Please do not take this post as me being negative. Instead, please read it as me being honest. Holidays are challenging for everyone. I mean, everyone. Perhaps some don’t realize it, but we all seem to experience a wide range of emotions during this time of year.

We bury ourselves in expectations, demands and commitments, and attempt to incorporate all these things into our normal day-to-day routines of work, family, and responsibility. Throw in caregiving duties and travel plans and you’ve got an overwhelming couple of months.

There is also the intrinsic sadness that we often feel at holidays and important events. Maybe we are sad that some loved ones are no longer on this planet to celebrate with us. Perhaps it stems from anxiety over finances and having adequate work. There are infinite reasons for this tension.

So, how do we handle all of these responsibilities and expectations with grace? I have a few techniques that have helped me through the years.

Make a Master List

First and foremost, sit down and create a to-do list of everything that’s on your plate for the next few weeks. Then, go back and label each of those as “M” for must do and “W” for want to do. Vow to complete the M list first and add the W items as you can.

Prioritize Your Wellbeing

Ramp up your care and concern for yourself. That means eating well (not a typical behavior for this time of year), getting enough sleep, exercising, taking quiet time and/or meditating.

Ask for Help

Ask for help wherever you can. If you are a sandwich caregiver tasked with raising your children and caring for your parents simultaneously, realize that you can’t do it all. Ask for assistance! If your children are a little bit older, you’d be surprised by how much they can help out. Your spouse, friends and other relatives can pitch in as well. Will everything turn out perfectly, as if you had seen to every detail personally? Probably not. But it’ll still be a pleasant holiday season because you will be less stressed and able to enjoy celebrations that were made possible through a caring team effort.


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Give to Others

Do something for others that you might not usually do. Yes, I know. I said above to eliminate what you can, but this is a spirit-lifting exercise. When you do for others who do not have expectations, it just downright feels good. And that is what this time of year is all about! Volunteer at a soup kitchen, buy small items at a discount store to give to a local nursing home so seniors have gifts to open, donate old cold winter clothing to a charity, or invite someone you know will be alone for the holidays over for a family meal. It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture—just act on whatever cause is dear to your heart.

Give to Yourself

In the realm of gift-giving, include yourself. Make sure you give to yourself as well as everyone else, or at least tell your loved ones what you really want or could use. Caregivers, this is an excellent time to ask for respite! In lieu of traditional gifts, ask your family members to step in and provide care for a weekend or for funds to hire a professional caregiver so you can have some well-deserved time off.

Express Gratitude

Lastly—and I want this to stand out—be GRATEFUL in your life. Think of everything that you have created and achieved. This could include the home that you have made, the career you have built and the wonderful people you have in your life. Think of those “angels” who are always available to listen to and love you.

Life has its ups and downs, but your attitude can make a significant difference in how you navigate these experiences. I lost my dad when I was only 19 years old and my mom when I was 40. When I was 32, I lost two brothers, one to cancer and one to a car accident. I lost another brother to cancer when I was 63.

I’ve often felt like an orphan, but I am fortunate to have developed a community of friends and extended family over the years and around the country whom I can reach out to for support. My son and I have both fought our own battles with cancer as well. We are grateful to still be here on this planet, and we never end a conversation or a visit without saying, “I love you.”

Some of you will have less to be grateful for than others, and some of you might have to search around to find something to be appreciative of. But, there is always something to be thankful for. If you have a loved one whose health is declining, try not to focus on the negative. Be appreciative of all the time you have had with them. If you recently lost someone, be glad for the same.

I hope this helps you all through this hectic and emotional time of year. I wish you a wonderful and meaningful holiday season and a happy new year.