Holidays are stressful enough. When a loved one suffers with a mental illness, it can be overwhelming for both of you. We all have visions of perfect meals with the smiling family all around. We also try to hard to make it easy for our loved one, who may only want everything to follow the normal, everyday routine.
We can’t make perfect holiday meals or the perfect Christmas tree. But we can do a few things that will help us navigate the stormy waters when mental illness is in the mix.
Take care of yourself.
With so much to do and so much on our minds, we can forget about ourselves. After all, self-care isn’t on the holiday to-do list. And for too many of us – especially moms – self-care seems, well, selfish.
Even if the gang isn’t coming to our house, we are making plans just the same. Part of those plans may be helping our ill loved one, navigate the stress of holidays with no relapse. But if we are walking a tightrope with our own physical and emotional needs, we can’t reach out and help someone else without risking both of us falling.
Here are some ideas for self-care, so we can care for your loved one. And, both of us can enjoy friends and family during the holiday season.
1. Get plenty of rest.
- Even with overnight guests, we shouldn’t feel we have to stay up all night. Having guests is hard work. Get some rest to be able to enjoy the visit; rather than looking forward to the day they leave.
- We can’t make it through that to-do list if we don’t have the energy to do so.
- No one appreciates a tired, crabby host.
2. Cut down that to-do list
- Determine what is essential and important. Everything else goes to the hope list. (I hope we have time for this, but if not we’ll enjoy Christmas anyway.)
- To cut down the list: 1) Put it in order of priority. What is important to us and our family? 2) Draw a line in the middle of the list. 3) Cross off everything in the bottom half of the list. Transfer those items to the hope list.
- Look at what’s left. Decide what we must do, and what others can do. Our ill family member may want to be involved with some of the holiday task and traditions. This is one way to be involved without having to meet other’s expectations.
3. Watch your diet.
- Be careful with all the holiday treats – candy, pies, cookies. Just the over indulgence in this area can make you physically tired and have less energy to cope.
- Don’t over eat at the wonderful holiday dinner. Limit portions and slowly enjoy what’s on the plate.
- Limit alcohol intake. Go ahead; toast the New Year with a glass of wine. After that drink non-alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can dehydrate our system, deplete other nutrients, and we’ll feel worse and have less energy.
Just these three simple steps will give us the energy and emotional stamina to help our loved one navigate the holiday stress. These simple steps allow us enjoy the Holy Season as well.