Guide to Navigating Holiday Stress

how to navigate holiday stressYou may be already dealing with stress as you juggle caring for your parent with family responsibilities and holding down a job. Now that the holidays are here, the extra stress may just put you over the edge. It’s important that you, as a caregiver, take care of yourself during this busy time of year.

Here are some ideas for handling holiday stress and having a happy holiday season in the process.

1. Cut down on driving time

How many hours do you waste in your vehicle as you drive from errand to errand? There’s got to be a better way, right? You may already be doing much of your shopping online, and probably most of your banking too. That’s a good start, but you can save even more precious time by having such items as groceries or household products delivered to your door. A website called will direct you to the stores that offer delivery in your area—even letting you know about coupon savings and special deals that will more than offset the delivery fee. Many different types of merchants, including pet stores and office supply stores, also offer online product sales, many of which have free shipping.

2. Enlist help from family—including your parents

Who says you have to do it all? Cooking and cleaning are two time-consuming tasks that you can divvy up among family and extended family members quite easily during the holidays. The “everyone bring a dish” method works quite well for most family gatherings today. And if you still find yourself cooking too much, maybe you’re not handing as much off to other people as you should.

Don’t forget that there may be one or two people who would absolutely love to help—your parents. They may not be able to cook a full meal anymore, but if they’re physically able and they want to help, then  ask them to lend a hand. Maybe they can make a salad or whip up the mashed potatoes. Maybe there’s a special side dish or dessert they want to contribute to the holiday meal. Not only will this help you out, but it can help them feel wanted and appreciated—a definite “win/win.”

3. Enlist help from the professionals

Yes, professional help comes with a cost—but sometimes it’s worth it! Instead of cooking everything for your holiday party, let family members know you’re having the event catered this year. If they want to contribute something, perhaps they can chip in some money to offset the cost—or they can still bring a special homemade dish to supplement the catered fare. Instead of frantically cleaning your home this year, treat yourself to the once-a-year luxury of hiring a cleaning service to make your home “party-ready.”

And if you have several miscellaneous tasks you need to get done, consider a service like TaskRabbit, which will put you in contact with a “Tasker” who can do anything from general handyman work to home improvements to furniture assembly.

4. Streamline your gift-giving and wrapping activities

Sure, you’d like to give everyone you know a present, but if you’re pressed for time, all the shopping and gift-wrapping can wear you down. You can cut down on gift-giving by drawing names or coming up with a time-saving gift strategy—such as “every teen with a car is going to get a gas gift card this year” or “everyone gets a voucher for  tickets to the symphony, theater, concert venue, or favorite sporting event.” Those types of gifts are a lot easier to buy, and placing them in a card is a great way to cut down on gift-wrapping.

5. Plan a respite from caregiving

If family members are in town, this could be the perfect time for them to spend the day with Mom or Dad while you spend a day getting things done. Or better yet, use your respite time to pamper yourself. Take a long relaxing bath with your favorite bath bomb. Curl up with a good book. Or maybe even take a nap in the middle of the day.

If you don’t have family resources to give you that respite, explore outside resources such as adult daycare programs or local senior centers if you need to take a short caregiving break.

6. Take time to enjoy the season

Stop running or decorating or cooking for even one afternoon. Take the time to go to a holiday concert with your parents or other loved ones. Spend time visiting with relatives and friends. Host a Christmas cookie baking session—but put as much focus on having fun as you do on the cookie output.

7. Allow yourself to be less than perfect

So, your gravy is a little lumpy, and your pie is store-bought. Your decorations are a bit on the “skimpy” side this year, and your presents don’t have the usual ribbons and bows. Tell yourself: It’s okay. The important thing is being with family, taking the time to enjoy one another and reminisce.

Don’t sweat the “small stuff,” as the saying goes. If you start feeling stressed, give the special people in your life an extra hug and tell them you love them. Hearing “I love you” back is sometimes the best stress reliever of all.

CHIME IN: What are some stress-relievers for you during the holidays?

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One comment on “Guide to Navigating Holiday Stress
  1. Elizabeth says:

    Give a gift to yourself:
    Self compassion and self care. As far as the holiday season, my mantra is “less is more”.

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