5 Holiday Tips for Caregivers

Dec 20, 2022

We have always learned that stress is bad, in fact, stress can make us sick. However, new scientific research is showing us that this may be a situation of mind over matter. According to psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, the way that we think about stress can be the most important factor in our health. When our bodies are stressed, they release oxytocin which is a built in mechanism for stress resilience that actually motives us to seek the help and support of others! View her TED Talk and check out our tips below.

The holidays can be doubly stressful for family caregivers providing care to an aging loved one, especially if they have dementia. The key to managing stress, is to take cues from our own bodies. Here are five tips to make the holidays more manageable.

1. Rethink Stress: Caregiving can hit many of the topics that cause us stress, such as finances, mortality, healthcare decisions, housing, etc. Having a positive view of our body’s ability to cope will actually make us more resilient in the face of stressful situations. Think of your body as capable and able to rise to the occasion and cope with increased stress for a period of time. Your positive perspective will actually have health benefits for you.

2. Break Your Own Rules: We all have unspoken rules that we operate by that are a mixture of tradition, expectations, and learned behavior. Around the holidays there can be a lot of them, such as “Thou shalt put up a Christmas tree” or “thou shalt have hand mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving dinner.” Many times we want to carry on holiday traditions, but if they become more of a burden than a celebration, break your own rules! Consider simplifying traditions and scaling back things like décor or big meals to make your to-do list manageable.

3. Ask for Help: We can learn a thing or two from that old faithful dog, Lassie. When Timmy falls into the well, the first thing that she does is go and get help. Lassie doesn’t jump into the well headfirst and cause a bigger situation, but finds community members, asks for help and keeps asking for help until she gets it. Knowing your own limits is hugely powerful and knowing when to ask for help is a life skill. Make a list of things that you need done so when someone calls and says, “Is there anything I can do?” you are ready with a real response instead of the usual, “No, I’m fine thanks.”

4. Take Time to Breathe: When we are most stressed or agitated with a situation, we often will take shallow breaths or stop breathing for short periods of time. Whether you can step away from the situation or have to remain in it, taking 3 deep lung-filling breaths can induce a physical de-stressing and help us to refocus.

5. Delegate: During the holidays it is important that you have down time. Delegating is a crucial part of making that a real possibility. Consider setting up a schedule for care where different family members take a rotation for attending to aging loved ones. Delegate the entertaining by having family and friends come up with activities to stay engaged. Make chores a group effort. Moral of the story: You do not have to do it all.