The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but for many the holidays can be stressful and chaotic. For family or professional caregivers that are already dealing with a lot of overwhelming responsibilities, the holidays are even more trying and there is a higher chance for caregiver burnout to set in. It’s easy to turn to unhealthy coping strategies with all the delicious sugary treats around the holidays, the hustle and bustle and family time cutting into your daily routine, so how do you manage it all as a caregiver? It’s necessary for caregivers to take a break now and then, but especially during the holidays. Read on for five ways to avoid caregiver burnout this holiday season.
1. Focus on what you can control
Take a pause next time someone invites you to a holiday event this year. People often feel the need to say “yes” during the holiday season because it’s a giving and social time of the year. Instead, think of the holidays as a perfect time of the year to practice saying “no.” As a caregiver, you know if you have any extra time that it is precious and vital to your sanity, so why then stretch yourself thin and try to commit to the perfect holiday experience. The holidays are not about perfection, they are about what we are truly thankful for.
2. Prioritize self-care
As a caregiver you know that self care is of the outmost importance. During the holidays however, self care is left by the wayside as you make room for all the get-togethers, shopping and festivities. It’s easy for caregiver burnout to creep in when you don’t make time for yourself. If you insist on joining in the holiday madness, then do it in a way that supports your self care. Seasonal depression becomes even more apparent around the holidays, be sure to get exercise and get outdoors: go cross-country skiing with a friend, walk with family or exercise before the holiday feast. Take a bath and light a scented holiday candle to enjoy. Let yourself indulge in some holiday treats but be wary of how much you eat. Meditate and practice gratitude before the holiday craze begins for the day. Attend a holiday church service and gain spiritual strength.
3. Budget your holiday expenses
Taking care of a family member can strain your finances. It’s difficult to work full time and care for a loved one, then throw in the holidays and finances become even more complicated. It’s important to plan for the holidays and be realistic about what you can afford while keeping the future in mind. Prioritize your own savings and don’t spend it all on the holidays. If you are a new caregiver, you don’t know how long you might be caregiving for, which is why it’s important to keep perspective. Do you really need to take part in Secret Santa this year? Is it necessary that you buy groceries for that extravagant holiday dish you found on pinterest? Understand that the holidays are not about what you buy and bring to the table. Adjust the meal traditions you might have to foods that are more affordable. Suggest a potluck. Instead of buying gifts this year, try to make the gifts, and even better include your care recipient in the crafting fun. Make a list of all the holiday expenses and gifts you anticipate this holiday season and find where you can cut costs.
4. Ask for help
The holidays are a perfect time of the year to ask for help with your caregiving role. We often have more family and friends around and it’s a giving time of the year. The people closest to you often want to help and have the time off work around the holidays to do so. Next time a family member or friend runs to the store, ask if they wouldn’t mind picking up your care recipient’s medication or a few things you need. Ask if you can carpool to a holiday get together to save money and reduce the stress of driving. If your taking care of a family member and it’s time you need, then ask another family member to step in for a little while so you can focus on your own self care.
5. Be social
The holidays offer many opportunities to be social and it might be just what you need as a caregiver. Often as caregivers we feel isolated and depressed, weighed down by our caregiving responsibilities. It might seem easier to manage all the responsibility alone rather than having to explain the situation to family and friends, and what if you have to last minute cancel on plans because of your caregiving duties? Social isolation and loneliness increase your chance of serious health risks, so it’s important to find time for family and friends anyway you can and take breaks from these responsibilities. Find something to look forward to that takes caregiving off your mind: attend a holiday play with friends, look at Christmas lights with family or go to a movie with your partner.