Handling Holiday Stress as a Caregiver

As the expectations pile up, so does the stress. 

Guest Post by Beth Kelly 

The stuffed turkey simmering. The corn-on-the-cob roasting. The family chuckling, clustered around the newest board game. The magic of overflowing packages under the tree and that perfect bar room New Year’s kiss. Hollywood has photoshopped the holidays, and too many caregivers inadvertently fall into supporting roles. As the expectations pile up, so does the stress. So the dominoes fall: stress, worry, depression.

The buck stops here. Consider four simple tips to stave off the holiday blues.

1. Keep it Simple

No one is a superhero. Everyone has a kryptonite. Too often, caregivers bottle their humanity under a façade of cooking for mom, cleaning for dad, writing to Sue and shopping for Joe. Carol Bursack, editor-in-chief of ElderCareLink, advises, “Learn to detach from the negative feedback you may get from others because of changes you are making … You set boundaries by telling others what you can and can’t do … Acknowledging your loved ones’ views, and telling them you love them, but simply can’t do it all, generally helps.”

Never forget the soothing power of routine. Reading the newspaper, baking bread, sweeping the floors – these seemingly mundane tasks are valuable rest stops on the harried holiday Interstate.

2. Stay Healthy

Maintain an active lifestyle and consider caloric intake. 
Sitting all day is not normal, not natural, and not healthy. One expert study found that sitting for eight hours a day or more increased risk of depression in women by almost 50 percent. Whereas a sedentary lifestyle promotes arthritis, obesity and the “I’m-pooped” syndrome, maintaining an active lifestyle promotes joint health and mental cognition. Walking or swimming for 20 minutes unleashes a flood of endorphins, neural painkillers that reduce stress, improve sleep and boost self-esteem.

There is no law that excludes vegetables and fruits from the holiday dinner table. Especially since folic acid in broccoli and other vegetables can diminish depression. Berries and cashews are also able to reduce oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Complex carbohydrates, found in whole grains, even release serotonin, the “happy hormone.”

In contrast, dramatic mood “crashes” – not to mention a drooping gut – usually follow sugary sweets. In one study conducted by the Calorie Control Council, the average American consumes more than 3,000 calories in a single Thanksgiving dinner, as much food as a 16-year-old boy wolfs down in an entire day.

3. Tech Tools

Leverage mobile technology against the holiday fever.
Feeling SAD? That’s Seasonal Affective Disorder, formerly known as cabin fever or winter blues. Treatment includes SAD therapy light boxes, which mimic outdoor sunlight and theoretically decrease the severity of the depression. Some sufferers also claim benefits from aromatherapy or, better yet, dashing out the front door.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, why not have both? Try talking to family members over VoIP voice-chat software like Skype. Swap stories, tell jokes, and make funny faces using the camera’s special effects.

Leverage mobile technology against the holiday fever. Download a yoga or meditation app that present poses, conduct classes, and even provide the soothing narration of a trained yoga instructor. Put together a calming music playlist – maybe Nat King Cole and Bing Cosby? Or use a smartphone app that can monitor heart rate and sleep cycle. As HealthITJobs.com states on their blog, “mobile apps have provided an entirely new way to take control of our health; just remember to always be wary of apps from untrusted sources, as your personal data could be at risk.”

4. Social Support

Keep your loved ones active and involved.
Lisa Vogel, founder of her own home health care agency, says, “To ensure your older loved ones and friends don’t get lost in the holiday frenzy this year, keep them active and involved.” So light a candle or plant a rose to remember a loved one. Send handwritten letters to old friends. Join an Alzheimer’s Association campaign. Turn off the television and host a bridge party.

Because in truth, the holidays have nothing to do with Black Friday specials or Christmas cruises and happiness is best when shared.

Further Reading: 

Holiday Travel with Incontinence is Manageable With Proper Planning, Products

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About The CareGiver Partnership. The CareGiver Partnership helps caregivers and their loved ones with answers to their caregiving questions, including information about home health care products and supplies, from our Wisconsin-based team of Product Specialists who are all current or former caregivers. The company’s Web site provides the largest online library of resources on subjects most important to caregivers — from arthritis to assisted living, and Parkinson’s to prostate cancer — as well as access to more than 3,000 home care products for incontinence, skin care, mobility, home safety and daily living aids. The CareGiver Partnership was founded in 2004 by Lynn Wilson of Neenah, Wisc. Visithttp://www.caregiverpartnership.com to learn more or call 1-800-985-1353.


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