delegate, delegate, delegate. Should I say it again? Delegate! It can be so difficult to let go of some of that oh-so-precious control, but it’s better for everyone when it’s done. Delegation doesn’t have to look like orders being barked at others. Make it fun! Give others jobs they’ll be good at, or let everyone choose what their duty will be once it’s clear what needs to be done.
You don’t have to be the sole caregiver either! Invite others to help entertain and make memories with the person for whom you care. Extended family members often gather together for holidays, so let this be your break! A word of caution: Don’t assume the caregiving role or duties will come naturally to those who aren’t normally caregivers. Prep them! Does your grandmother get agitated when she can’t hear and people give up repeating themselves? Tell them that. Does your father tend to wander when someone isn’t right next to him? Does your child with special needs get overwhelmed when there is too much commotion? Make sure everyone is equipped and aware of any specific needs, then let them jump in and help out!
“A body that isn’t taken care of is the body that crumbles when that wind of holiday stress blows through the decked halls.“
#5. Make time to rest.
Try not to wear yourself out. You have a ton on your plate as a caregiver, and the holidays can be a lot. If you need to be alone for a few minutes, take that time to recharge. The day will continue on just fine while you’re away.
Take care of yourself on the “in-between” days as well. Eat healthy foods so your immune system doesn’t give in to all of the stress. Set a timer on your phone that reminds you to drink water. A body that isn’t taken care of is the body that crumbles when that wind of holiday stress blows through the decked halls. Caregivers need to care for themselves first so they can care for others well. Give yourself that gift this holiday season.
About the author(s): Eliza Brown is our team’s social media specialist, blogger, and millennial caregiving expert. Thanks also to Bobbi Jo Curty— our team’s geriatric social worker, coach, and family navigator—for her professional caregiving insights in this post! Learn more about our team here.