By: Jenee Mendillo
For as long as I can remember the holidays have been my favorite time of year, and also my most dreaded. Most season’s have started off with the delusion of spending my evenings sipping hot cocoa while leisurely baking beautifully decorated cookies and visiting with friends and family while holiday carols play in the background. Reality quickly hits me as most years I have found myself caring for an ill loved one and yet still trying to achieve the picture perfect holiday for everyone. Has this been your story? Why do we feel the need to be all things to all people? Is it our own pride or does it come from a soft spot in our heart for others? For me it is both but this year the soft spot is winning and I am putting away my pride. Here are some helpful tips I’ve learned along my holiday journey.
Ask for help. You don’t have to cook the entire holiday meal yourself. Consider preparing the main dish and asking everyone else to bring a covered dish. Your local grocery store can also cook the turkey and any sides you would like for about $8.00 per person. Resolve to only make one item from scratch this year instead of the whole meal. Or if you are taking care of your ill or elderly loved-one. Consider finding a home health aide to help you take on the duties some of your caregiving duties so that you can focus on one thing at a time. The last thing your loved-one wants to be is a burden. They will welcome the less stressed version of yourself for the holidays.
Use paper plates. Save yourself the work of washing dishes after the big dinner. There are some lovely but sturdy plates with holiday designs. Get matching plastic flatware for a festive table setting. No wants to be stuck washing dishes while the rest of the family is passed out on the couch with full bellies. Another helpful tip I received from my mother-in–law is to use the dishwasher for everything! Put the pots and pans in after a quick rinse through sink and immediately run the dishwasher. At the very least the pans are out of site, and with any luck, they may actually come out clean.
Make shopping for gifts easier. Consider shopping over the internet or by catalog. Try to think of one store where you can buy gifts for everyone . Take advantage of stores that offer free gift-wrapping. Another not as well known trick is to hire a Respite caregiver. Home care agencies specialize in this service around the holidays. A home health aide will come to your house or the house of your ill loved one and they will be your surrogate for a few hours should you need to get some shopping done. They can even stay for several days around-the-clock should you need to take a holiday get-away.
Don’t overspend. That will only cause you more stress after the holidays are over. No one remembers how much you spent on them, but they do remember your attitude.
Set aside time for yourself. I know it’s hard to do at such a busy time of year, but it will make a huge difference in your level of stress.
Take care of yourself. Do your best to eat right, get enough sleep, and get some exercise. Consider attending a support group for caregivers or make time for tea with a friend. Seek professional help if you need it. Yes, it’s hard to fit these things in at such a busy time. Make them a priority. It’s hard to do a good job of taking care of someone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.
You don’t need to keep every tradition: You don’t need to go to every party just because you always have. And you don’t need to keep every tradition. Discuss with your family members what they like most about the holidays ( it might surprise you). My husband loves nothing more than pre-meal appetizers and relaxing on the couch. Why bother with a big meal if my hubby and I can snuggle on the couch with a bowl of spinach dip! That is what I call quality time.
Despite the added stress, the holidays can still be a joyful time of year. Plan ahead and take steps to deal with the stress, ask for help and enjoy the special time you have with your loved ones.