5 Ways to Prevent Holiday Stress for Families With Disabilities

The holidays are a time of love, laughter, and stress—especially for families who care for a loved one with disabilities. Unfamiliar smells, sounds, lights, and people can be disruptive and cause anxiety for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder. The result? Meltdowns.

Minimize holiday anxiety and maximize merriment this Christmas season when you follow these 5 tips to avoid holiday stress.

5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress

  1. Rock around the routine: As much as you might love rockin’ around a Christmas tree, try rockin’ around a good old fashioned routine. Organization is the spice of life. While the holiday season likes to bring good tidings as much as it likes to hurl a few snowballs into our schedules, do your best to establish a rhythm. Sticking to a routine helps individuals with disabilities stay on track and reassures them that all is well.
  2. Earbuds are your best buds: Jingle bells and Santa’s jolly “Ho! Ho! Ho!” are a recipe for a not so silent night. If your loved one has sensory processing disorder, they may perceive someone talking to them at a normal volume as yelling. Make sure you come prepared with earbuds or headphones to help them cope with the noise.
  3. Find your peace on earth: The holidays can be overwhelming for anyone. Specify a time and place for your loved one—and maybe other members of your family, including yourself—to enjoy some peace and quiet. Watching a little TV, reading a book, or simply taking a nap will do the trick. Then, you’ll be back in the mix socializing and ready for some White Elephant shenanigans!
  4. Inform your heavenly hosts: If you’re headed out to a friend or relative’s home for the holidays, be sure to communicate with them about your loved one’s needs and sensitivities. For instance, your mindful hosts may not want to decorate with flashing lights. These could trigger anxiety and sensory overload for individuals with a sensory processing disorder. To learn more about what lights you should decorate with instead, check out our blog on sensory lights.
  5. Have yourself a merry little Christmas: Christmas can feel as though it comes with a neverending to-do list. Be gentle. Don’t take on more than you can handle, and carve out some time for yourself to actually enjoy the most wonderful time of the year! Don’t stress if you don’t have time to bake cookies—that’s what bakeries are for. And if possible, take mental health holidays from work. An extra day or two off the clock can relieve some of that holiday anxiety. Finally, remember that there’s no shame in asking for help.

Respite Care to the Rescue

Located in Appleton and Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Covey is a non-profit organization that provides respite care services, community engagement opportunities, and skill-building programs for individuals with disabilities. If you live in the Fox Valley area, Covey is a great resource for families all year round and can provide that extra helping hand during the holidays. Our caregivers are knowledgeable, professional, and most importantly, committed to providing compassionate care.

Respite care is a service that gives family caregivers an opportunity to wrap presents, recharge, and knock out their holiday shopping. Once approved for respite care, you can bring your loved one by for as little as two hours or let them settle in for up to two weeks. Please note that while respite is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we are open News Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Contact us to learn more about our respite care services.

The end of the year is a stressful time for many people. But don’t lose sight of what’s important: celebrating with the ones we love. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be well on your way to a stress-free holiday season.