Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. – Lao Tzu
The holiday season is a tough time of year for many, especially caregivers. It is understandable if you feel a little sad that you are not celebrating holidays like you used to.
Things can feel even tougher when you see the media portray others celebrating the holidays in picture perfect fashion. Or, you talk with a co-worker, friend or extended family member who is singing with joy throughout the season.
Sometimes the celebration and happiness of others can be contagious and pull you into experiencing some holiday cheer yourself. At other times, you may feel really down and wish that the calendar would just change to the new year already.
Whatever happens, do not judge your feelings. Give yourself permission to go with the flow and not have expectations of the way things should be.
For many families, the holidays are the only time everyone is together. Many family members, even those not directly involved in caregiving, can feel great stress with the large family gathering.
If you get the urge to run out the door for a break, listen to it. Heading out for a walk can improve any mood and give you some much-needed space from nerve wracking relative interactions. Plus, this can also give you a little respite from your direct care responsibilities with the loved one you support.
If your anger or anxiety levels rise uncontrollably; again, please do not judge yourself. This is natural, especially if you anticipate that this could be one of the last holiday seasons you may have with your loved one.
Acknowledge and share your feelings openly with a trusted confidant. When you are in the midst of caregiving, it is vital that you not isolate yourself and feel compelled to put on a happy face at all times and take on the full responsibility of making the holidays the best for everyone else.
Give yourself permission to say “no” or “maybe.” When seasonal commitments pile up, it’s easy to wind up overbooked. If you are not comfortable saying “no” – use the word “maybe.” Maybe gives you flexibility to decide in the moment based upon how you or the loved one you are caring for is doing.
In the midst of caring for my father who had vascular dementia, I let my cousin who was hosting an annual holiday celebration know that I could not provide a definite answer for attending. Given the challenges we were facing, I would not know until the day of the event if I could safely and successfully get my father into the car.
My cousin understood and graciously said that we could decide in the moment. Although we ended up attending but leaving early due to my father’s request to go home, we enjoyed a very nice holiday gathering. Plus, we were sent home with nice doggie bags of food to enjoy again later.
Choosing to accept whatever comes each day can make even the most stressful demands during this time of year much easier. Embrace the word “maybe” and go with the holiday flow, fellow caregiver.