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Tips for Caregivers: Getting through the Holiday Season
Holidays can be a stressful time trying to meet all the obligations that this time of year can hold. The standards we hold ourselves to can create added stress and anxiety when they are not met. It is very hard to get through the holidays and remain sane, but adding the extra demands of cancer and care giving can take its toll on you and your loved one. Two words need to be incorporated into the thinking process when planning the holidays, simplify and flexibility. So take a moment and read these suggestions and remember it is not about how much you do, it is about the quality of time with family and friends.
- Preparation: This is a time to re-evaluate what is practical and can be accomplished with minimal effort, in other words, simplify. This may call for new ideas, new roles and the beginning of new traditions. You may want to discuss this with your family and friends prior to the holiday. It will alleviate any disappointment of unmet expectations.
- Ask for Help: Most of us have a very difficult time asking for help. This act often is interpreted as a weakness of character, however, reaching out diminishes the stress of the caregiver and provides the gift of support and community. It also affords the helper an opportunity to participate and feel valued.
- Adjusting Expectations: Perhaps in the past you have been able to attend many social events during the holidays. When challenged with cancer, there is a decrease in energy levels for all concerned. Therefore, select the events that are the most important and reasonable to attend. You may have to factor in distances and where the events will be held. You may also advise the host that you may need some time alone if you get overwhelmed or emotions surface. People will understand and respect your decisions.
- Be Sensitive to your Emotions: Holidays can conjure up many emotions even without the cancer factor. Now that cancer has become part of your lives, emotions may be closer to the surface. Be respectful of them and allow yourself to acknowledge these emotions. Discussing them with your loved one, your family or a trusted friend will often decrease your stress and anxiety. Others may have similar feelings and welcome the opportunity to share.
- Remember to Take Care of Yourself: This piece of advice is probably the most important of all. With care giving, there is a tremendous amount of energy expended, both physical and emotional. Like every living thing, we need time to rejuvenate and renew. Take some time to rest, read, walk or engage in an activity that gives you the renewal your body requires.
- Focus on the Present: Often, we spend more time reminiscing about how things used to be and miss the present moment. Focus on the moments you are celebrating now and treasure the new traditions and new ideas you have created for this holiday.
- Be Kind to Yourself: Give yourself a gift. This does not have to be a material object. Imagine the gift of someone spending time with your loved one so you can go out to lunch or visit with friends without the concern of leaving your loved one alone. This not only provides some respite for you but affords your loved one a similar opportunity.
- Remind yourself that you are being the best you can be: We often place great pressure on ourselves to be the perfect care giver. We question whether we are doing enough or doing it right. We easily induce self guilt with this questioning which compounds anxiety. Be assured that you are doing your best, at that moment, in that situation. Be gentle with yourself and seek counsel for support.
- Communication: Holidays may take on a new meaning for you and your loved one. Engage your loved one in conversation to make sure that their ideas and needs are considered in the holiday planning. Maintaining open communication will deter conflicts and unnecessary changes in plans.
- Reread these tips again and incorporate them into your holidays: We know we must make changes but it is difficult when we are used to celebrating in traditional ways. If you start to doubt the course of your holiday, reread these tips and know you are doing the best you can. Embrace the time with your loved one and know that is enough.