A guest post written by Elizabeth Miller of HappyHealthyCaregiver.com
As family caregivers, we are already overwhelmed by all we have to do. Time and energy is something we would all probably put on our holiday wish lists (along with a personal chef!). We definitely WANT to enjoy the upcoming holidays but it can often feel like the holidays just bring even more for us to do.
We want the holidays to be for our families the way it was for us growing up. I have fond family memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. I want to pass on these traditions and create happy memories for my family. That creates a lot of added pressure!
An Alternative to Shop to You Drop
One of the first activities most of us start to do around now is to start shopping for those we love. Holiday shopping can be super stressful, if we allow for it to be that way. But, holiday shopping can be made simpler and it can even be fun!
Over the years, I’ve tried to simplify the hustle and bustle of the holidays and get back to what is meaningful and memorable. Below are ten suggestions for how you can minimize the stress of holiday shopping:
- When my children were young, I’d ask them to write their letters to Santa around Thanksgiving. I let them know they could ask for three things in their letters (and live animals weren’t allowed because Santa couldn’t travel with them!). I equated the ‘3 things’ with the fact that Jesus received three gifts from each of the wise man. We put the letter in the mail and once it was in route to Santa, it couldn’t be changed. One year Jacob wrote the letter and sealed it so I couldn’t see it, he said it was a test to ensure ‘we’ weren’t Santa. Luckily he has an older sister who was my sweet elf with the big ears that year.
- Once you know what ‘THE’ gifts are – buy them ASAP! As a family caregiver, I think we are all required to have an Amazon Prime account. Order the must haves and have them shipped to your door. Consider paying the few extra dollars to have these items gift-wrapped.
- Talk with your siblings about how you want to handle gifts for each other’s family. I have siblings with kids and without kids. We all want to minimize stress over the holidays and keep more money in our wallets so…we just talked openly about it several years back. We agreed that unless you are physically with a family member, you don’t need to buy a gift. We honor this for birthdays as well. For my husband’s family, we usually buy one family gift like a cookie tower, popcorn tin, family game, or DVD. These group gifts go right from the online store to the recipient wrapped and ready to be received.
- Exchange names! When my entire family lived in Atlanta and we all weren’t children anymore, we opted to exchange names to help minimize the work for mom. Some of the most fun years are when we exchanged names and stuffed a stocking for that person with a $100 budget. This made Christmas morning more fun for my mom too since she didn’t know what everything was that was being unwrapped. Now that my kids are teenagers, we exchange names among ourselves. My kids really enjoy being a part of the process (with our cash in their pockets to purchase of course).
- Start shopping now and designate a gift wrapping station in your home so you can wrap as you shop.
- Have a white elephant gift exchange with your friends, co-workers, or family. You can either wrap up something ‘gently used’ or set a budget for a new gift. We’ve had white elephant parties with my family (especially when there are lots of people traveling in town) where we all bought one $50 – $100 unisex gift. I’ve done low budget exchanges at work where you wrap up something you already own. You can do this type of swap with your book club and exchange books. We even had a pre-teen holiday party one year where the kids exchanged DVDs. At the party, count the total gifts, number the slips of paper (i.e. so you have one for each gift), and ask everyone who brought a gift to draw a number. Whoever drew #1 goes first and picks a present to unwrap. Then, #2 goes and can either steal #1’s unwrapped gift or pick a new one to unwrap. Usually a gift can only be stolen 3 times and can’t be stolen back by the person who just lost it. Some white elephant exchanges play that #1 gets to go again at the very end. Just decide the rules up front before you play.
- Maybe this year you do a local family activity or take a trip instead of using the holiday budget on traditional holiday gifts. I’ve written a few previous posts about this hereand here.
- Minimize and simplify the circle of people for whom you buy gifts. Teacher gifts can be gift cards. Neighbor and work gifts are optional. Remember, you are in a season of your life where you probably have more responsibilities than any one person should have – something has to give.
- If someone asks you to participate in a group gift, the answer is always ‘Yes, that would be great!’
- Give back to your community in place of gift buying. Volunteer as a family or group at a soup kitchen, adopt a family, collect items for a local shelter or visit those who may be alone at an assisted living community. Doing something for others will make you feel less stressed and more thankful for everything you have.
Which suggestions are you going to try this year? If you have a holiday shopping tip that is missing, please add it to the comments below. I hope that your holiday season is filled with special moments for you and your family, that you find your inner voice allowing you to ask for help from those around you, and that you take just a few minutes in each of the busy days ahead to take care of your own mental and physical health because you are certainly worth it.