It may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it may also be the most stressful time of the year. There can be significant pressure to get a lot done – with gift buying, wrapping, traveling, cooking, and more. With short days, cold temperatures and inclement weather, it’s hard to imagine how you will get it all done. With your caregiving responsibilities on top of it, stress can be an unwelcome guest to your winter routine. Here are a few ways to relieve stress and bring more wonderful to this time of the year.
During these cold months, when cold and flu season settles in, it’s even more important to remind yourself to get moving. Unlike the warmer times of the year, daily exercise may not come easy. If you can’t get outside or are limited by earlier sunsets, you’ll have to modify your routine. But don’t abandon it. Moving daily will keep your lymph nodes healthy and support your immune system. It will also supply your body with those much-needed endorphins to relieve stress and bring a smile to your day.
AARP recommends Mini Workouts. Mini Workouts consist of five-minute, high intensity, interval exercises. Make a plan to work in three to five of these workouts per day to start and increase that number as you find the time and energy. Benefits include a decreased risk of heart disease, obesity, blood pressure, and diabetes.
If you have room to move, use it. Walk up and down hospital hallways or in between rooms. If not, walk or jog in place. Lift your knees and touch your toes. Push yourself just outside your comfort zone. Remember, it’s only for five minutes.
These power workouts are great to incorporate while you are waiting on something else – during doctor appointments or in-home nurse check-ups. Instead of sitting and waiting, get up and move. After a few days, it will feel natural to use those minutes to exercise. Get everyone involved and be light hearted about it. Even a bit of laughter over the silliness of leg lifts in the hospital room can be good for everyone.
It’s easier said than done, but when you’re busy is also when you need time for yourself all the more. Get organized to allow yourself some time to do something you enjoy. Make two dinners at once so you have the next evening free. When help is offered, take it and use that time for yourself. Allow others to take the carpool or run an errand or two. Even one or two breaks a week will give you much needed breathing room to return to a favorite hobby or take a nap. Having that time off scheduled will give you freedom to look forward to. Make sure the help offered is truly helpful by offering specific ideas for helping.
Tempting treats are plentiful during this sweet season. An important step in relieving stress is to enjoy treats in moderation and focus on balanced meals. A healthy diet supports your immune system, regulates your digestive system, and keeps your energy levels up. It also encourages your loved one who is ill and whose diet may be a bit more restrictive than yours.
The Alzheimer’s Association recommends a Mediterranean Diet of lean meats, lots of vegetables, healthy fats such as olive oil, and whole grains. Add fish into your diet as you can, depending on where you live. The frozen food section of your grocery store is a good place to start during the winter months.
To mitigate temptations, prepare some snacks ahead of time and have them ready in the refrigerator or pantry during busy days. Nuts are a good protein-based snack, but be sure to look for low-sodium options. Whole grains breads and crackers with nut-based butters make a quick snack. Fruits and vegetables will become more appetizing when they are already chopped up and ready for nibbling.
Caregiving can be a lonely job. If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, surround yourself with others who are walking the same path. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. More than 90 million caregivers are doing the same things you do every day. Read the stories of other caregivers who have faced various obstacles and have built a community around themselves to thrive. Learn how they surrounded themselves with meaningful help and found ways to relieve the stress of everyday caregiving.
Incorporate Shortcuts with Traditions
These winter months are full of holiday traditions, but if your living situation is different than normal it can be hard to incorporate them into your routine. Allow yourself shortcuts when and where you can to alleviate unnecessary stress. If you always eat a certain meal or treat, see if you can have it delivered or if you can find a pre-made version at a local restaurant. If homemade is the only way, choose one dish that you make and modify the others. If decorations are important, contact a local interior designer or even hire a teenager from the community to put up lights and the tree for you. Order gifts online and ask to have them gift wrapped and delivered. Opt for gift cards or charity donations. Don’t be “all or nothing” in your holiday traditions. Prioritize the most important ones, modify the others, and opt out of the ones that aren’t that important to you.
If you know how to relieve stress, before it even sets in, you can be ready for the busy months ahead. Whether you can incorporate all five or just one, even the smallest changes can make a difference in relieving holiday stress.