Holiday Stress: 5 Ways to Reduce It
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.
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 email@example.com.