Stress..its everywhere. We can’t avoid it so all we can do is learn how to live with it. It isn’t going anywhere. As we embark on the busiest season of the year, stress levels exponentially increase. It’s not always Happy Holidays for everyone! And its seldom stress free. 

Although we want to enjoy the holidays, relax, and be merry, that’s often easier said then done. Our lives are already filled with the daily stress of work, commuting, kids, bills, life in general. aWith all that going on, families who care for an elderly parent feel the pull and the stress even more. For many of these people – mostly adults – they are literally sandwiched between two generations (read our article on The Sandwich Generation). They are pulled in so many different directions. When their elderly parent is in a nursing home or assisted living facility, they have to manage their time very carefully. They might have the demands of hosting the holidays at their home and unable to bring their parent or loved one to their home so they have to find time to visit them. Its a balancing act that is often difficult to manage. 

At Integrative Psychology Services, we get it. We help individuals and families deal with caregiver stress everyday. 

How to manage stress during holiday time:

1.) Recognize your limitations. We ALL have. The first thing to do is to recognize what they are, name them, and then start learning how to actively set limits on your life. Often times, its taking things day to compartmentalize your life. What exactly does this mean? In a simple form, it means put your life in boxes – to the degree you can. Think here and now. What do I need to do today? This week? And that’s it. What is a priority? What can take a back seat? Make lists and set both short and long term goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day so you don’t have to get everything done by yesterday.

2.) Just say no. This is accomplished through healthy boundary setting. Learning how to ‘just say no’ even to something small can and often does make a difference. Look at your schedule. Is there anything you can cut out without hurting someone’s feelings but giving yourself a much needed break? Do you have to say yes to everything? People – but especially women- have a difficult time saying no. Women are by and large (but not always) the caretakers in their family. As a result, their needs often come way at the end of the list. However, learning how to say no to a few small things will free you up for the bigger, more important things you have to do. And you won’t feel as drained and overwhelmed. remember if you don’t learn how to set healthy boundaries and say no to the little things, exhaustion and fatigue will quickly take over and your ability execute and take care of the bigger things, will dissipate.

3.) Team approach (if possible). Although I recognize this isn’t always possible because of resources, especially financial, but if it is possible, ask for the help. People often want to help, but they may not know what to do. Let them know. Make lists. Organize your thoughts. Asking and receiving help will be beneficial in the long run even if in the moment it doesn’t feel that way. Many times, people feel ‘bad’ or ‘guilty’ asking for help, thinking they have to do it all. You don’t. Change your mindset. We all need help now and again.

4.) Make healthy lifestyle choices. No, this doesn’t mean start training for the marathon BUT what it does mean is doing something everyday – even making small changes. Exercise and sunshine can do a lot for the soul. It makes us feel good, refreshed. Even if you think you don’t have the time, a brisk 20 minute walk can make all the difference in your day. It allows you to get out in nature and literally away from yourself. Limiting empty calorie carb and sugar and minimizing alcohol and drinking lots of water keeps your energy level even so you experience less ups and downs.

5.) Meditation and deep relaxation.  The benefits of meditation and learning deep relaxation are amazing! Even if you only start with 5 minutes, learning how to calm yourself down, use deep breathing techniques, and become more centered will change your world. You can do it in the middle of the day meaning you don’t have to wait until the end of the day. 

6). Visualization. If you can create it, you can make it more real. We often visualize what we want our life to look like even if in the moment we are having a hard time describing it. When people are asked what being less stressed would ‘look’ like, they can often describe what they are thinking. So, why not ask yourself the same thing – if I was less stressed over the holiday time, what would that look like? What images come to mind? What would be different? And from there, ask yourself, how can I start to achieve this – even on a small scale?

Learning to manage stress is key to having optimal health even during life’s difficult and challenging times. These are just a few ways to help you in during the stressful holidays but can also be used in everyday life! 

Need more info? Helen Sanders, Chief Editor at Health Ambition, suggests healthy ways to manage the stress in your everyday life and at work in her article, Beyond Blue – How to Deal with Stress at Work. Check it out!