It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Sounds so good in the song, but I am sure that all of you are dreading at least some small part of the upcoming holiday season. It is an overwhelming season that seems to start earlier and earlier each year. Whether you are an aging senior still managing your own affairs, or a spouse or child proving care to a loved one who can no longer be independent, the holiday season adds additional stress to your already busy lives.

There are a variety of sites on the internet that offer suggestions for minimizing stress during the holidays. So many of the ideas seem so simple, yet you really need to make an effort to follow through. Here are a few that you may find useful.

Plan Ahead: Prepare yourself to deal with what you think will be difficult during the season. Are relatives coming to town who don’t understand your limitations or your loved ones physical or mental changes? Did mom always take care of hosting the big event and now she is unable and you are taking over a new role. Think about what will be your stumbling blocks and plan some strategies for getting through. Better to have thought it through while calm and quiet that in the middle on the fray.

Express yourself. Talk with a friend, family member, or professional about your worries and concerns. Journal, pray or find another outlet to let your feelings out.

Find time to rest. Take time out for you. Take a breath, take a walk, get some exercise, take a nap. For those of you caring from someone, this is hard, but so necessary. If your neighbor has been offering for months to help if you ever need it, say yes now. Let them sit with your loved one while you take a break. Instead of spending a Daybreak day running all over doing errands, take a nap, meet a friend for coffee, or put your feet up for 10 minutes.

Reevaluate your priorities. It doesn’t have to be the way it has always been. It is ok to modify your holiday plans and traditions to accommodate for the changes to your health or those of your loved ones. If your spouse or parent suffers from dementia and the effects of sun downing…don’t plan events in the evening. Skip the traditional Christmas meal and make or attend a special breakfast instead.

Be clear with relatives and friends who don’t understand the nuances of your loved ones illness or your own. If you take a medicine at noon that makes you drowsy, don’t let someone plan a visit for 1:00. Ask then to come at 10. If out of town children don’t understand dad’s cognitive limitations, don’t make this the time to argue about it. Provide a focus to make the time enjoyable, not stressful (a very old photo album that you can look through and reminisce about (but don’t ever quiz the person about who is who), a puzzle that you can all do together, etc. Remember…it is the process, not the product that matters.

Count your Blessings. Enjoy the little things and savor them. Stay in the present and don’t continually compare now to then. Things have changed, they are different. They aren’t all bad though. Savor what is there to savor, no matter how small.

Christina Forbes, LGSW from the Daybreak Newsletter 12/2010