It’s that time of year. I keep hearing complaints (and reading them on Facebook) that the retail market has turned October through December into one big “hallogivingmas” holiday. It’s exciting! Stimulating!

And too much.

As a live-in caregiver with a lot of experience caring for declining family members, my first reaction is to protect my charge. The elderly and infirm do not thrive with a lot of stimulation. Change is frightening and exhausting to them. Guess what? Overload is frightening and exhausting to me – and to you.

Women especially aspire to the perfect holiday: loving family gathered around a perfect meal; Better Homes and Gardens decorations; delighted gift recipients. We hope the alcoholic uncle won’t show up to spoil things again this year, or the aunts argue about grandma’s estate. We wish our limited cash would cover all the expenses of our dream holiday.

Let’s get real. You may have successfully presented one of those holiday gatherings. Or not. Your ideal may be rooted in memories or Christmas movie scenes. Your mind may have blocked out the disappointments you felt in holiday failures. Put all that aside. Just concentrate on this year.

Know Someone

Start with family traditions. How important are they? What can you change? What can you actually omit? Who can you enlist to help keep the essential traditions alive?

Start a new tradition: assigning the essential traditions to the younger generation. My grandchildren love to help me make the Christmas candies and cookies. My daughter wanted to know how to make Potitsa bread. One year I taught her and she makes it every year now. One of my grandsons wants to know how to make the saffron buns. I’m SO hoping he decides that will be his job from now on.

Do you do all the decorating? Grandchildren love to decorate, especially the Christmas tree. It won’t be as pretty as if you did it yourself? It will be beautiful to them. A decorating party is fun. Parents can supervise. You provide the hot chocolate and any ingredients they don’t bring with them, like the tree and some of the decorations. Too many people in the living room? Put some of them in the kitchen making cookies or other refreshments.

Gift giving is stressful – and expensive. Whether you draw names, buy just for the children or feel like you have to give to every family member (and friend), look into ways to cut down, not only on the cost but on your time. Be upfront with your family members. They’re probably struggling with the same costs and time crunches.

What about all the holiday parties? Decide which you really want to attend and send a pleasant “no thank you” to the rest.

This time of year brings many stresses. If this is your first year without a loved one, you may feel sadness instead of joy. These are only a few ideas for surviving the holidays.

Join the Conversation

What measures can you take to thrive this holiday season rather than survive?

What new traditions are you going to try?


Darlene Saunders:
Darlene SaundersDarlene Saunders has worked in many roles including school teacher, pastor's wife, caretaker and author. She is avid reader and writer and her books include Psalms for Caregivers, Life Lessons for Caregivers, and her most recent book, Women of the Bible, an interactive bible study. Darlene continues to teach bible study, counsel, write and work as a caregiver. She lives in the beautiful foothills of Northern California. To find out more about Darlene or read the blog, please visit
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