This week marks the official start of the holiday season. As we prepare for Thanksgiving, the caregivers among us may be extra burdened as they juggle a doubled to-do list and mourn the loss of traditions they might miss while providing care.
As we close out National Family Caregivers Month, I wanted to finish my blog series with a post that bridges the holidays with caregiving. My friend Brenda Yoder is the perfect guest to do that. As the mom of four and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Brenda is an expert on self-care during seasons when others demand a lot of energy and attention. Her tips are a must-read and must-share for the caregivers among us!
The holidays bring additional stress and busyness for caregivers, moms, grandmas, and anyone taking care of the needs of others. Planning, preparation for events, decorating, and then meeting the needs of those for whom you are caregiving can be overwhelming. You want to make things special for others. And you get lost in the wake.
Self-care is essential during the holiday season. Here are some practical tips for balancing busyness, stress, and exhaustion so you can do more than just survive the holidays.
1. Put off non-essential activity until after the holiday season.
In my book, Balance, Busyness and Not Doing It All, I talk about non-essential busyness. These are activities that aren’t essential right now. We often get caught up into doing everything we think must be done, when most of it doesn’t have to be done immediately. Look at your to-do list and prioritize what truly should be done during the holiday season and what can be delegated to accomplish after the first of the year.
2. Delegate responsibilities and activities.
There’s nothing godly about doing things yourself. That’s an American value that causes stress, unnecessary expectations, and physical and emotional fatigue. List responsibilities that are the ones only you can do. Responsibilities outside of those can be delegated to family members. Enlist help from close friends or hire out if you can.
3. Simplify holiday spending, traditions, cooking, or gatherings.
If this season of caregiving is especially stressful, simplify your holiday activities this year. Focus on relationships by spending time with those you love. There will be future holidays when today’s circumstances will be different.
4. Utilize respite services.
Give yourself permission to use respite services or offers from friends to help with caregiving so you can attend holiday gatherings without being a caregiver. The person for whom you’re caring will be okay.
5. Schedule simple pleasures.
Watch a Hallmark Christmas movie, read a book, watch your favorite comedian, or do an activity you normally don’t do because of your schedule. If you can do some of these while caregiving, do so. Give yourself permission to work less, relax, and laugh more.
6. Make time for holiday activities you enjoy.
If baking, shopping, or decorating are what you love about the holiday season, protect the time to do these things. The joy you receive is good for your physical, mental, and emotional health.
7. Set boundaries with people who drain you.
Unhealthy relationships and family conflicts bring their own stress during the holidays. Protect your time, energy, and emotions with healthy boundaries with those who disregard or disrespect you or the person for whom you are caring. See Townsend and Cloud’s resources on Boundaries for more information.
8. Give yourself grace.
Friend, you’re doing a lot. Don’t minimize that. Be gentle with yourself, your expectations, and limitations during this holiday season.
9. Seek God, His Word, and spaces of quiet.
Shut off the noise as much as you can. Play worship music. Pack a small Bible, devotional, or journal with you so when you’re rushing about and have a few minutes, you turn to God rather than numb your mind with noise or social media. God’s Word, prayer, and silent listening to the Good Shepherd will calm your soul (John 10).
10. Give thanks.
In those quiet, unscheduled moments, give thanks to God for who He is and what He has done for you and those you love. Praise changes our focus. Gratitude has positive effects on our mood, emotions, and outlook.
Take care of yourself this holiday season. No one else will do it for you. Let it be the gift you give to yourself.
Father, help me care for my needs during this busy season so I thrive and not just survive. Thank you for meeting me right where I am. Amen.
Brenda Yoder is a speaker, author, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, and life coach whose passion is encouraging others when life doesn’t fit the storybook image. Her new book, Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind, is a personal handbook for parents in the season of raising and releasing kids and is endorsed by Jim Daly of Focus on the Family. Brenda’s been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, the Washington Post, and For Every Mom. Brenda is also a former teacher and school counselor and was twice awarded the Touchstone Award for teachers. Her ministry and podcast, Life Beyond the Picket Fence, is found at brendayoder.com where she writes about faith, life, and family beyond the storybook image. Brenda is a wife and mom of four children, ranging from college students to adults, and lives on a farm in Indiana.
About Balance, Busyness and Not Doing It All
Busyness is epidemic, and Christians aren’t exempt. Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing It All is a practical, faith-based book equipping moms to say yes to what’s most important in life during the busiest years of parenting. Whether you’re a working mom, a stay-at-home-mom, or someone caring for others this book is filled with answers for your physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. The suggestions will surprise, challenge, and free you to do less, while embracing more out of life both personally and in your family. From practical housekeeping tools to personal growth, this book will equip you with things to use today to manage your family well, while taking care of and honoring yourself and deepening your faith.