HFA recently ran an article on a study stating that one third of all Americans are caregivers. During this holiday season we would like to say thank you and remind our members that many family caregivers experience holiday blues due to legitimate emotional and spiritual needs. If caregivers understand these needs, holiday blues can be managed.
Holiday blues are common in family caregivers. One way to minimize holiday blues is to limit the burden that Christmas may bring. Another way is to look at the spiritual and emotional implications of the Christmas holiday.
Maintaining Holiday Health is Job One for Caregivers
During the Christmas holidays, routines change and care recipients sometimes become more difficult to manage. Caregivers need to make preserving their strength and health – physical, emotional and spiritual – during the holidays their primary focus, so that they may be prepared for the unpredictable.
At Christmas, caregivers should commit to doing only 50% of the Christmas-related tasks they are willing to do or think they can handle.
Emotional Implications of Christmas Can Lead to Depression and Holiday Blues
For family caregivers, Christmas can be a painful marker. There may have been deterioration in the loved one's condition since last Christmas. Caregivers may wonder how many more Christmases will be left. It's alright to have these thoughts that may bring up legitimate feelings of sadness, grief and loss. This is the inescapable part of holiday blues.
All of the advertised joy of the holiday season can make people who have the holiday blues feel even worse off than they actually are, simply because of the contrast. If caregivers watch a lot of television, it may appear that the whole world is healthy, young and happy, and the caregiver may feel isolated and alone.
In addition, caregivers may try to suppress these feelings in order to “fit in” or not to put a damper on Christmas. This is not recommended, as it will most surely lead to Christmas depression.
Now is the time to turn off the TV and join a caregiver support group where these feelings can be aired freely. Suppressing these feelings will not make them go away.
The time leading up to Christmas is a perfectly legitimate time to face feelings like these, and to seek emotional and spiritual support in dealing with them. In fact, many people consider Advent, the time leading up to the birth of Christ, to be a time of solemnity.
How Spiritual Practices Can Help Caregivers Cope with Holiday Blues
Many people take the time leading up to Christmas to connect with God and seek spiritual sustenance by attending church more often, praying more, and engaging in spiritual disciplines like fasting and alms-giving. Spiritual nurturing is especially important for caregivers.
Taking time to feed the soul and reach out to others helps caregivers remember that they are not alone in their suffering, that many are worse off. It helps people connect with God and gain spiritual strength, which promotes holiday health.
It can help caregivers feel hope and joy over the birth of Christ when Christmas day arrives. Even though there is sadness around Christmas for caregivers, it can also simultaneously be a time of joy and hope. It doesn't have to be one or the other.
By tending to one's own emotional and spiritual needs, caregivers can prevent Christmas depression and cope with holiday blues in a productive way that promotes holiday health.