Every parent feels extra stress during the holiday season. At this time of year, you have to find a way to add extra shopping and holiday events to your schedule. Parents who have children with neurobehavioral disorders like ADHD or Asperger Syndrome (ASD) often experience even more stress. Before you succumb to the negative effects of stress or choose unhealthy ways to cope, try these parent tips for managing stress during the holidays.
Don't Set Unreasonable Goals
You want your children to have a wonderful holiday. That's normal. However, if you have a child with special needs, you may need to curb your expectations. Unfortunately, a lot of parents feel they have let their kids down when they don't have a good time participating in holiday activities.
Setting unreasonable goals can lead to frustration and anxiety. Remember that you can only do so much. You already know what you and your family are capable of doing. Keep your goals and expectations within those limits so you don't experience unnecessary stress.
Some things will not go as planned. That's true for every family.
Get Enough Exercise
Some research shows that regular exercise can help people manage stress and anxiety at least as well as antidepressant medications. Federal guidelines suggest that adults get two-and-a-half hours of moderately intense exercise and 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.
If you really can't find enough time to meet these recommendations, do what you can. You can get several benefits from regular yoga classes, but even a 20-minute walk can help you de-stress for the holidays. Remember to set reasonable goals. Exercise shouldn't become another source of stress just because you don't have as much time as you'd like.
Learn That It's Okay to Say No
The holidays can bring a torrent of activities into your life. You don't have to do all of them. You don't have to accept every invitation or agree to bring food to every event. It's okay to say "no" as long as you do it the right way.
You're in charge of managing your own life. Don't let someone else create unrealistic expectations for you.
Get Help When You Need It
Holiday stress management for parents may not offer enough to keep you relaxed. Parents of kids with special needs already experience more stress than other parents, so it's not surprising that you may feel overextended during the holidays.
When you feel overwhelmed, reach out for help. That may mean telling your partner that you need some time to yourself or asking a grandparent to take the kids for a night. For some parents, it may mean finding a support group where they can share their feelings and get advice in a nonjudgmental environment.
Everyone needs a helping hand at one time or another. Take it when you need it.
Yes, the holidays are stressful. They're also a special opportunity to enjoy uninterrupted time with the family, regardless of the family dynamic. As long as you choose techniques that will help manage your stress, you can make the most of this special time of year with your family.