Tips for Stress Free Gatherings and Celebrations Health

The recent turmoil of the holiday season has probably reminded many that “the most wonderful time of year” can be the most stressful too. Planning, shopping, and accommodation can be overwhelming, even before there are pandemic precautions to consider.

Whether you are an aging senior still managing your own affairs or a spouse or child caring for a loved one who can no longer be independent, vacations and other celebrations like birthdays, anniversaries and weddings can bring additional stress in your life.

Here are some suggestions to help you navigate those times when they will arise again.

REFRIGERATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS

Strive to make it the best situation or the best possible day. Not the best ever, but the best possible this year under these circumstances. It doesn’t have to be like it always has been. You can change your plans and traditions to reflect changes in your health or that of those around you.

If your spouse or parent suffers from dementia and the effects of the sunset, just don’t plan any evening events. Skip the traditional dinner and cook or attend a special breakfast or midday meal instead. If a large gathering were to be overwhelming, skip it and do something small instead.

Speak up when the family plans and make sure the plans will work for you.

PLANNING AHEAD

Prepare to face what you think will be difficult during the occasion. Do loved ones come to town who do not understand your limitations or the physical or mental changes in your loved ones? Did Mom always take care of organizing the big event and now she can’t do it anymore, and you take on a new role?

Think about your obstacles and plan strategies to overcome them. It is much better to think about it calmly and quietly than in the middle of the melee.

EXPRESS YOURSELF

Talk to a friend, family member, or professional about your worries and concerns. Journal, pray, or find another outlet for your feelings. Consider participating in a caregiver support group, which is a great opportunity to speak with other people who may be in a situation like yours. A number of helplines also offer a listening ear, including the Association for Mental Health (211), the Alzheimer’s Association (800-272-3900) or the Alzheimer Foundation (866-232-8484).

FIND TIME TO REST

Take time for yourself. Breathe, take a walk, exercise, take a nap.

For those of you who are caring for someone, it can be difficult, but it is so necessary. You need to take the time to rest and recharge your batteries.

If your neighbor has been offering to help you out for months if you ever need it, say yes now. Let them sit with your loved one while you take a break.

BE CLEAR WITH FAMILIES AND FRIENDS

Relatives and friends may not understand the nuances of your loved one’s illness or yours. For example, if you take medicine at noon that makes you drowsy, don’t let anyone schedule a 1 p.m. visit. Then ask to come at 10 a.m.

If out-of-town siblings don’t understand Dad’s cognitive limitations, don’t make the time to discuss it.

Provide a goal to make the time enjoyable and non-stressful, such as an old photo album you can browse and remember, a jigsaw puzzle you can all do together, or a simple craft. Remember, it’s the process, not the product, that matters.

FIND THE JOY

Appreciate the little things and savor them. Stay in the present and don’t continually compare now to then. Things have changed. They are different. They are not all bad, however. Find the positives, no matter how small, and savor them. Smile and laugh when you can… someone might just smile back!


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Sara H. Byrd