Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Shifting Your Holiday Expectations (as published in "The Caregiver's Reader")

Shift Your Expectations of The Holidays
The holidays when caregiving are different, yet we bend over backwards to make them the same as they always were. At no other time are we so dedicated to pretending that nothing has changed. Preserve the simpler family traditions, but consider tossing out your more extreme expectations of the holidays, family members, and yourself. Stay in the present moment. Generate new, creative, simpler family traditions. Focus on gratitude for what you now have.

Shift Your Expectations of Others 
People are different too. The demands of the holidays compound the regular stresses of caregiving to push family members to their emotional limit. If they need to act out, if possible, let them be. As hard as it may be to imagine, they may be doing the best that they can. Have compassion while asserting your own boundaries. You can’t make other people happy, or make them act the way you would want. You can only tend to your own state of mind and heart. Do what you can. Let that be enough.

Shift Your Expectations of Yourself
As your own stresses mount, lower the bar on your expectations of yourself. Make a little more time to decompress. Focus on your relationships more than the trappings of the holidays. Ask for a little more help from others. The happiness and holiday spirit of everyone else are not your sole responsibility. Balancing the holiday house of cards on your shoulders is a vulnerable position for everyone. Tell them that, and then ask for their partnership to help everyone get through the holidays a little happier, a little more peaceful, a little more grateful for all that you do have.
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