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Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress During the Holidays

The holidays can put a lot of stress on anyone, but caregivers—who may already feel overwhelmed with daily responsibilities—are more vulnerable to holiday burnout. During the holiday season, there are more opportunities than ever to indulge in unhealthy coping strategies, like eating too many sweets, drinking too much alcohol, and skipping trips to the gym. Far from helping prevent caregiver burnout, these unhealthy coping strategies can actually worsen the negative impact of holiday stress. Learning healthy ways to deal with holiday stress will help you avoid caregiver burnout this holiday season.

Healthy Ways to Cope with Caregiver Stress

Learn to recognize the signs.
Stress manifests itself differently for everyone, and it can sometimes creep up on us. When you ignore your body’s stress signals—exhaustion, emotional ups and downs, foggy thinking, and restlessness—you’ll eventually reach a point where you’re so burned out that you can’t continue. By learning to recognize your own signs of stress, you can start to cope with it before it gets out of control.

Acknowledge and accept your emotions.
A lot of the stress we feel during the holidays when we’re acting as caregiver for an aging loved one stems from trying to maintain our holiday cheer while inside we’re feeling fear, frustration, sadness, or any number of other negative emotions. Acknowledging and accepting those emotions actually helps prevent them from taking over by not letting them take up more space in your thoughts than they deserve.

Make time for yourself.
With the busyness of the holiday season added to the daily responsibilities of caregiving, it can feel like you don’t have any spare moments in the day. But it’s important to make time to take care of yourself, especially during a busy holiday season. Taking 30 minutes to exercise or do yoga can boost your mood and help you sleep better. Avoiding sugary foods or too much alcohol will help you maintain energy levels and reduce anxiety.

Ask for help.
More family around during the holiday season means more potential helping hands. Whether you ask for help with caregiving activities or delegate holiday preparations, the important thing is to request help when you start feeling overwhelmed. People are always more willing to help than we give them credit for, especially when we’re under a lot of stress. Ask your aunt to wrap your gifts for you, or a sibling to spend an hour with your loved one while you take a long walk.

Remember that when you take better care of yourself, you can take better care of others. Managing your stress during the holiday season will help you fulfill your responsibilities as a caregiver without succumbing to burnout, so you can truly enjoy your family celebrations.