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Dr. Kristin Betts offers Holiday Tips for Busy Caregivers

The holidays will soon be upon us. For caregivers, roles may quickly expand from a focus on caring for a loved one and regularly scheduled appointments to the thrust of the holiday hustle and bustle with shopping, cooking, and celebration events. As we look ahead and begin to plan, it is important to focus on the word “care” in caregivers. To enjoy the holiday season, caregivers must also focus on “self-care” which is so important.

Following are three tips for busy caregivers to prepare for the holidays and help make them more enjoyable. Remember, CAREgiving starts with care.

From Stress to Yes

Taking care of a loved one is a commitment. According to the Mayo Clinic, 1 in 3 adults provide care for other adults as informal caregivers. Caregivers typically juggle and try to balance many roles and responsibilities, including but not limited to, being a spouse/partner, being a parent, and working.

We typically hear about the importance of saying No and not taking on more with already filled schedules. However, we often do not hear about the importance of saying Yes. For example, a friend may ask if there is something they can pick up from the store. A neighbor may ask if they can drop off a meal.

Time is often a limited commodity for caregivers so saying Yes can help decrease stress. Saying Yes can also have a positive impact on those who are reaching out to you. According to Cedars-Sinai, acts of kindness increase serotonin, which regulates mood, and boosts oxytocin, which has a role in forming social bonds and lowering blood pressure. Furthermore, Cedar-Sinai shares that they have been linked to boosting dopamine which is associated with what is called “helper’s high.” Saying Yes, has many positive benefits for caregivers and those reaching out to provide support.

Sleep: Discover Your Superpower

Sleep has many benefits that support well-being. A full night’s sleep can improve cardiovascular health, metabolism, cognitive functioning, concentration, memory, mood, learning, and performance. However, Yale University’s School of Medicine reveals that 35% of adults in the U.S. do not get the recommended seven hours of sleep each night.

The Nature and Science of Sleep journal shares that sleep disruption can increase the risk of anxiety, depression, hypertension, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, and certain types of cancers. Sleep deprivation may also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as shared by the National Institute of Health. As caregivers prepare for the holidays, discover your superpower – sleep. Begin by setting a goal of seven hours of sleep a night. Use a journal or sleep monitor to track your sleep.

Learn more about sleep hygiene and tips on how to regularly get a good night’s sleep. Hone this incredible superpower by watching short educational videos by leading sleep researchers like Dr. Matthew Walker, professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. As a caregiver, self-care starts with a goodnight’s sleep.

KISS Principle: Keep It Super Simple

Caregivers are true givers. Despite the hours they spend with loved ones, caregivers often experience guilt for not being able to do more, have high levels of stress, and experience burnout as shared by AARP. Finding the perfect balance with so many different roles, responsibilities, and limited time is not only elusive but it may be unrealistic since even the best plans can change at a moment’s notice. With the holidays approaching, the most important tip to carry throughout the holiday season and into the new year is the KISS principle: Keep It Super Simple.

While it may seem counterintuitive, doing less may help you accomplish more. Caregivers can learn a lot from the corporate sector in terms of the KISS principle. According to Fast Company, the key to productivity and efficiency is to prioritize, work smarter, and practice self-care. Fast Company provides six strategies that can easily be used by caregivers:

  1. Ditch Unnecessary Meetings. Ensure meetings, like phone calls and appointments, have a stated purpose, outcome, and expectations
  2. Do One Thing at Time. Group like tasks in a process called “boxing” since time-boxing can increase focus and eliminate wasteful effort
  3. Shed Unnecessary Decisions. Have a steady routine and habits to decrease unnecessary decision-making
  4. Streamline TasksMap out the “who, what, and how” of tasks but consider the time spent to evaluate and identify more effective or efficient ways to accomplish the same result
  5. Automate Everything You Can. Reduce the number of tasks by using automation tools, apps, and subscriptions
  6. Stop Working All the Time. Take breaks since this can increase efficiency such as a short walk, going out to lunch, exercising, or carving out time to recharge (e.g., relaxation, mindfulness).

Lastly, caregivers can benefit from exploring the concept of moving from perfectionism to progress. Striving for perfection can result in struggles with self-doubt, disappointment, and a sense of failure. The Mayo Clinic shares that focusing on progress with realistic and achievable goals can increase motivation and confidence through accomplishments and celebrating milestones and successes.

Remember to keep the “care” in caregiving!

Our guest blogger, Dr. Kristen Betts, is a Clinical Professor at Drexel University’s School of Education in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on education, neuropedagogy, and lifelong learning in addition to Mind, Brain, and Education science.  Dr. Betts teaches multiple classes for Maplewood Senior Living. Throughout 2022 Dr. Betts offered several series for us including Mindfulness & The Arts, Sleep, and more. Be sure to check our EVENTS page to see what is coming up next.

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