If you’ve never seen a toddler standing spellbound in front
of television commercials during the holiday season, you’ve missed a very
important life lesson.

When my child was three, she’d turn around to her sister after
each ad and shout, “I’m getting THAT for Christmas!” 

I quickly learned that it didn’t matter what was being advertised.
It could have been a commercial for nasal spray or root beer, but the sheer
delight portrayed by actors using “the thing” was enough to convince her that this thing was essential.

There was a temporary expectation that she could have anything
she wanted. Not only was it deserved, but it was necessary for her personal happiness.

Unlike my then three-year-old, caregivers preparing to
celebrate the holidays aren’t consumed with buying everything that dazzles. Even so, we sometimes build and maintain unrealistic expectations
of ourselves and others during this time of year–not necessarily about gifts
we’d like to receive, but about the holidays themselves. 

Are you attempting to meet your own and others’ expectations
for the holidays by doing more than what’s realistic? Aren’t you already
overwhelmed with daily caregiving tasks? 
Are you honestly the only one who can host the party and make the
family-secret recipes when you’re already sleep-deprived and exhausted? 

Experience has taught us that no matter what we do for holiday
gatherings, someone will be disappointed about something.

Since we know this is a likely scenario, why not lower our
own and everyone else’s expectations?  In
doing so, we’ll reduce unnecessary stress and fatigue by giving ourselves
permission to do only what’s realistic and most helpful.

Here are three recommendations for caregivers to ensure that
celebrations are enjoyable without becoming exhausting:

  • Write
    down every task you believe must be
    accomplished in order to have a great celebration. Take a hard look at this
    list and remember things are different this year. Time and mental/physical
    energy for caregivers are extremely scarce resources. Cross off the list
    anything that is not essential.

    • Begin
      to lower others’ expectations by sharing with key family members your intention
      of scaling back and determine:

      • How
        many remaining tasks on the list can be handed over to other family?  Don’t be afraid to ask!  Relocating the gathering elsewhere means you
        won’t need to clean and decorate.  Allowing
        others to do the cooking might add up to a whole night’s sleep for you!
      • How
        many things can be done online and delivered to your door? Ordering gifts and
        groceries online can save an immense amount of time and energy. Not to mention that
        it eliminates the need to navigate holiday traffic.
  • Remember to maintain your regular routine of
    self-care throughout the season.  At the
    very least, practice habits of good nutrition, hydration, and adequate
    sleep. There is never a good time of year to ignore your own health!

Focusing on the reason for celebrations will help us put
away unreasonable expectations that rob us of peace and joy.  So spread the love, keep it simple, and remain flexible!  Wishing you joyous and stress-free holidays!