How can you take extra time to make the holidays merry when you already have so much to do as a caregiver?
Sometimes, it may seem like an impossible challenge, but it can be done. To do so, however, the most vital task may be to shift the way you think, because how you think about the holidays affects how you enjoy the holidays.
So take a moment and consider, what do you enjoy about the holiday season: time with family, time with friends, buying presents, getting presents, decorating, holiday foods, singing carols, viewing Christmas lights, watching holiday specials or going to special events like “The Nutcracker” or the annual work party?
Now take another moment to consider what you don’t like about the holidays. It could be some of the items above. Maybe you’re not into presents or the commercial aspects of the holidays. Maybe there is too much pressure from family to make things festive. Maybe you feel more alone or isolated having to stay home due to caregiving responsibilities.
Whatever works or doesn’t work for you about the holidays is okay, and it’s worth taking a moment to think about what would make life not only easier, but merrier. Make a list, and then see whether you can make some of it your reality this year.
Here are a few steps to help you make your holidays happier:
When my husband had a stroke that left him paralyzed from the neck down, I found that attending holiday parties was not easy anymore. But I missed those gatherings and the connections they brought. My husband and I both felt isolated and forgotten. So what to do? I found ways to bring the parties to us. Instead of cooking, I hosted potluck suppers. Or I chose something simple like inviting our grandchildren to decorate cookies. My husband and I chose the time and the number of invitees, but most importantly, we found a way to bring the merriment of the holidays through our door. Consider how you could do the same in whatever way would bring you the most pleasure.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by a bevy of tasks at the holidays. So give yourself permission to do less. Let yourself take breaks and relax. Schedule time just for you to read a book or soak in the tub or just take a walk. Whatever would replenish you and bring you joy should be a vital part of your holiday season. Remember if you don’t take time to bring joy to yourself, you won’t have happiness to spread to the other people in your life either.
As you consider ways to improve your holidays, make sure you aren’t mainly wishing for the freer holidays you used to have before caregiving began. It can be easy to yearn for holidays past, but if you find yourself feeling blue for that reason, take a moment to think of all you do have in the present and how you can enjoy that right now. With practice, you can chase those blues away and find a happier now.
One of the most important things to do in any season as caregivers is accept help from others. If you don’t, you’ll wear out and won’t be able to fulfill the important work of caregiving anymore. So if you haven’t done so already, let this holiday season be the one where you give yourself the gift of help. Stop saying “no” to offers from others. Instead say “yes.” And as you do, remember that by allowing others to help you and your loved ones, you’re not only receiving a gift, you’re also giving one. When people help other people, they feel such joy and satisfaction. Spread that joy this year by saying “yes.”
Kathi Koll is the founder of The Kathi Koll Foundation and author of Kick-Ass Kinda Girl: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Caregiving. Please visit KathiKoll.com to learn more and read an excerpt.