Though serving as a caregiver for a family member, friend, or loved one is undoubtedly rewarding, it’s also a very challenging task, particularly around the fast-paced winter season. Although the role is a vital one, caregivers may experience mental, emotional, and physical stress as a result of their responsibilities.
If you are a caregiver, make sure to prepare for the added stress that the holidays (and the time afterward) can add to an already full plate. Keep reading to learn a few helpful tips for navigating what’s left of this busy season.
Note: If stressors or negative feelings are interfering with your life, contact Tri-City Medical Center’s Outpatient Behavioral Health unit — and if you or someone you know is struggling with feelings of self-harm, please call the Access & Crisis line at 888-724-7240. You can find more info here.
The Importance of Planning Ahead
As a caregiver, it’s likely that you’re already accustomed to being diligent with your planning tactics. After all, you’re probably responsible for coordinating travel and planning meals, appointments, and other activities for yourself and others.
During the winter season, it’s even more critical to stay on top of a detailed schedule and plan for potential roadblocks. Although it may seem like more work initially, developing strong time management can create much-needed margins in an otherwise packed schedule.
As United Methodist Homes (UMH) points out, “Any task becomes more stressful when time is a factor.” Making and sticking to a holiday calendar or to-do list can help alleviate the burden from extra tasks and chores during this eventful time. Additionally, having a set plan at the beginning of the holiday months can help ensure that you have time for obligations as well as restful or fun activities.
5 Ways to Cope with Caregiver Stress
Fortunately, there are a few tried and true ways to help manage caregiver stress during the holidays. Try incorporating one or more of these techniques into your life during the holiday months to help reduce some of the mental burden that caregiving can create.
To begin, try simplifying your family’s holiday traditions. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to uphold traditions like decorating, mailing greeting cards, or traveling to annual gatherings, you may find that it’s best to adapt your plans to be more realistic given your current situation. For instance, you can enlist help with decorating tasks, find pre-printed greeting cards, or minimize travel to local destinations.
Ask for Help
As a caregiver, you may find it difficult to ask for assistance. This may be especially true since you are accustomed to being the one who provides care. To avoid burnout and physical exhaustion, however, you must be willing to ask for and accept help when needed. Remember that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking someone to run an errand or complete a task that doesn’t require your personal involvement.
Arrange for Time Off
Caregivers often find themselves wondering who could step in when they inevitably need a break. Although caregiving comes with many time obligations, there are several ways to involve other individuals so that you can rest and recoup. Try talking with friends or family members in advance to see when there might be an extra hand available, even if for a short time period. You can also ask who has planned time off from work and stagger your own caregiving schedule accordingly.
Use Soothing Techniques
As you provide care for loved ones, it’s important to recognize the personal signs of mental and physical fatigue and burnout. By implementing simple soothing techniques, you may be able to mitigate some of the added personal stress. Soothing music and light can provide relief to both you and your loved one who needs care. You can also use meditation tactics to unwind and relax.
Reflect on Gratitude
Even in a season of overwhelming responsibilities, caregiving comes with immense rewards, including personal fulfillment. In fact, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, “It may feel very rewarding to know that you are fulfilling a vow or promise you have made to the person for whom you provide care.” In that sense, there is much to be thankful for during the holiday season. To further express gratitude, make sure to extend a grateful word to family and friends who helped shoulder any additional burdens during this time.
As you care for others this holiday season, don’t neglect to set aside valuable time to care for yourself as well. To stay up-to-date with the latest news surrounding your health, follow along with the Tri-City Medical Center blog year-round for health tips, care advice, and more — and trust our affiliated providers with all of your healthcare needs.