Whether faith based or not, the time around Christmas and New Year’s is often a busy time for families in Canada, as schools are closed, there are 3 national holidays, and it is a time when many families get together.
Whether celebrating Christmas or simply spending time with family, caregivers often say that their workload and stress increases, and survival rather than celebration is a word that comes to mind to describe the holidays and family. There are ways to ditch survival mode and enjoy the holidays. Repeat. There are ways to ditch survival mode and enjoy the holidays. Here are a few suggestions to consider in case repeating that statement isn’t enough to make you a believer!
- Give yourself permission to go to gatherings and events that will nurture and replenish you (as opposed to exhaust you). Set limits and boundaries to the responsibilities you are willing to take on. Let everyone know that your situation has changed so there may need to be some changes to the holiday activities and traditions this year.
- State what you need. Don’t wait to be disappointed, frustrated, or angry because others didn’t help. Think about the help you want or need in concrete terms. For example, “I want someone else to host, drive, prepare the meal, pay for the meal, or pay for a trip around the world.” Doesn’t that last request make all the other asks seem so reasonable? Caregivers are infamous for not reaching out for help. It’s time to be infamous for other things…
- Remind yourself of what matters. Don’t compare your life, your family, and how your home looks to those you see in commercials because no offence but, you are likely to come up short (like the other 99.9 per cent of us!). Stress can come from imposing impossible standards and expectations on ourselves and others. It is meaningful connections with others that matter and the more stress and perfection imposed, the less likely there will be these meaningful connections.
- What do you enjoy most about the holidays? What gives you the greatest satisfaction? Joy? Aim for that.
- What is the most stressful for you during the holidays and what can be done to reduce and even eliminate this stress?
- Keep the focus on the positives: What you can do instead of what you can’t do. Remember, the sky won’t fall if the cookies are store bought – and we won’t tell anyone! Savour moments rather than focusing on what you are missing and can’t attend. Practice gratitude for those who do help rather than being resentful towards those who don’t. You get the drift!
- Now that you are a caregiver, is there something about past traditions that just doesn’t work for you and/or the person you are caring for? While people get attached to traditions, most people are reasonable and will hear you out if you want to let a certain tradition go, adapt an old tradition, or introduce a new one. If cooking holiday meals is too much for you, eat out or order a prepared meal to have at home to give you more time with family. And if people in your life get cranky about these changes, see it as their problem, not yours. Seriously. This could be (yet another) opportunity to set boundaries and not take on responsibility for other people’s feelings.
- Dial down the drama…even if it’s just in your mind. While the holiday season is about extending kindness, goodwill, love, and all that good stuff, people do not suddenly change their personality and ways of doing things. Some will arrive too early, stay too long, be critical, drink too much, stir up nasty political debates, be self-centered, and on and on. You can’t change them but you do have the power to change how much space they take up in your head. Let it bounce right off you. Seriously, decide that you are not going to let them bother you or take away any of your enjoyment. This can sound trite but it really is possible and begins with a simple decision – “I am not going to let this bother me.”
- Last but certainly not least, (and you knew this was coming!) keep self care on your list. The holidays can be a time when we eat too much and don’t get enough sleep, exercise, and/or take time for ourselves. Don’t wait for someone else, gift yourself something wondrous! You deserve it!
Your friends at Elizz