Hey! It’s me, Myelo, the stress-busting seal. This can be a difficult time of the year, so my friends from SBA asked me to share some holiday stress-busting tips for adults with Spina Bifida and parents/caregivers of kids with Spina Bifida. I hope some of these tips will help you!
For adults with Spina Bifida:
- Set healthy boundaries: Especially during the holidays, we can feel like we are being pulled in a million different directions. There are tons of holiday gatherings, gift exchanges, baking, and much more. We often want to do it all, but can’t. This is why setting boundaries is essential. There might be times when you might not be well enough to participate in a particular activity or when financially, you cannot afford it. Do not be afraid to say no or ask for help when you need it. Your friends and loved ones will understand. Also, if you end up in a situation where something isn’t accessible, advocate for yourself so that it can be made right!
- Plan ahead: This is especially true when it comes to holiday travel. Airports, train, and bus stations are more crowded than usual. If you move slower, make sure to leave well in advance. If directions are an issue for you when driving, use an app such as Waze or Google maps. Also, if you need assistance, such as a wheelchair at the airport or help boarding a train, make these arrangements in advance and call before you leave to confirm that help will be ready and waiting for you once you arrive. Planning ahead is also important when it comes to attending holiday gatherings. For instance, before you leave, take any supplies you need, such as catheters or medication. Also, be sure that where you are going is accessible and, if not, make alternative arrangements.
- Take time for self-care and hobbies: The holidays are often a time when you have time away from your usual responsibilities at work or school. Take this time to focus on self-care and do things you enjoy. This is also a great time to discover new hobbies.
- Relax, breathe, and disconnect: The holidays are a great time to disconnect, breathe, and just relax. Disconnect from technology and focus on your breathing. This will help you to forget about all of the stressors that occur this time of year. Remember that stretching is another great way to relieve stress. Whether you’re in a chair or use crutches or any assistive device – we can all stretch! Stretching can help reduce muscle tension and increase blood circulation. Here’s a great adaptive stretching example for those with limited mobility.
- Lean on your friends and loved ones: Social isolation is a common stressor for adults with or without disabilities. During the holidays, ask your friends and family for support so you can experience the holiday season to the fullest. This could mean asking for a ride to an event or asking them to come to you if you cannot travel. The holidays are a great time to celebrate each other! And remember, we at SBA are here for you! We’re grateful for you!
For parents/caregivers of loved ones living with Spina Bifida:
- Set healthy boundaries (or learn to say no). The holidays tend to add extra pressure and stress. I’m talking to you over there — the one who keeps agreeing to help with the class party, make costumes for that holiday pageant, endless gift shopping, meal shopping — all this while coordinating family get-togethers and appointments. Take a breath! You already have the hard job of keeping little people healthy. But it’s important that you also take care of your own health and well-being! To help you prioritize your activities, make a list of EVERYTHING you’re feeling stress about and knock at least five things off that list that you don’t need to do. I know you want the holidays to be magical for your family, but you don’t need to bake 20 dozen cookies to make them magical. What your family will remember is a happy parent enjoying the season — these are the memories to make. Enjoy being with friends and family; they’ll love the store-bought cookies! Set boundaries, learn to say no, and cut back on excess tasks because if you’re in good health and spirits, your little ones will be too.
- Take time for self-care. I know I know, who has time for self-care during this busy season? But try to make an effort to take even five minutes every day just for yourself. That’s it, five minutes! In 2018, a psychologist found that when parents of children with Spina Bifida address and improve their personal and parental stress, it may improve their child’s health (Holmbeck, 2018). Think of it like being on an airplane that suddenly loses air pressure; you’ve got to put your oxygen mask on first. Don’t be afraid to do something for yourself. Maybe listen to some calming music, go on a walk or roll around the block, or lay on the floor and do some deep breathing. Taking care of yourself is just another way that you take care of your family.
- Lean on your friends and loved ones. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed and feeling like you can’t say “no” too much, the best thing you can do is ask for help. You could pick one thing each person in your family could help you out with; no task is too small to make a difference in your workload! Remember, helping is a gift people want to give.
- Do something that you want to do! As families grow and kids grow up, traditions and holiday plans can easily change. If something isn’t happening this year, add something that you want to do or don’t add anything! You already do so much for your kids and family! Make the holidays a special time for yourself as well.
- Give yourself a hug. It’s cheesy, but just do it! You deserve it. You work so hard all year round, and I know you’re pushing yourself even more over the holidays. Don’t forget how “sealously” awesome you are. I want you to know that we see how hard you’re working, we see all that you’re doing, and we appreciate you.