We know Christmas brings with it its own set of challenges for our carers community. While many of us will enjoy putting our feet up and relaxing, the challenge of caring for another person on top of the extra pressures of Christmas can mean many of you will not get a break during the festive season.
While caring for a loved one can be an incredibly positive and rewarding experience and something you wouldn’t give up for the world, it also brings with it a huge impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of carers and their families. Carers are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety or stress, with nearly two thirds of carers living with a long-standing health condition of their own.
We wanted to share with you ten things you could do to look after yourselves during the festive period, and some alternative means of seeking support should you need it.
Plan ahead. As much as possible, try to plan ahead for the days leading up to Christmas, the day itself, and the days following it.
Take the pressure off. Christmas is stressful, so accept things may be different this year and that’s okay.
Find time to relax. Remember to take time out for yourself during the next few weeks (and at all times!). Self care is so important in helping us to learn the resilience to adapt to situations, so make time for some ‘me time’. Settle down with your favourite festive film or TV episodes. Try some mindfulness, enjoy one of our guided relaxations or join in with our introduction to yoga.
Keep talking. Make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to your Christmas plans and what your expectations are in terms of your care responsibilities, to alleviate as much stress as possible. Talk about your worries or concerns, share different suggestions for what the best possible fit is for your family and try to be empathetic to how other people might respond to different circumstances.
Socialise with friends and family. Regardless of what your plans are for the day itself, make time to speak to your wider social networks during December. You could come up with a Christmas quiz or hold a best fancy dress competition, or if you prefer to get out and about, why not head to the Christmas markets or shops near you?
Be kind to yourself when it comes to gifts. The last thing you want on top of caring responsibilities at Christmas is to have last-minute stresses because you’re trying to do your gift shopping while avoiding over-crowded shops or online deliveries. So have a conversation about your approach to gifts, maybe set a budget or limit on number of gifts this year. Just be kind to yourself and remember, it’s the thought that counts.
Go online if you can’t see family. If you can’t spend the day together, why not set up a laptop or tablet at your table so you can virtually sit down together. If you don’t already have one, create a family or social WhatsApp group to share photos, videos and anecdotes through the day, and maybe plan to do things at the same time, like watch the Queen’s Speech. Set up a camera so you can watch each other open your presents.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Caring is stressful at the best of times, without worrying about getting your online shopping ordered. Ask if anyone could support you in placing an order or picking up some bits for you. Or if you want to get out and do it yourself, see if someone has a few hours to spare to support you with your caring responsibilities.
Enjoy the great outdoors. The days may be shorter and the temperatures are plummeting, but that doesn’t stop the fact that fresh air and spending time outdoors is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall wellbeing. Walking is so good for you, mentally and physically, so even if it’s just half an hour each day, try to find time to go for a stroll. And mix up who you go with, enjoy some time with your thoughts one day and then the next maybe you could arrange for some company with a friend.
Don’t neglect yourself. It’s so important to stay warm and well during the winter. If something is affecting your everyday wellbeing, whether that’s a physical condition or something that needs doing around your home, don’t neglect it. Our Welfare Caseworkers are available for support throughout December, so if you need to have a chat with them about ways they could support you, get in touch with us.
You can browse more resources we have created to support our carer network via our health and wellbeing library or you might like to join our Carers Group on My Fire Fighters Charity. Register here and join in the community!
First published: December 2021
Updated: December 2022