Holiday Stress: 5 Ways to Reduce It
Holiday Stress: 5 Ways to Reduce It
The holidays are fast approaching. Many families look forward to this time of year as it provides an opportunity to spend time with family, take some time off from work, or take a vacation. While the holidays can be fun, they can also be stressful for parents, especially if they have a child with special needs. The combination of shopping, attending social events, entertaining, and anticipating the needs of your child can quickly become a great deal to handle. A poll by the American Psychological Association (December 2006) shows that 8 out of 10 people anticipate increased stress over the holidays.
Because the holiday season can be a difficult and stressful time, we offer five ways to minimize stress and anxiety so that you can thoroughly enjoy this festive time of year.
Traditions may need to be redefined
Growing up, your family may have had holiday traditions that you would like to pass on to your children; however times have changed and your child may want to stream holiday related songs online rather than singing Christmas carols. Perhaps you feel obligated to visit extended family because that is what you did with your family and you would like to maintain this tradition. The pull you feel between maintaining tradition and the anticipation of potential difficulties due to your child’s needs may cause more stress than you would like during this season. You can take care of yourself by redefining holiday traditions. Deciding what is best for you and your family goes a long way in taking some of the stress out of your hectic schedule. Your extended family may celebrate the holiday over multiple days, but it may be best if you limit your family’s involvement to just one of these events. You may also want to carve out some new traditions in your home that do not involve extended family. If you are not spending all (or part) of the holidays with your child (because, perhaps, she is spending the holiday with your ex-partner/spouse) you may feel melancholy. Now is the time to redefine the holidays for you. Maybe you can join your other friends who may be without family, volunteer at a homeless shelter, or decide this is the season to read a book or two on the best seller’s list. The important point is to not let the holiday define your mood; instead, take the opportunity to define the holiday in a new way for yourself.
You know how long your child can tolerate a gathering and what accommodations may need to be made for your child. Let everyone know, ahead of time, how long you and your family will be staying and leave when you said you would. When you are asked to “stay just a little bit longer”, suggest an after the holidays get together. If your child has dietary limitations due to sensory concerns, allergies or other issues, inform your host in advance that you will be bringing special food for your child. If other people encourage your child to eat something different, speak up on your child’s behalf.
No one says you have to do it all. Have a holiday decorating party, a cookie exchange, potluck dinner, or co-op babysitting so you can do things you would like to do. People like to help. Let them.
Don’t abandon healthy habits
Get enough exercise. While some research shows regular exercise lowers stress and anxiety, don’t feel you should need to have a daily hour-long workout. A 20 minute walk, taking a 30 minute yoga class given on YouTube, or stretching during a television program can do a lot to help you manage stress. Stress eating can not only put on the pounds, but can make you feel tired and irritable. Continue to have healthy snacks and always eat before going to a party so you won’t be too tempted to eat more than you want of foods you would not normally consume.
Take a breather
Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. This might include getting a massage, listening to soothing music, reading a book, meditating, or looking up at the stars!
Remember, you don’t have to do it all. Plan ahead, but if the plan doesn’t work out then be flexible and change it. Ask for help and don’t be afraid to say “no”. The holidays are meant to be fun for you and your family.
FREE DOWNLOAD: PSN Holiday Tip Guide
Jamie E. Carter, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist. Ahna I. O’Shaughnessy is a psychology associate. They are coauthors of PREP for Social Success: A Guide for Parents of Children with Autism which is a social skills manual available exclusively on Amazon Kindle at: amzn.com/B00WQANRI4. You can follow them on Facebook at www. Facebook.com/PREPFORSOCIALSUCCESS and on Twitter @PREP4SocSuccess. They can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This post originally appeared on our November/December 2016 Magazine