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In many ways, the holiday season can be festive and joyful. All too often, though, along with the joy comes a lot of stress – usually a result of having too much to do in too little time. When added to the already significant demands of a caregiving role, holiday stress can quickly become overwhelming. In fact, studies show that caregiver burnout often peaks during the holidays.

If you’re a caregiver, your first step in managing your holiday-related stress is to learn to recognize and let go of your unrealistic expectations – as well as those of the people around you. To make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone, including you, Moffitt Cancer Center offers the following tips:

  1. For many people, the holiday season is steeped in tradition. For this reason, you might hesitate to make changes in order to avoid disappointing others. Keep in mind that a simple observance can be just as meaningful as an elaborate celebration.
  2. Stop reacting. Don’t allow yourself to be controlled by other people’s negativity. Let others know that you would like to please them, but be clear about what you can and cannot do. Explain that your time is limited, and that they can help you by being flexible. You’ll probably find that once you stop reacting, everyone else will follow suit and calm down.
  3. Ask for help. Remember, you don’t have to do everything yourself. If you don't ask for help, people may not realize that you need it, or they simply might not know what to do.
  4. Forget perfection. With the passage of time, your memories may have blurred, and some of the wonderful holidays you fondly remember probably weren’t so perfect. Stop holding yourself to an impossible standard, do your best with what you have now and let that be good enough.
  5. Find solace in music. Listening to music can be therapeutic. If you enjoy holiday tunes, play them at home to help everyone get in the spirit. But, if holiday music stresses you out because it reminds you of everything you have to do, turn it off and listen to something that you enjoy.
  6. Dim the lights. Indirect lighting can promote relaxation. Create a peaceful ambience with candles, softly lit holiday decorations or accent lamps. Try it while you bake, decorate, wrap gifts or perform other holiday-related tasks.
  7. Take care of yourself. Carve out some quiet time for yourself every day. Also, be sure to eat right and exercise. This is easier said than done during the holiday season, but you’ll feel better if you treat your body right.
  8. Acknowledge your frame of mind. If the holiday season stirs up painful memories, don’t bury or ignore your anguish, anger or bitterness. Get it out by talking with someone or writing in a journal. Remember, you have a right to your feelings.

Managing your stress during the holidays will help you avoid burnout, become a more effective caregiver and better enjoy the season. Moffitt offers many specialty services for those who are facing the challenges of caring for a loved one with cancer. If you’d like to learn more, contact us at 1-888-663-3488.