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Stress Management and Self-Care at Christmastime

One of the many benefits of The Harbor is the incredible counselors who are a resource to seriously ill children and their families throughout their medical journey. While medical complications always present a challenge, the holidays can bring about another layer of stress and anxiety with the busyness of the season. Multiple counselors shared their input on how to best manage stress and seek self-care throughout the Christmas season.

Counselor, Jenny Tudisco, shared tips to for the holidays, especially to those who are caregivers of children with special needs:

  • Simplify: Order presents online and skip the crowds. No pressure for excessive decorations.
  • Stick to Routines: Maintain family schedules for comfort and safety, helping kids know what to expect.
  • Prepare for Changes: Give early notice of schedule shifts, as transitions can be challenging.
  • Sensory Tools: Equip children with comforting items like blankets, electronics or chewable objects when venturing out.
  • Communication: Remind your child of upcoming schedule changes to ease transitions on them.
  • Family Relaxation: Set aside dedicated time for family relaxation, whether it’s watching movies or baking together.
  • Prioritize Traditions: Choose a few meaningful traditions over many. Less is more!
  • Individualize: Do what works for your family’s unique needs and dynamics.
  • Set Boundaries: It’s okay to say no to events. Communicate with extended family about your limitations.

Counselor, Leah Johnson, shared tips geared to kids of all ages:

  • Plan Your Day: Prioritize what matters most.
  • Perfection vs. Good Enough: Quality of life is the goal, not doing everything perfectly.
  • College Break: Don’t overbook your schedule and use that time to recharge.
  • Listen to Your Body: Stomachaches and headaches are stress signs. Communicate with parents for breaks.
  • Parents & Kids at Events: Create comfort, use noise-canceling headphones, or find quiet spots.

Leah also emphasized taking moments of rest during the holidays:

  • Quiet Time: Small kids and older ones – decompress midday with a book, coloring, or drawing.
  • Teach Deep Breaths: Model emotional regulation and encourage breaks.
  • Healthy Habits: Eat well, sleep, exercise, and try progressive muscle relaxation.

Leah’s main takeaways:

  • Your no is just as strong as your yes, as it is ok to say no to certain events.
  • Secondly, the quality of the events and activities you are attending is far more important than the quantity you participate in.
  • Thirdly, managing your expectations for the season is key.
  • Finally, utilize the free resources that are available to you such as planners and to-do list apps.

Counselor, Missy Beaird, gave great advice for parents in the midst of changing schedules and especially with an abundance of activities during the holidays:

  • Take an hour a day to go do something quiet, whether that be a walk, bath or something else you enjoy. Find that rest wherever you can.
  • Acknowledge your basic needs – implement a better diet, get plenty of sleep and exercise regularly.
  • If your child doesn’t do well with crowds, it is best not to take them.
  • Have healthy conversations with your spouse about splitting responsibilities.

For children and families served at Children’s of Alabama, please contact cristal.cummings@childrensal.org about the counseling services offered at The Harbor. We are here to serve you!