The Gift of Self-Care During the Holidays

Jennifer Arnold by Jennifer Arnold Additional Needs

Jennifer Arnold

Jennifer Arnold

I’m passionate about raising awareness about disability issues through education and outreach. When I’m not wearing my writer hat, I’m usually tryi...

The Holiday season can be “a lot.”

A lot of extra activities, a lot of extra lights and noise and crowds in public.

For those of us with kids who have special needs such as sensory issues and anxiety, it can be a stressful time of year.

I used to put a ton of pressure on myself to make the holidays magical for my kids.

One year I planned a day of cookie and gingerbread decorating activities only to have it go haywire.

One kid couldn’t stand the texture of the frosting; one couldn’t stand the taste.

One freaked out because her gingerbread house wouldn’t stay up.

Major whining and frustration tantrums ensued, and I was left in a mess of gingerbread ruins and tears (some of them mine).

I’m pretty sure I had frosting in my hair as well.

I also tried to do the cute holiday photo where all the kids have matching outfits (or at least coordinating colors).

This went over like a lead balloon as my youngest clawed the tag in the back of his cute Christmas sweater and screamed bloody murder every time the photographer came near him.

The closest I ever got was three years ago when I bought all four kids matching pajamas and had them sit on the couch.

All but one is looking everywhere but at the camera, but since no one was crying I called it a win.

We tend to keep close to home during the winter due to cold and flu season, but the rare times we have attempted to take all four kids somewhere, we usually ended up leaving early because one or more would become overwhelmed and meltdown.

A few years ago, I decided to forgo a lot of the extra holiday “stuff”.

Let me tell you; it was glorious.

We still have our moments , but these last few years have been more relaxing without the added pressures of obligations I had taken on when my plate was already full.

The kids are a lot less stressed and anxious with just a few special holiday events instead of a full calendar.

There is much talk of self-care when it comes to parents of kids with special needs.

It is a concept I am totally on board with, but the reality is that it is not always possible to slow down and take a break.

Sometimes I’m lucky if I get five uninterrupted minutes in the bathroom, and the holiday season is no different.

I’ve learned that during the holidays self-care could be just letting go of the Pinterest expectations that I had put on myself and enjoying my kids.

The holidays don’t have to be “magical” to be enjoyed.

Self-care can also be saying “no” to things during the holidays that you know will cause stress and anxiety, even though they may sound fun at first.

Self-care doesn’t necessarily mean getting pampered at the spa (although that is nice too!).

It can mean caring for your mental well-being by reducing stress and slowing down.

Sometimes the best gift we can give ourselves is the gift of grace. Letting go of some expectations and  being present in the moment.

Not feeling guilty for checking off every single thing on your to-do list.


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