by Karin Pauly

More Joy and Less Stress

My wish for caregivers this holiday season is to be as stress free as possible, to enjoy time with loved ones, and to remember the reason for the season. I come from a Christian background, and so Christmas is important to me. For others it may be Hanukkah, or simply taking time away from work and school to spend time with loved ones. I have written this blog post from a perspective of Christmas celebration ~ if you celebrate in another way, I hope you find some useful tips for your holiday experience.

Decorations Overload

I have inherited a plethora of Christmas decorations from my parents, mostly from Nancy, who made Christmas magical. Nancy’s decorations include Snow Village pieces from Department 56, snow globes, sleigh bells (from an actual old sleigh), and glass figurines. These combined with my holiday dishes, outdated plastic garland, broken lights, and those pieces that I cherish – my children’s homemade ornaments, gifts from my husband and friends, musical stuffed animals, nativity scene, and more, have left me with an overload of Christmas decoration “stuff”. And quite frankly, it is more than I can handle. It adds stress to the season, as I have to unpack, decorate, sort what I don’t use, repack after the holidays, and “ugh”. I wish I had magical elves to just decorate with my favorites so it looks like a Hallmark movie, and I can spend my time stress-free in holiday bliss. I suspect this is something many of us wish. For those of you caregiving for a disabled or chronically-ill family member, the stress is even greater because you want to experience a special Christmas with the limited time you have together.

Recent Discovery Turned Keepsake

I recently discovered “Christmas Boxes”, available for sale at many retail outlets such as Hobby Lobby and TJ Maxx, made of cardboard, coated with beautifully decorated paper. Just looking at them, holding them, and packing them makes me happy. I recently began sorting and storing Christmas tree ornaments that I had received from my children and parents. I put them in the pretty Christmas boxes. These are the things I cherish and wish to keep, and pass down to my children, grandchildren, and others that I love. These have become my “Christmas Memory Boxes”. 

How-to Make Christmas Memory Boxes

A red Christmas box

Wherever you are in your journey of caregiving and celebrating with your loved ones, I encourage you to create memory boxes. These may include the decorated cardboard kind, or other cherished containers such as a wooden box, where you pack away, lovingly, your favorite pieces, those with memories attached.

Consider a memory box to be filled with written memories that you have captured from your loved ones; and if possible, be sure to ask your care receiver about their special Christmas memories. Write their answers on beautiful paper and maybe even record them via video at the same time. Place their written responses in a special memory box.

You might purchase your loved ones “The Christmas Memory Box” as their Christmas gift. Include a beautiful notebook and spend time talking with them, and then place their memories in the box, explaining how you will be capturing and sharing their stories to share with their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and beyond.

Some ideas to ask your loved one about their Christmas memories are:

  • What are your fondest memories of Christmas?
  • What are your earliest memories of Christmas and what was it like as a child?
  • What was Christmas like as you grew up with your own family?
  • What traditions did your family, friends, and community follow?
  • What foods did you prepare and eat?
  • Are there particular decorations that you loved?
  • How and where did you worship?
  • What is your favorite holiday music?
  • What does Christmas mean to you now and what is your Christmas wish?

This exercise will give you give you a sense of history, meaning, and hopefully peace this season. Throw out the junky plastic stuff you don’t care about and donate what you can. Keep the memories and the cherished pieces in a “Christmas Memory Box”. These may include the written memories, ornaments, decorations, memories, music, Christmas cards, and pictures.

Peace be with you and thank you for caring this holiday season!

– Karin