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Posts Tagged ‘Holiday Stress’

Caring for a family member with dementia can be challenging and the holiday season can add more to an already full plate for many caregivers. The holidays are a time for family and friends to come together, share traditions, and make memories, but for families living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, it may take additional care.

One of the things to consider when planning for the picture of familyholidays with a person with dementia is the stage of the illness. Those family members in the early stages can experience minor changes, and some may go unnoticed. However, the person with dementia may have trouble following conversations or may repeat himself or herself. They may feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable, and might withdraw from the group.  Do not point out errors in their conversations or their difficulty recalling specifics. Periodically checking in with them with a simple “How are you coping with everything?” can help you determine their comfort level with the activities.

It is also helpful to inform other family members as to what to expect from their loved one when they arrive. A group text or email explaining changes to memory or behaviors can help the family prepare in advance. In the message, you can explain any unpredictable emotions, memory loss or possible soothing techniques.

As the caregiver, you also need to be good to yourself. The stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with holiday traditions can take a toll. Some variations might need to be made to your holiday traditions. Some things that may assist in lessening the holiday stress are:

  • Adjust your expectations. Talk to family members about your current caregiving situation and make them aware of what you realistically can and cannot do.
  • Ask for help. No one should expect you to be the sole person responsible for maintain every holiday tradition. Have other family members contribute to the meal or even hosting an event at their home.
  • Set limits. Break large gatherings up into smaller visits. Set time limits for visitors to help the person with dementia and yourself from getting overtired.
  • Make some variations. Sometimes evening is a time of agitation for people with dementia. Move the celebrations to mid-day and have a holiday brunch instead of dinner.
  • Mind Your Mindset. Negative thinking actually activates your body’s stress response, so steer your mind to the positives when you start down that slippery slope. Try to stay mindful, concentrating on the present moment. Think about what you can accomplish instead of what isn’t getting done; revel in the holiday joys you experience instead of focusing on those you bypass; appreciate the help you are receiving rather than resenting those who aren’t supportive.
  • Avoid triggers. Be careful of blinking lights and noisy locations as this might exaggerate confusion and agitation.
  • Maintain a normal routine. Keep routines as normal as possible. This will help keep the holidays from being disruptive or confusing.
  • Plan time for a break or rest period. While your loved one may relish in the company and holiday celebrations, he may need a place to retreat. Arrange for a quiet place for your loved one to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday celebration if needed.

Remember that perfection is not the goal of the holidays. There are many factors we can’t control when it comes to our loved ones’ health and abilities, so adjust your view of a successful holiday. Focus on what feels necessary to produce a holiday feeling and create good memories.

For more ideas and support, join ALZConnected, an online support community where caregivers like you share tips on what has worked for them.

 

Writer: Kathy Goins, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, goins.115@osu.edu

 

Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

 

Sources:

Alzheimer’s Association, (2017). The Holidays and Alzheimers. Retrieved from: https://www.alz.org/help-support/resources/holidays

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2018). Helping Alzheimer’s Caregivers. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/features/alzheimers-caregivers/

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Two snowmen on a sunny day

What comes to mind with the mention of the holidays or holiday season? For me, warm and happy thoughts and feelings fill my mind and my heart as I remember past holidays.  Anticipation for the upcoming festivities and celebrations also prevail. While many of you share my thoughts and feelings, not everyone has the same view of the holidays. For millions of people struggling with loss or some type of mental health challenge, the holidays are anything but jolly.

Since one in four Americans has some type of mental health challenge in any given year, it is very likely that each us knows or will interact with someone who may be struggling. According to a survey from 2014, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that approximately 24% of people with a diagnosed mental illness found that the holidays made their condition “a lot” worse and 40% “somewhat” worse.” So, just because most people view the holiday season as merry and bright, does not mean everyone shares that sentiment.

The Mayo Clinic offers these suggestions to help reduce stress and depression that can occur with the holiday season:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Here are some ideas:Hands with blue mittens on holding a snow flake
    • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
    • Give homemade gifts.
    • Start a family gift exchange.
  6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. Don’t forget to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Try these suggestions:
    • Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Some options may include:
    • Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
    • Listening to soothing music.
    • Getting a massage.
    • Reading a book.
  10. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

The holiday season can be stressful, but with some thoughtful planning and by using some of these suggestions, it doesn’t have to be.

 

Writer: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension,  Ross County, barlage.7@osu.edu

Photo:

https://pixabay.com/en/snowman-winter-snowmen-holiday-640366/

https://pixabay.com/en/snow-winter-mittens-snowflake-cold-1918794/

Sources:

National Alliance on Mental Health, (2017). Managing Your Mental Health During the Holidays. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2017/Managing-Your-Mental-Health-During-the-Holidays

National Alliance on Mental Health, (2014). Mental Health and the Holiday Blues. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2014/Mental-health-and-the-holiday-blues

Mayo Clinic, (2017). Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544

National Alliance on Mental Health, (2015). Tips for Managing the Holiday Blues. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/November-2015/Tips-for-Managing-the-Holiday-Blues

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Feeling overwhelmed with the tasks you have to do for the holiday season?  Does your list include:  special foods to prepare, cookies to make, gifts to buy or make, gifts to wrap, cards or letters to write, friends and family to visit, and a house to clean – in addition to your regular job and responsibilities.  It is easy to see why many of us become stressed and overwhelmed over the holidays.  What can you do to deal with the pressure?

Try these few steps to help simplify your holiday season. 

  • Pick the traditions that mean the most to you or your family, and continue those traditions.  If it is something that “you’ve always done” but don’t really enjoy doing, maybe this is the year to skip it or try a simpler alternative.
  • Scale back this year.  If you always send a holiday letter, maybe this year you decide to wait until the New Year or Valentine’s Day to send your letter or card.  A card or letter in January or February might be a welcome addition to the holiday bills on a cold snowy day.
  • Simplify your decorating.  Decide what you really enjoy seeing in your home, decorate your house and store or give away the rest.  This year I’ve decided not to put out my collection of snowmen and women.  I’m passing some of my family decorations on to my daughters so they can enjoy them in their homes.  Wouldn’t it be nice to share your family favorites?
  • Simplify your holiday meals and parties.  Most of the time we have excess food at holiday gatherings.  Instead of fixing eight side dishes, decide that four are enough.  Add a fruit or veggie tray for a healthy snacking option. If someone offers to bring an appetizer or side dish, tell them yes and don’t feel guilty about it.
Cookie Exchange
  • Have a Cookie Exchange with friends.  If you usually make 10 kinds of cookies, have a gathering with friends and make one or two kinds of cookies and have a cookie exchange.  The bonus:  less work for everyone and you will receive a nice variety of cookies.
  • Make Lists and Get Organized.  If you are purchasing gifts, keep a list so you will have it on hand when you need it.  Stick to a budget so that you don’t add to your financial stress.
  • Be Realistic.  Know that your expectations for the perfect holiday may not happen.  Family issues will still be there and may even increase over the holiday season.  Understand that it is ok to limit the time you spend with family and friends.  If you need some “me” time, take a walk, relax and spend time alone.
  • Keep up those Healthy Habits.  Even though we are busy with the holiday season, remember to take time to exercise and to eat healthy meals.  Don’t skimp on meals or eliminate meals to save calories.  You will end up super hungry and may tend to over consume high calorie foods.
  • Regular Rest helps you reduce Your Stress Levels.  Try to continue your healthy habit of getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night.  Plan your activities so that you aren’t up late at night with last-minute chores.

Take a Walk to Relieve Stress

Try one or more of these tips to help make your holiday season healthy, happy and less stressful.

Writer:  Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Pickaway County, Heart of Ohio EERA, Ohio State University Extension, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewer:  Cheryl Barber Spires, R.D. L.D., SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, West Region, Ohio State University Extension, spires.53@osu.edu

Source:  WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/tc/quick-tips-reducing-holiday-stress-get-started

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