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Providing self-care for the caregivers this holiday season

Written by:  Cathleen Lindgren, RN

Clinical Educator & Program Director at Empira

            As a nurse and mother to five, I know collapsing into bed after a long day of work is the only self-care I will have time for this month of December.  I also know there are literally over 1.5 million resources on the concept of self-care for healthcare providers and realize just how important it is.  Due to multiple factors, providing proper self-care in the coming days isn’t an option for many of us.  So this year, I decided to do what I (and likely you) do best:  administer care to others.  Only this time, it’s to other caregivers.

During the holiday season, the lack of time is more notable for all caregivers.  In addition to that 8, 12, or 16 hour shift, we return home where our giving spirits continue our work through shopping, gift wrapping, holiday baking, and decorating.  While these tasks are accomplished by many, the reality of this season is described well in the book “Nurse Burnout: Overcoming Stress in Nursing”: “To be a dedicated artist requires commitment, sacrifice, talent, and a desire to create something beautiful, often out of something that others will never see the beauty in. They make many sacrifices. Nurses work odd hours, off shifts, and holidays. They frequently miss family gatherings and milestones in their children’s lives. They sleep through a concert because they have been up for 36 hours. Christmas is often moved to another day on the calendar because it is their holiday to work. Nurses often leave their shift hungry, exhausted, and barely able to think about what has to be done at home or in other aspects of their lives.”  (Waddill-Goad & Sigma Theta Tau International, 2016, p. 56)

Inspired to make a huge difference with a small gesture, I put together a list of several ways any of us could literally make a caregivers day brighter throughout the 12 Days of Christmas (and beyond)!  I hope these ideas create a call-to-action for you and that you find joy in giving to others!

  1. Send an inspirational text message.
    1. Here are a number of inspirational meme’s you can share:
    2. Guided Imagery.   All these last between 5-10 minutes and would promote several minutes of de-stressing time!   They focus on restoring energy, stress relief, and rejuvination.  Just copy and send to a caregiver in need via text message.
      1.    5-10 min long:
  2. Provide for a serene break room this holiday season.
    1. Stagger breaks to offer a peaceful environment
    2. Aromatherapy
    3. Dim lighting or even consider a Happy Light for those in dreary/cold climates.
    4. Leave a devotional geared towards caregivers in the break room.
    5. Place a tupperware container of moistened rolled wash clothes in the break room refrigerator.  Instant bliss!  Add some cucumber slices and you’ve got a spa-like break!
  3. Food with a purpose!  Bring in enough for your care team as a holiday surprise or an energy pick-me-up.
    1. Chili with lentils –
    2. Whole wheat cereal + gallon of milk + disposable bowls = enough energy to get through a couple more hours of your shift.
    3. Green tea:  bring in a canister of tea bags to brew either hot or cold green tea.  This provides energy without the jitters.
    4. Greek yogurt + granola
    5. Trail mix
    6. Bag of oranges or apples
    7. Coffee + all the extras (creamers, whipped cream, sugar).  Who wouldn’t want this fun treat as part of their breaktime???
  4.   Give the gift of answering that call light.   If your sleigh isn’t overfilled already, and you find yourself with the time to help someone else, offer your assistance in an unexpected way.  I’ve been a recipient of this, and it truly makes my day each and every time!
  5. Play some music.  There are multiple studies showing how the simple act of listening to music can reduce stress, and this works incredibly well for caregivers too!  An article discussing the well-being of caregivers reported that “music can be a cost-effective resource in developing interventions to reduce stress and improve well-being” (Ploukou & Panagopoulou, 2018, p. 77). 

“For it is in giving that we receive” (Francis of Assissi) is one of my most favorite quotes simply because of the vast truth it holds.  This holiday season, one simple gesture can create a butterfly effect, causing a small gift to multiply in the blessings it brings.  I hope these words provide a foundation for all your creative minds to find a hundred other ways to share a little elf-care with those on your team.

May your holiday season be a little more stress-free, merry & filled with joy!




Eat This Not That. (2016, March 28). 23 Best Foods for Energy | Eat This Not That. Retrieved from

Ploukou, S., & Panagopoulou, E. (2018). Playing music improves well-being of oncology nurses. Applied Nursing Research, 39, 77-80. doi:10.1016/j.apnr.2017.11.007

Waddill-Goad, S., & Sigma Theta Tau International. (2016). Nursing: Art vs science. Nurse burnout: Combating stress in nursing (p. 56).



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