There are many reasons to love the holidays – whether it’s traditions, spending time with family and other loved ones, and a variety fun, rewarding activities. But it’s no secret that they can also be a time of stress, and if you’re a caregiver or family member of someone who’s in an inpatient rehab or long-term acute care hospital, the extra stress can add up in a hurry.
It can be easy to get overwhelmed this time of the year and slip into unhealthy habits such as overeating, skipping exercise, and getting less sleep. The following tips can help you deal with the stress and keep yourself on track until things return to “normal.”
Take stock and acknowledge all of your emotions throughout the day – fear, frustration, sadness, joy, etc. Remember, these emotions are perfectly normal, and there’s no need to overreact to any of them. Just acknowledge each moment (and thought) rather than letting your mind focus only on your growing to-do list.
Recognize the signs
More specifically, recognize the signs of burnout and stress. Prolonged stress drains your energy and motivation to provide the proper care and attention to patients and loved ones. And a good sign that you’re burned out is when you feel as if nothing you do as a caregiver will make a difference.
You know your calendar is going to full this time of the season as you juggle the duties of your family and your role as a caregiver. Prioritizing enables you to decide what obligations and traditions are expendable and those that aren’t.
Don’t neglect self-care
As a caregiver, you know that you must sometimes put the needs of others before your own but neglecting your self-care can exacerbate stress. Make sure that you’re getting proper exercise, proper sleep, that you’re participating in fun activities, and that you’re not overloading on sugary foods that can precede an emotional crash.
Whether it’s through online message boards or support groups, it’s always a good idea to rely on others to help you carry the load. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help – both for yourself and those under your care. You can enlist the services of a home-cleaning business, or ask a friend about running errands for you. Remember there are only so many hours in a day and those hours can become limited during the holiday season.
Embrace new traditions
If long-held family traditions such as preparing, cooking, and serving large holiday meals are too much for you don’t be afraid to start new traditions, like eating out at a favorite restaurant instead. Or, you can also give the gift of time rather than give costly presents. Simplifying your holiday activities is a good strategy to reduce your levels of stress. You’ll still enjoy the spirit of the season while choosing the activities that are most meaningful to you and your family.
What are your hot buttons?
The holidays can stir up toxic activities or relatives that create more stress or unhappy memories. You may want to avoid certain places, events, and people – or, at the least, develop quick exit strategies.