Family caregivers are usually overloaded with their responsibilities during the course of the year, but these pressures can take an even greater toll during the holiday season. Trying to live up to family expectations and keeping traditions alive while also caring for the needs of an adult suffering from a debilitating illness can cause even the most “together” person to lose it. How much can one person really take on? I urge you not to find out! Instead, ask for help, change tradition, take care of your mental and physical wellbeing – do what you need to do to keep sane! Prioritize items on your to-do list so that it’s not such a big deal if those few, less important things don’t get done. Communicate your needs and anxieties to your family; don’t face your burdens alone. By letting them in on the pressures your feeling , they will understand why you decided not to host Christmas this year or why you didn’t get the lights up on the house. Tell immediate and extended family members the specific tasks you need help with; often times people want to help, they just don’t know how. By delegating responsibilities, it will not only take some of the load off of you, it will help your family feel included in the holiday preparations and may even lead to the creation of new family traditions.
Keep your own expectations for the holidays in check by ignoring Hollywood’s perfectly painted picture of what Christmas should look like. Being realistic will alleviate a lot of unnecessary stress.
Lastly, stop feeling guilty! I know this is easier said than done, and really, is a topic deserving exploration in an entirely separate post, but try to keep your guilt at bay by recognizing the importance of taking care of yourself first. You will be more effective at caring for others if you are getting the time, rest, and balance you need.