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Caregivers have a tremendous amount of stress throughout the year. Like most of us, that stress ramps up around the holidays as they struggle to meet the demands of the season and continue caregiving duties. According to a new AARP survey, 7 in 10 family caregivers say it is emotionally stressful to care for loved ones during the holiday season. Whether you’re a caregiver or have a loved one that’s a caregiver, we’ve shared tips below on how to make the holidays a bit easier.

Take a Break for Yourself

Caregivers hear it all the time – put yourself first. While it’s much easier said than done, self-care truly makes all the difference for your health and happiness. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of anyone else.

Being a primary caregiver for another person can be both physically and emotionally exhausting. On top of that, you must take care of your own health care, get enough sleep, and eat nutritious foods—all during a season that can be stressful on its own.

Quick Tip: Consider options like pre-packaged meal services or grocery delivery. This can take an item off your to-do list and create time and space for self-care. Even if it’s just for a few weeks during the busy time of year.

Manage Your Expectations

As a caregiver, you have to manage unexpected changes in your schedule. Your days don’t always go as planned. With this in mind, one of the most helpful things you can do now to avoid that post-holiday let-down is to lower your expectations.  You can still enjoy the festive time of year while doing less. Cutting out traditions or reducing activities might even make the holiday more meaningful to you than it ever has in the past.

Quick Tip: Write down all of your holiday traditions or activities that you usually take part in, and chose which you can skip or delegate to someone else. This will help you visualize where you can cut back.

Make Christmas Shopping Less Stressful

For the savvy online shopper, try to buy most, if not all, of your presents online. This will allow you to avoid busy stores when you’ve already got a full plate. If online shopping is not an option for you, consider asking a family member or friend to help out, even picking up some basic presents while they’re already out shopping.

Quick Tip: Consider buying more gift cards this year.  People love to receive them, and your local grocery store carries all the popular national brands. You can also purchase gift cards online.  

Limit the Decorations

Putting up holiday decorations can be a taxing job. This is the perfect activity to pare down a bit. Put up just one tree or go with a smaller tree if you usually have an elaborate one. Keep the breakable ornaments packed away and reduce the indoor light displays. You may want to consider forgoing outdoor decorations, too.

Quick Tip: You can hire services to help with outdoor Christmas decorations. Also, consider looking into Christmas tree delivery options, many local charities offer delivery, and your money will go to a good cause!

Practice Saying No

One of the best gifts you can give yourself this holiday season is set boundaries. This means you don’t have to attend every invite you get, nor do you have to do family traditions the way you’ve always done them. Find what is manageable for you and stick with it.

Quick Tip: Make a weekly or monthly list of all of your tasks. During December, if any family member or friend asks for help with something that isn’t on that list, say no, and don’t feel guilty. Explain to them that you would love to help, but with caregiver and normal life duties, you can’t take any more on your plate.

Enjoying the Holiday Season as a Caregiver

If you happen to be the spouse or family member of a loved one, keep these tips in mind and try to find ways to lessen their load, or show your appreciation. Consider helping out so that they can take a break for an afternoon or hire respite care for a day. Offer to do the cooking for a holiday gathering, or help with shopping. Take them out for dinner so they can spend an enjoyable, quiet evening.

Navigating the holiday season as a caregiver is a challenge, but with these recommendations, you can ease the burden and enjoy this special time of year.

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