Avoiding Holiday and Wintertime Stress for Caregivers

For a transplant caregiver, the winter months and holidays can feel like an additional burden to his or her already hectic life.

Howie’s House Social Worker Talia sits with transplant caregivers in the living room

By Talia Giordano, MSW, LSW
Gift of Life Howie’s House Social Worker

The winter months can be a stressful time. Many different holidays are celebrated which means an increase in family and social gatherings and spending more money. For a transplant caregiver, the winter months and holidays can feel like an additional burden to his or her already hectic life. The following are some ways to enjoy the winter and holiday months and avoid stress:

Continue to eat, drink and exercise as you normally would.

Good nutrition and exercise habits have an impact on how we feel about our self – physically and emotionally. For many though it can be difficult not to overeat when attending holiday parties and gatherings. Overeating can cause changes in energy level, weight gain, and self esteem. Colder weather may also make it more difficult to exercise. In addition to providing positive physical and emotional benefits, good nutrition and exercise can also help ward off the cold or flu which are common in winter months. When eating out at parties, try pacing your intake and enjoy, but don’t over indulge. Also, try doing exercises around the house, or purchase an exercise DVD or tape.* Good nutrition and exercise habits will help you feel good and, in turn, will help you provide efficient care to your loved one through the winter months.

*Consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

Spend less.

Financial issues related to taking time off work, discontinuing work and many other costs associated with patient care are not  uncommon for transplant caregivers. The holidays do not have to be about spending additional money on family and friends. There are other ways to show you care. Try spending more time doing fun things with your loved ones like playing games or doing arts and crafts. (Homemade gifts are cost-effective and thoughtful during the holiday season!) In addition to saving some money, you will also spend time with friends and family, which is a great way to improve your emotional well-being and reduce stress.

Relax and don’t forget about YOU.

You may question, “How can I relax when I need to exercise, go to parties, and spend more time with family?” It is not always easy finding time for yourself during the holidays. Make sure to schedule in “you time” among your other responsibilities to give your mind and body a rest from the hectic holiday season. Transplant caregivers can many times feel they are being pulled in many different directions with many different responsibilities. Don’t forget that if you don’t take that time to relax and care for yourself, you could become sick and unavailable to care for anyone. Do something fun for yourself. Go for a walk outside (but brace for the cold!), don’t isolate yourself in the house, and give yourself a pat on the back when you have done something recognizable. The holidays are about being with family and enjoying each other’s company. In order to do so, it is important to take care of yourself through healthy eating and exercise, spending quality time with special people, relaxing, and spending money reasonably.

Follow these steps to feel better emotionally and physically, allowing you to provide the best care possible to the transplant patient.

*Quick Tip: Just because you are invited to ten holiday parties does not mean you have to attend all of them. Practice saying “no” and be realistic about your schedule and time. Spreading yourself too thin could cause additional stress in your life which will make caregiving even more difficult.

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