Article written by the Clinique psychosociale de Montréal (website in french)
The stress of the holidays when you are a caregiver
The smell of pine and cinnamon, slowly falling snowflakes, the sound of bells and the warmth of the fireplace are announcing signs of the holiday season.
The magic of Christmas is quietly taking place. But unfortunately, it does not rhyme with joy and relaxation for everyone. When you are a caregiver, the holiday season can be stressful and increase the mental load that is already present in our daily lives.
Here are 4 tips that will allow you to alleviate this additional stress as a caregiver.
1. Go back to basics
What is really important to you and your loved one during this time? Is it necessary to offer several gifts, to wrap them in the most beautiful papers, that your loved one eats the tastiest food, or listen to fun music ? The essential, you may say, is to experience moments of happiness with your loved one, to see the family reunited and even to take some time to relax. And that’s just perfect! In any case, we suggest that you choose a maximum of 2 items that will meet this essential that you have identified. It can be your famous apple pie and your favorite Christmas music for example. You don’t have to do too much; the most important things are often quite simple !
2. Ask for help to assist you
In order to help you stay present as a caregiver, don’t hesitate to ask for help from family and friends. After all, you deserve it, especially during the holiday season.
This can take many forms : suggesting a potluck, mandating someone to fetch wood for the fireplace, another person to pick up the cousin who doesn’t have a car, and someone else to bring the extra chairs. Maybe you could even let yourself be invited ? Since you already have to take care of your elderly relative, it might benefit you to not add the burden of being the designated host for the holidays. In any case, a little assistance from those around you will likely help reduce the stress associated with this time of celebrations.
3. Plan mandatory rest periods
As a caregiver, you deserve to enjoy the holiday season as well. So why not allow yourself a little mandatory rest ?
Just ask a family member to come and replace you for a few hours. You could then take advantage of this precious time to do whatever you want : go for a coffee, read a few pages of a good novel, or go for a walk on the shore of a beautiful frozen lake. It is possible to plan these moments in advance with the members of your entourage in order to ensure their availability, but above all, to guarantee moments for yourself.
4. Give yourself the right to say no as a caregiver
That’s right, it is sometimes worthwhile to say no. Even if the Christmas meal has been planned with your presence in mind, even if you would like to please your friends and family, even if you have already planned the clothes or the dress you were going to wear, it is never too late to think about yourself and cancel outings. It is important to assess your energy level, whether physical or mental, and to respect your limits. Remember, you will also need energy after the holiday season, both for yourself and for your elderly loved one. Giving yourself the right to say no as a caregiver is another good way to avoid the extra stress associated with the holiday season.
In summary, remember that as a caregiver, you are a precious help to the person you are caring for and that you give a lot of yourself. You also have the right to enjoy this beautiful time of year. Leave the stress of the holidays behind and make some room for the magic of Christmas !
If you feel exhausted and overwhelmed, please do not hesitate to ask for the help of a psychologist in Montreal for personalized assistance. This may also lead you to the right solutions !