Between Black Friday, Cyber Monday, long-distance trips to grandma’s house and elaborate family dinners, the holidays can be a tough time for many. For those caring for a family member in treatment for cancer or another serious condition, the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day can be even more stressful and overwhelming.
|Terry Irish helps caregivers cope during the holidays. (Photo by Alicia Di Rado)|
To help, City of Hope spiritual care staff members are offering six tips to keep caregivers going during the holiday season.
Amend your holiday faith traditions
Will taking care of someone keep you from your usual holiday activities, like going to midnight mass, volunteering in the community or coming up with a special ritual for the kids? That’s ok, according to Terry L. Irish, D.Min., chaplain in the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center.
“Give yourself permission to create new activities that are more convenient,” Irish said. “Sometimes these low-key activities, like writing a letter, can be meaningful in special ways.”
And if your relative or friend is at City of Hope during the holidays, he added, call Spiritual Care Services at 626-256-4673, ext. 63898, or Clinical Social Work at 626-256-4673, ext. 62282, to find out how to observe your spiritual or religious practices at the hospital.
Conserve your energy
Prioritize your activities and choose only the most important ones. Focusing on fewer activities that matter more to you may help restore your spirit and renew your energy.
Celebrate with others
However you celebrate, plan to include others — whether it’s your friends, family, faith community or other group — so you aren’t alone. Sometimes big celebrations can start to feel overwhelming or emotional, though, so you might want to sit near an exit to make it easy to slip out and take a break.
“It can be a good idea to develop an ‘exit plan’ with someone else’s help,” Irish said. “If you get stuck in an uncomfortable conversation, you can say a pre-arranged word or phrase to a friend, who can then extract you from the situation.”
Take care of your spiritual self
Regardless of your beliefs or your definition of spirituality, take the time to renew your inner spiritual resources. The holidays can be hectic, but they also can be a time of reflection and centering. Taking care of yourself now means you'll have more to offer your family in the months ahead.
Set reasonable expectations
Can you really decorate like Martha Stewart or cook like Rachel Ray during the holidays, when you’ve also got to be a nurse, confidant, driver and master organizer? Be realistic about what you can accomplish and keep your focus on providing the best care possible to your loved one — while staying connected to your family and friends. Let perfection go.
Think about 2011
Consider writing down some specific, realistic goals to care for yourself over the next year. Remember that good goals are measurable, observable and attainable.
“A poor goal is saying you’re going to become active in 2011,” Irish said. “A good goal is saying you’re going to walk for 30 minutes three times a week in 2011. You'll feel good when you reach these goals, and they’ll help you keep a positive focus on your own well-being.”
Want to learn more about caregiving? Pick up “A Caregiver’s Guide: Tips and tools for reducing caregiver stress” at the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center. Call 626-256-4673, ext. 3-CARE (32273), for more information.