Family Caregivers - Why the Holidays May Be Bad for Your Health

Is this your story? 

“Oh no! The holidays are here already!

Commercials, ads, Amazon feeds, emails flooding my inbox...how can I forget?

I’m not ready yet. Too much going on. I’ve got year-end pressures at work. Then there's the kids' school holiday activities, parties and ceremonies. 

And that’s on top of mom’s care. Right now she’s doing ok. But what if her heart gets worse right in the middle of everything? I don’t have any PTO left. I certainly can't afford to spend all day and night in the emergency room just so they can send her home again, like last time, saying they found no reason to keep her in the hospital.

What about all the cooking? Celebrations are at our house this year. It’s my turn, and I promised. I wish I had more help with mom. I'm not getting much from my siblings: my sister Anne lives out of state, my brother Jim has his own problems, and my other sister Kate is just getting over surgery herself. It feels like everything always falls on me.

I don’t have money for all the gifts. The kids want this and that, like money grows on trees. 

I can’t wait for this to be over. I’ll need a whole week off just to sleep." 

 

Are you already dreading the holidays? 

Does this holiday season - which is already upon us - fill you with joy and anticipation, or does it fill you with dread? 

 

Holiday stress is a fact.

Here are important factors, according to the American Psychological Association:

1. Holiday stress particularly impacts women

- Surprised, anyone?

- Women take charge of many of the holiday celebrations, especially the tasks related to preparing meals and decorating the home.

 

2. Holiday stress particularly impacts lower middle-income individuals.

- You have the added work stress, time lack, and the season's pressures to spend lots of money.

 

3. Holiday stress particularly impacts isolated family caregivers

- The loved one you care for is unable or unwilling to have visitors.

- This is especially distressing because you miss the most meaningful part of the holiday season - the opportunities to connect or reconnect with friends and family. 

 

4. Holiday stress particularly impacts Americans

- The season can overwhelm you by all the pressures and expectations we've learned to place on ourselves.

- You feel pressed from all sides: lack of time, lack of money, the hype and the commercialism.

- As your loved one's caregiver, your plate is already full, and the holiday’s high emotions and unrealistic expectations pushes your plate to overflowing.

 

What to do?

The American Psychology Association gives 5 tips: 

1. Keep a holiday “to-do” list:

This way, you'll be less likely to forget something and your ability to focus will be better.

 

2. Set realistic expectations:

Instead of trying to take on everything, identify the most important holiday tasks and take small, concrete steps to accomplish them.

 

3. Know yourself

Learn your own stress signals: Understand how you respond in stressful situations.

 

4. Take care of yourself. 

Eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and engage in regular physical activity…taking care of yourself during the holidays helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with stress.

 

5. Ask for support

Accepting help from supportive friends and family can help you manage your stress better. If you still feel overwhelmed, talk to a psychologist who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behaviors.

 

 

Make your self-care a priority: Remember, YOU are the leader of your loved one’s care team. 

Your well-being is of utmost importance! 

Get the information and help you need to do your best and to be your best.  

 

 

 Until next time ... 

 

For more information: 

Holiday Stress - American Psychological Association, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research

 

Forrest Jones MD

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My website CaringEnd.com 

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