The holidays can often be a time filled with many emotions for military caregivers, ranging from thankfulness and joy, to stress and frustration. Overwhelmed with daily responsibilities of providing care to our service members, the holidays, as special as they may be to us, may leave us vulnerable to stress.
The following tips for military caregivers are suggestions for this holiday season as you spend time with your wounded service member and family and friends.
1. Share your wish list of caregiving duties. The gift of asking for help can be even better than material objects. Talk to family and friends and get them involved in some of your caregiving activities. Ask if they can provide respite care for a few hours, run errands, take your service member to the doctor, or help out around the house.
2. Recognize signs and symptoms of burnout. During the holidays your caregiving duties may become more heightened than ever. Your stress level can reach an all-time high as you try to juggle caring for your wounded warrior and getting ready for the holiday festivities. Before long you become burnout and robbed of your energy and experience a full blown emotional breakdown. Recognize these emotions or signs and symptoms of burnout and identify outlets when you begin to feel stressed.
3. Anticipate holiday triggers from your service member. The holidays may trigger stress or unhappy memories for some wounded service members. Be mindful and acknowledge their emotions as well as yours. Service members may feel anxious with large holiday crowds; they may even bring on negative emotions because they are no longer able to accomplish or participate in things they once were. Stay focused on the positive, and thankful they are with you this time of year.
4. Simplify holiday activities. We all imagine the holidays full of bright lights and food and drinks of every variety, but it may be less stressful if you scaled back a bit to simplify, while still enjoying the holiday festivities. Set limits. If you are baking for a feast, chose foods that are simpler to bake; eat out or order a prepared meal.
5. Start new holiday traditions. Depending on your service member’s injury, you and your family may not be able to participate in as many holiday activities as you once were. As a caregiver, you are learning to create a ‘new normal’ and change is inevitable. If you are unable to travel to see family and friends or attend holiday parties, try using technology and setup a video visit.
This post was published on the Military Families Learning Network blog on December 1, 2014.