Being a caregiver for a loved one is often a selfless, thankless job. It can require extreme amounts of patience, determination and grace that many people do not have all of the time. During the holiday season, this difficult job can become even more arduous than usual.
An increase in unhealthy behavior like indulging in alcohol and a poor diet, or not getting enough sleep or exercise, can lower our defenses and magnify all of our experiences. Both the good ones and the bad ones can seem too big for us to control.
To avoid letting the holidays make the caregiving experience so hard that it burns you out, here are the steps that may help you get through this wonderful, yet emotionally and physically draining, period.
1) Know the signs of burnout
Caregivers may experience burnout at any time of the year, but the holidays can be particularly draining. If the caregiver is starting to feel apathetic, fatigued, has foggy thinking, or is dealing with emotional highs and lows, that person may be experiencing burnout. It is important to know the signs of being burned out so you can head it off at the pass before it takes over your psyche.
2) Practice self-care
"Do something for myself" is something that many caregivers do not put on their to-do lists. You can’t be the best person for your loved one if you aren’t allowing yourself to be the best person for you first.
You don't have to take two weeks on a Caribbean island to practice self-care. Keep it simple, and try to incorporate self-care into your regular schedule.
Exercise is one of those things caregivers tend to give up first. Don't!! It can help you physically and emotionally. Meditating, getting outside in the sun, and even giving yourself the gift of aromatherapy, can all help to reduce stress and re-balance your life.
3) Ask for help
It is not a crime for caregivers to need care for themselves. Ask for help with your caregiver duties. Ask for help with the other daily stresses in your life. Ask for help with your holiday preparations, or any other personal needs you have.
Seize the opportunity when relatives are around during holiday celebrations to ask for help for the rest of the year. During the holiday season, if feasible, you may want to consider paying for help to complete your holiday lists, to clean your house, or to just run errands.
Paid adult caregivers, respite care, or adult day care centers can also relieve you of your caregiver duties for a short period of time, so you can take part in some holiday events or take care of preparations you want to do yourself. Help is a four-letter word that is good to use!
The holidays are a time for joy and family and love. They are also a time of great stress. Be gentle with yourself, especially during the holiday season, and know your caregiving duties should not take over who you are as a person. Good luck with balancing everything this holiday season!
10 Tips for Caregivers Over the Holidays. AARP.com. 4 November 2015.
How to avoid caregiver burnout this holiday season.” Everydayhealth.com. 4 November, 2015.
Reviewed November 5, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith