By Julia Stiffman, Gift of Life Howie’s House Social Work Intern
The holiday season and New Year can be a stressful time for anyone. As a caregiver, you may experience stress year round, but with the holiday season comes added worry. Additionally, caregivers often neglect to think about themselves because they are so focused on their loved one’s health. Between holiday traveling and visiting family, increased spending plus ongoing medical issues and expenses, it is easy to feel pretty helpless as your resources get spread thin. It is crucial for caregivers to prioritize self-care so they can stay as healthy as possible while caring for their loved one. New Year’s resolutions are a great way to start thinking about what’s missing from your life and what you can do to change that.
Listed here are 5 common resolutions that could be especially beneficial to someone in a caregiving position.
1. Learn to say “no”.
Especially during the holiday season when your capacity to handle many responsibilities may be stretched thin. You may be naturally prone to want to help others whenever possible, but everyone needs a break at some point. If you are asked to host a holiday party or to take on a big project, try not to feel guilty for saying no. This can be applied year round. Your friends and family will understand that you have a lot on your plate. With one less thing to stress about, you’ll have more to spend enjoying your holiday season and a great start to 2016.
2. Spend more quality time with your loved one.
As a caregiver, much of your time spent with the patient ends up being in medical settings and discussing their medical status. While it is great to show them your support through the transplant process, both of you need some sense of normalcy in your lives. Find an activity to do with your loved one that’s not medical. It can range from going on a walk to finding a new show to watch together on TV.
3. Consider joining a support group.
Whether your loved one is awaiting a transplant or recovering from a transplant, it is nice to know that you’re not alone in the caregiving process. Support groups are a great way of connecting with other caregivers and comparing notes about the transplant process and how to cope with stress. Your attendance at a support group could prove highly beneficial- both for yourself and for other attendees.
4. Try something new.
When was the last time you did something completely new? When you’ve been a caregiver for so long, your days can start feeling monotonous. Trying a new activity, no matter how little, can feel like a breath of fresh air and will help in breaking up your routine of doctor visits and medical tests.
5. Take some time off for yourself.
Many caregivers may experience burnout at some point. The holiday season can be especially grueling for caregivers as they try to navigate busy schedules filled with medical appointments plus the many holiday parties and family gatherings. Take some time dedicated solely to you. It can be something as simple as turning off your phone for an hour to read a book or watch TV. Whatever it is you choose, make sure the focus is all about you at that time.