5 ways caregivers can ease their own holiday stress
Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's — the end of the year is hectic for families. But what about caregivers, who often have their own family plus their employer's family to care for? Double the holiday can mean double the stress!
Worried about how to handle the added pressure? Tara Lindsay, director of the Michigan Professional Nanny Association and former nanny Victoria Tyman, spoke with us about ways nannies, babysitters, senior caregivers, house cleaners and pet sitters can deal with stress during the holiday season.
1. Plan ahead
Lindsay says you should broach the subject of holidays before you agree to a job. For example, some employers may want you to travel with them on holiday trips. "Being able to participate in my religious practices on holidays is very important," says Lindsay, "so before agreeing to travel, I discuss with the family to make sure that I could have the time off to attend services."
And make sure these details appear in your contract — along with how many vacation days you receive and whether they are paid or unpaid.
Additionally, once the holidays are on the horizon, have a sit down with your employer to compare schedules before things get crazy. Having a plan for the season will lessen the likelihood of additional demands on your time springing up unexpectedly and give you time to plan for all that needs to be done with both of your families.
2. Know and communicate your priorities
If you aren't comfortable skipping church on Christmas or can't fathom giving up your annual New Year's Day all-day lounge session, don't work those times. Make sure your employer knows your limits and voice your opinion if a work request conflicts or is unreasonable. While it's great to help out, it's also important to be balanced and happy, or your Grinch mood will carry through to your job.
3. Be flexible
Having an open mind is one of the best things you can do for yourself and the family you care for. Enjoy the holidays and take the opportunity to learn something about holiday celebrations that differ from your own and about your family and their culture or unique traditions.
Lindsay suggests that you share traditions if everyone is open to it and feels comfortable doing so. "I've worked for families who have completely different religious and cultural traditions from mine," says Lindsay. "It's well worth taking advantage of the opportunity to expand your horizons and experiences. Approaching these differences as something exciting to learn about rather than as something uncomfortable or intimidating can add a lot of fun and joy to the holidays."
4. Schedule free time
How can you de-stress if you don't have any free time to do it? Well, many of us have to schedule time for ourselves, just like we do for our other work and life priorities.
"I schedule 20 minutes of every day," says Lindsay, "usually in the evening, to just be me, without fulfilling any responsibility and to do something that relaxes me. I might read a non-work related book, watch a little TV, take a bubble bath or call a friend just to chat."
"Nannies who take time to nourish themselves are far more likely to do their jobs well," adds Tyman. To build in more stress-reducing activities, she suggests designating a reading nook in your employer's house and encouraging 15 minutes of quiet reading. Nannies can set an excellent example for children by reading to them in the nook or by enjoying a book of their own. "If children already enjoy reading time, adding another relaxing activity to the weekly routine, such as beginner's yoga or sunny walks, will benefit both the nanny and the kids," says Tyman.
5. Get creative
Most importantly, have fun, plan activities and enjoy the season. Encourage kids to join in the celebrations. "Brainstorming and designing homemade gifts and decorations is another way to enjoy the extra demands of the holiday season, with children," Tyman says. "Kids love taking a trip to the local craft store, purchasing supplies and making gifts with their nanny."
The bottom line is, despite all the demands of the season, a little advance planning will help you enjoy this special time of year with the people — or pets — you care for, as well as with your own family and loved ones.