Caregiver Question | 11/16/23

I don’t want to deal with the holidays this year. What should I do?

DEAR CARALLEL: I’ve always loved the holidays. Maybe too much seeing as though my sister calls me the “female Clark Griswold”. But I don’t buy it and think my family secretly appreciates my enthusiasm.

My problem is that this year I have no idea how they sprung up on me so quickly and I can hardly bear the thought of them. In years past I’d already have the plans set, preparations in flight, and even the decorations up by now. 

It’s just that my mother’s Parkinson’s Disease has progressed to the point where caring for her is now a full time job. On top of my actual full time job, family, and life in general. I have no capacity or energy left over to think about my day-to-day life, nevermind ‘the season’. 

I feel like I’m letting my family down. The stress of it all has gotten the better of me. What can I do? Is there any hope for enjoying the holidays like I used to? –Jacqueline in Wauchula, FL

DEAR JACQUELINE: I’m sending you a big virtual hug. And I’m here to tell you that you are not, under any circumstances, letting your family down. It’s quite the opposite actually but I understand how it doesn’t feel that way to you. 

By being there for your mother, you’re the one holding everything together. You shouldn’t have to do that all alone, and that’s an entirely separate (albeit very important) conversation for another day. 

But for now, I’ll keep my thoughts related to your specific question about managing this newfound holiday stress. And hopefully get you to a place where you can find some of the joy that’s led you to be called the ‘female Clark Griswold’. 

The good news is that I have a few ideas that could help. None will be a magic wand to make this year like holiday seasons past, but they should help a bit. Here goes: 

Give yourself permission

You said it yourself, caring for your mother right now is a full time job. This is a massive life change. 

From where I sit, it makes sense that you’re not in the spirit as you usually are. And it is 100% okay for you to feel that way. So give yourself permission to feel those feelings and revise the expectations you have for yourself. 

Simplify Activities 

It sounds to me like you’re steeped in holiday traditions. That is wonderful and it also may make what I’m suggesting here difficult. Though please hear me out and try to keep an open mind. 

If you host, could you have less people? Or maybe someone else could host this time around? Or depending on the specifics of your mother’s situation, perhaps you replace the big gathering with a smaller edition that still allows you to be together and feel the spirit? 

Again, this can be a challenge because traditions are such a big part of who we are. However in the short term, I think you could be well served by simplifying–if you can give yourself permission to do so. 

Think about what’s most important to you 

What do you love most about the holidays? What’s most important? 

Is it putting on the meals? Being together with family and friends? Decorations and gifts? Being with your mom? 

If you can hone in on what you love most, this can allow you to put plans in place to allow you to lean into that thing you love. 

For example, if it’s putting on the meal, is there someone (family, friends, or otherwise) who could be with your mom so you have the time and energy to put on that meal? Or what about more of a potluck style celebration to share the load?

On the other hand, if it’s decorations and gifts, would you be willing to just stick to the most meaningful decorations or opt for a single item gift exchange?  This could lessen the effort a little but still allow you and your family to enjoy the celebration of it all. Who knows, it may be the start of brand new traditions. 

Like I said, there aren’t any magic wands in this email but these things can help. 

Oh and before I go, you may want to check out this video as well. I joined the October edition of our Caregiver Conversation series, and we spent 30 minutes discussing this very topic.

We have some real talk on the holiday stress you’ve described and offer some practical tips (like the ones above) for managing it. 

Simply click the image below to watch. 

One last virtual hug to you, Jacqueline. You’ve got this.

Hope this helps, 

–Jennifer, Carallel Care Advocate

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