The holidays are a joyous and festive time of year filled with good food, family and friends. But when you’re an informal caregiver, looking after an aging in place loved one during the holiday season can elevate your stress to a whole new level. On the other hand, finding healthy ways to decompress while juggling caregiving with the holidays will allow you to enjoy them even more. If you’re a caregiver, here are some stress-relief tips so that this holiday season is all that you’d hoped for. 

Signs of Holiday Caregiver Stress

Just like any other time of year, caregiver stress can sneak up on you during the holidays when you least expect it. So that you are better prepared, here are the classic warning signs that your stress is getting out of control:

  • Feeling sad all the time
  • Feeling worried, hopeless or overwhelmed
  • Losing interest in activities once enjoyed 
  • Feeling tired throughout the day
  • Sleeping too much or not sleeping enough
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Becoming easily irritated or angry
  • Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications

Left unaddressed, caregiver stress can cause serious health problems that place both you and your care recipient at risk.

Holiday Stress-Management Tips for Caregivers 

Preventing caregiver stress during the holiday season is possible by taking these steps:

Set realistic goals

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so baking cookies for your child’s holiday school program may have to wait until next year. Prioritize your responsibilities into smaller “chunks” that you can realistically accomplish without getting overwhelmed.

Learn to say “no” without feeling guilty. For example, tell mom that you’ll take her gift shopping next week because you don’t want to miss your high schooler’s holiday concert. Better yet, offer to bring your mother along so she can see her grandchild perform!

Plan ahead

Although it’s oftentimes easier-said-than-done, try to get things ready before your company arrives. Ways to plan-ahead for holiday gatherings include:

  • Preparing plenty of food beforehand and freezing it
  • Purchasing gift cards for last minute gifts
  • Stocking up on extra groceries in case family and friends stop by unannounced
  • Politely asking someone else to host a gathering at their home instead of yours, or by suggesting potluck dinners so you don’t have to do all the cooking

Scale back family traditions 

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment while trying to keep up with family traditions- like decorations and formal dinners. When time is short and patience running thin, don’t let yourself fall into that trap. Lighten your load by focusing on some of the more importa