Setting limits around the holidays is a way of making it through holiday stress.



Holidays stress NoSpending money is just one of the stresses we encounter around the holidays. Sure it should be a wonderful time of family, friends and good cheer but we all know that  “The Holiday” also pose some real challenges as routines are disrupted and expectations can get out of hand. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to start looking at your holiday plans in advance. Remember, even Norman Rockwell did not have a Norman Rockwell family.

Living in South Florida means your home may be a popular holiday/winter destination for family and friends. The weather, the beaches are all part of the vacation, but remember it isn’t your vacation, it is theirs. If you or your spouse are either ill or have some type of physical (COPD, MS, PD) or cognitive impairment (Alzheimer’s disease or other Dementia), hosting the kids and grandkids may not be a good idea. As the primary caregiver, your daily calendar is already likely overloaded.

Declining houseguests is perfectly acceptable.

Being overcommitted with your day to day obligations, whether around job, board membership, volunteer work or caregiving may be your usual routine. Adding hosting, driving, cooking, cleaning and other tasks can lead to a tipping point. Your house, your rules. An aunt of mine would never stay with family. She felt that her visit/vacation meant staying in hotel and not having to “pick up towels or make the bed”.  Find a direct way of declining guests. You can be subtle, humorous but get your point across. You’d love to host, but at this time it isn’t feasible, and then give out the names of hotels nearby.

Practice saying “No” if you need to. After all, for many folks who are genuinely giving and hospitable, declining houseguests can be difficult.  Give everyone enough lead time to make other arrangements.  Saying “No” can be the best present you give to yourself, your spouse and ultimately to everyone when it reduces the overload and guilt that forced or ill-advised togetherness produces. This year may be the year in which some traditions are transformed.  Baking cookies and cakes may have to stop and store bought pastries be good enough.  Most of us are watching our diet anyhow.  It is all right to play the “I’d love to, but just can’t do it anymore” card — especially if you are over 80 years old or recovering from illness or surgery.

Figure out your priorities.

It is easier to say “no” when you know what is more important and what is less. If you have money allocated for health or home, then spending on presents may not be possible. Perhaps have a family agreement on gift limits, or collectively give to a charity. Financial concerns are very real and to spend a few hundred dollars for the Holiday may cause hardship, which is no one’s intent. Besides the shopping it may be too physically taxing. Do the people in your holiday circle really need another “thing”?

Perhaps the big festive meal can be held at another family member’s home. Know when it is time to pass the torch to a son or daughter, or even adult grandkids. Start new traditions, which may mean going to a restaurant for the big meal. If you insist on hosting, perhaps you can give up some degree of control and assign dishes to different guest for them to bring – they can be store bought as not everyone cooks or bakes anymore, and others assigned clean up duties.

You don’t have to accept every invitation either. Express your thanks for the invitation and graciously decline by saying you already have prior plans. No need to elaborate. Remember, gift sanity and peacefulness to yourself first.

Older adults and aging relatives often have some special needs – wheelchair or walker, healthy diets, medication time schedules, fragility or need for more rest. Hopefully your loving and adoring family will take these needs into account when planning the holiday activates. If they don’t see the needs or are in denial, it is up to you to speak up for yourself.