Holiday Survival Guide for Shelter Workers

RAFT Team, November 11, 2019

As you head into November, you might feel the need to brace yourself against the urgency and busyness that comes with the holidays and closing out another year.

This can be especially if you’re a domestic violence advocate. The overwhelm and constant doing doesn’t allow much time for enjoying the holidays, nor taking care of yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in the fast-moving river of holiday doing. You get bounced around from task to task until you’re washed up on the shores of mid-January, exhausted and ready for a vacation.

During the holidays, many face additional financial stress, strong emotions, and the deep desire to avoid upsetting any family traditions. As a result, it’s common to cram your schedule too full. Burdens can feel heavier this time of year. You may find yourself carrying your family burdens to work and your work burdens home.

Shelters are often understaffed and financially under-served during this time as well.

Fortunately, there much we can do to bolster ourselves, our families, and the shelters in which we work.

Holiday Survival Tips for YOU

We’ve been running a “fill your cup first” campaign on RAFT social media. We know that when you take care of your needs first, you’re more capable of serving those around you — with joy! Consider the following tips to keep yourself balanced this holiday season:

  • Remove as much as possible from your schedule because multitasking is depleting. They don’t have to be big things, but anything you can take off your obligation list (or assign to someone else!) will help.
  • Practice being more present and focused. Here’s an example: Can you pick up something for the potluck instead of making it? Or can you make something for the potluck so you can slow down and be present and connected with a loved one?
  • Start a gratitude journal. Use it each night for the month of December to capture your delight and enjoyment of the holiday season.

Holiday Survival Tips for Your Family

Most women absorb to-dos because they don’t want to burden anyone else. And yes, we know everyone is busy this time of the year, but being busy together can be a simple way to share the responsibility and joy.

  • If you have children, let them help. Even young ones can do simple chores like sweeping, vacuuming, loading the dishwasher — even laundry!
  • Give Mom or Dad 10 minutes of alone time to recharge and refocus after work
  • Involve everyone in the holiday planning so all help decide family priorities. Once you decide, set firm boundaries so you can enjoy the holidays rather than running here and there to things no one really enjoys. Not everything always fits on the calendar.

Holiday Tips for Shelter Volunteers

The holiday season puts many people into the spirit of giving. Most shelters appreciate it when people ask for the best ways to assist. As a shelter worker, consider putting together a list of ideas for volunteers when they call. Leave it near the main phone so anyone who answers the phone can quickly and confidently provide a list of your particular needs.

Consider the following options:

  • Gift cards
  • Clothing (everyday, children’s, work attire, etc.)
  • Hygiene items (soap, shampoo, conditioner, razors, deodorant, toothbrushes / toothpaste, tampons, pads, wipes, etc.)
  • Host a fundraiser for collective giving
  • Bake holiday treats (Shelter employees appreciate this, too!)
  • Holiday gifts for survivors and children
  • Work a hotline (training is usually required)
  • Write emails or a newsletter for the shelter
  • Clean (facility, donated items, laundry, etc.)
  • Organize (facility, donated items, etc.)
  • Partner to decorate to make the shelter feel homey and safe
  • Cook meals
  • Donate food
  • Help with childcare

This time of year doesn't have to be difficult. Create your own holiday survival guide, practice gratitude, and enjoy the moments and memories you create.