Preventing Holiday Stress
Are you, or a member of your family, highly susceptible to stress and feeling overwhelmed during the holiday season? As parents of children with disabilities, we are aware of the many challenges we may encounter during this time of the year. Are you or a loved one triggered by sensory stimulation, changes in routines, or financial or emotional demands? Learning to recognize specific triggers may be the best tool you have to navigate through the season with more peace.
Being aware of possible triggers will allow you to create a plan to prevent or de-escalate unwanted situations or behaviors. The following are sample questions to help you identify some of those triggers:
- Is there a chance of sensory overstimulation within the chosen setting? If yes, identify a quiet spot where you will be able to feel at ease.
- Do unexpected changes cause bouts of anxiety in your child? Create a plan to stay as close to existing routines as possible, or review the new schedule/activities/guests with your children in advance to reduce the likelihood of a meltdown. You may also want to encourage your children to communicate how they feel at any given moment and when they are ready to retreat.
- Could social anxiety be an issue? Make your guests aware of specific situations that may present at the gathering and how they can support you and your family if/when the issue arises.
- Are you feeling overwhelmed by holiday festivities? Be realistic in your expectations and avoid overcommitting.
- Are you experiencing the winter blues? This could also be known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is considered a subtype of depression, believed to be related to changes in seasons and more specifically to low levels of vitamin D. Symptoms may include losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, feeling sluggish, having difficulty concentrating, drastic changes in sleep patterns, anxiety, and changes in behavior.
Some ways to reduce stress are spending time outdoors to increase vitamin D levels, light therapy, embracing an attitude of gratitude, practicing mindfulness, and other relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques could include things such as abdominal breathing, active progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, stretching, and mindful movement.