| Thu, Dec 05, 2013 @ 09:00 AM

8 Holiday Tips for Caregivers

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

reduce stressBy Dr. Jamie Huysman, Vice President, UnitedHealthcare

Caregiving can be difficult and stressful at any time of year. It may be even more so when you add holiday stress to the mix. Caregivers need to stay awake to their personal needs and take steps to maintain balance during the holidays. Here are some self-care tips that may help.

1. Give yourself a wellness gift.

Taking care of your own personal health is the first step toward reducing any stress and strain of the season ahead. Get an overdue medical checkup or a massage. Join the yoga, stretching or craft class you’ve been “thinking about.” Set aside time for a nap. Go for a daily walk. If you may be struggling with anxiety or depression, find a therapist or join a support group.

2. Ask for help and be open to accepting it.

As a caregiver, you may unconsciously assume the role of hero, martyr or savior. Maybe you have a “go it alone policy.” You may believe that you have to do everything yourself. You don’t. Asking friends or family members for help is often the hardest thing to do. It’s also one of the healthiest things to do.

3. Make a new friend or enrich an existing friendship.

Sometimes a friend is all we need. A safe sounding board can help alleviate stress. Engaging a friend for conversation, support or assistance for holiday activities is a wonderful approach to self-care. A good friend might even offer some respite time (don’t be afraid to ask!) that can lift your spirits and make your holiday season more enjoyable.

4. Learn not to take things personally.

No one can push our buttons quite like family members! It’s important to realize that they have their own dramas and traumas. Their words, though hurtful, may have nothing to do with you. Sometimes stinging words come from someone struggling with stressful challenges of their own.

5. Identify a supportive community of friends, families or spiritual gatherings.

Caregivers may be reluctant to come out and be connected to the world around them. You may feel that no one cares. By finding additional support outside your immediate circle, you are reminded that there is a greater community of loving people who want to help because they care.

6. Plan your family’s activities with thought throughout the season.

Understanding roles and responsibilities is extremely important to maintain a healthy family dynamic. This is especially true during the holidays and even more so when you are caring for a loved one. Holding family conferences throughout the holidays may help set expectations and maintain boundaries so that no one feels out of control or inadequate. Holiday family conferences are like tune-ups for the family car, which needs to drive well, efficiently and for a long time. Schedule and commit to regular family conversations, before the wheels fall off!

7. Keep a gratitude journal filled with wonderful affirmations.

Make gratitude your personal goal throughout the season. Exercising gratefulness may lighten the load and help shift your focus away from darkness and worry. Gratitude is an empowering energy that may help you to see the great abundance in being alive. Your gratitude journal may inspire new avenues of thought throughout the holiday season and become a wonderful keepsake for you to treasure.

8. Find humor everywhere you go.

“Laughter is the best medicine” is an expression popularized by Norman Cousins’ book Anatomy of an Illness, in which he describes his battle with cancer and how he “laughed” his way to recovery. Laughter may help release tension, reduce pain, improve breathing, and elevate your mood. It is a great elixir that can help get us through difficult or stressful times. You may even find humor in being a caregiver at times. This is healthy and very human. Laugh and smile. It’s good for you and everyone around you.

Put some attention—and intention—toward energizing and empowering yourself during the holidays. It’s one of the best ways to ensure that you will have the energy you need for others, too.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.

Resources:

Medicare.gov: The official U.S. government website for Medicare.

Medicare & You: Learn about Original Medicare coverage and costs in this annual publication.

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