A guest post written by Lorna Scott, The Caregiver’s Lighthouse
It is a pleasure to be here today and a huge bundle of thanks to Elizabeth for inviting me to share with you some ideas and strategies to help you get through the holiday season without having to dig deep for willpower to say no to every yummy looking holiday treat.
Beware of the Holiday Sugar Monster
I’m not sure how the last two months of the year became most famous for all the sugar filled food that you find on every corner in every store. In Canada, it starts even earlier with Thanksgiving in October. Soon it’s Halloween, American Thanksgiving and before you blink an eye you are rolling into the rush of Christmas. There’s no time to catch your breath in between pumpkin pie, Halloween kisses and candy canes. How can anyone expect to get through the relentless bombardment of “eat this treat and be happy” messages?
This can be especially true for family caregivers. Really, what is easier than grabbing a leftover Halloween goodie or candy cane to give you a boost of energy? Sounds good and you might even feel great for a few minutes. And then the fatigue and fogginess returns quickly, and often is worse than before. So you grab another treat, the same thing happens, and you grab more, and soon, you have been sucked into the grasp of the sugar monster.
I know how easy this is to do because I just lived through it. For some reason I caved into that cycle this week. I have a sweet tooth and while I’ve never sworn off all sweets forever, I am usually very careful about giving in to the sugar cycle. I know it takes me off course in every aspect of my life, hurts my body and adds weight I’ve just worked hard to release. It’s insidious, and I gave in to it.
You will be surrounded by these sugar temptations whether you celebrate Christmas, another religious holiday at this time of year, or you have no celebration whatsoever. They will be brought to your home by people who love you and want to nurture you with their special treats; they will be at your workplace; every social invitation; at your parent’s home; every medical facility; and waiting for you at the end of every grocery aisle. Put on you imaginary blinders and look past them. You can do it!
Consider these Sweeter Holiday Gifts
There are some things you can do to get that “sugar high” without the damage – and calories. These are great ideas for you to ask for in lieu of baked treats, or to give as gifts, instead of baking, and increasing your temptation to appease the sugar monster. There is a cost involved in many of these. Most of these take far less out of your pocket than buying baking ingredients.
Poinsettias are a symbol of Christmas and brighten up any room. They come in various sizes, real ones and nice artificial ones that can fit into almost any budget. The last couple of years I’ve sent a holiday centerpiece to my in-laws for their Christmas present. They don’t need any more gadgets and they buy whatever they really want. You can do the same for yourself, or make the suggestion to family and friends if they want to do something for you.
Concentration and focus can seem difficult, if you ever get the time to sit and read a book. I get it. Here’s the thing. You must keep your brain working and give it something more than being on auto-pilot 24/7. Read a book of short stories. I highly recommend Chicken Soup for the Soul, the 1st and 2nd Helping editions. You need only a few minutes for each story and they are inspirational, warm and fuzzy stories. It’s like a mini-vacation for your brain. Books make good gifts to ask for and to give. Giving the latest edition of Guinness Book of World Records, or the timeless Bathroom Readers are great family gifts.
There is an enormous amount of research done on how doing puzzles like crosswords and Sudoku can benefit your brain. These are a great budget ideas – you can pick up puzzle books at any dollar store for just a few dollars. If you are worried about whether or not you have time, set your timer for 3 – 5 minutes and do what you can in that length of time. The world isn’t going to end in 3 – 5 minutes, and if it is a time where you really think it might, then put down the puzzle book. Build up your “puzzle time” as you get into the habit of taking these few moments for yourself.
4. Herbal and Flavored Teas
A nice hot cup of specialty-flavored non-caffeinated tea can help reduce your heart rate in seconds. There’s something comforting about warm liquids, and when it’s your favorite flavor it’s even better. Tea is a great gift in lieu of baking, whether you are giving or receiving. It’s a time of year where you might spend a few extra pennies to get the kind you don’t treat yourself with throughout the year. The caution here is to do your best to avoid unnecessary calories. Do your best to not add cream, sugar or sweetener (I guess some honey would be OK if you absolutely believe you need it and you feel a lot better having it). I encourage you to try tea without extras in it. The flavored non-caffeinated teas provide a ton of flavor you will enjoy.
This might seem counter-intuitive or counter-productive, but hear me out. One thing many family caregivers miss out on is having an uninterrupted conversation with someone special in their life. If you were going to do some baking, you would be cramming in the time to get it done. Use that time to spend with family, call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a long time, or invite someone to visit your loved one so you can get time for yourself. Of all the things we can gain, lose and get back, time is not one of them. It is a most precious gift that creates life long memories.
Choose Joy this Holiday Season
Some of you may be saying “But I love baking and making things for people. It’s a great diversion and it brings me a sense of “normal.”
Fair enough. If it brings you joy, then do it. If this is you, then I invite you to consider the possibility of doing less baking, and trying at least one of the five suggestions I shared.
You already know there are more important things in life than candy canes and butter tarts. Choose what brings you joy. Joy is the key, and the reason for the season.
I share more tips on reducing stress in the holidays on the upcoming free Today’s Caregiver Virtual Summit, where I am a featured speaker, along with Elizabeth. Join us for this no cost event you can watch in your pajamas, click here to register.
Please leave a comment below on what you think of these ideas, whether you like them or not. Let me know which of the 5 suggestions you will try this year.
May you find peace, hope, and joy in every day.0
The Caregiver’s Lighthouse