Caregivers, Take Good Care of Yourself During Holidays

(Mayo Clinic with Angela Lunde) With the holiday season well under way, you can find a great deal of information on the web about ways to manage the season when you have a loved one with dementia, including on this site.

The truth though is that many of us enter the holiday season with a mixed bag of memories and emotions. Rituals, familiar food and smells, songs and decorations all stimulate memories of people and holidays past. The season may loom particularly heavy for those who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

It’s common to experience feelings of loss for “the way things used to be,” or to have a sense of guilt about what we think we should do, or how we think we should feel. If you followed my blog last year at this time, you may recall the themes I advocate most during the holidays: First, adjust your expectations, and second keep it simple. I want to add one more this year — take good care of yourself.

From now until the end of the year, consider making a plan to take at least 15 minutes a day to turn your attention inward and focus your mind on the present moment — easier said than done I know. Yet, studies have shown that meditation or mindfulness can be helpful in stopping ruminations over things that cause stress (such as caregiving for someone with a dementing illness and/or the holidays). A meditation practice helps people keep from dwelling on negative thoughts, gives you a mental break and a way to gain perspective and a greater sense of contentment.

Set aside 15 minutes when you are least likely to be interrupted. You may simply sit on the floor or in a comfortable chair with your eyes closed and focus on your breath (noting the sounds, temperature and rhythm) or listen to calming music. You could take a bath in a candlelit room or take a walk outdoors — anything to settle the mind from thoughts of the past and future. I heard someone once refer to meditation for caregivers as “refueling your caring center.”

Please share your thoughts. Peaceful holidays to all.


Angela Lunde

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