McLean’s Guide to Managing Mental Health Around the Holidays

McLean’s Guide to Managing Mental Health Around the Holidays

posted on McLean Hospital Website

Elvis once crooned about feeling blue at Christmas time—and we’re here to tell you: It’s perfectly normal to feel that way.

There are a variety of reasons why your days may not be merry and bright around the holiday season. It can be the jam-packed social calendar, deadlines at work, the loss of a loved one, sunless winter days, or all of the above.

According to the American Psychological Association, 38% of people surveyed said their stress increased during the holiday season, which can lead to physical illness, depression, anxiety, and substance misuse. The reasons given include lack of time, financial pressure, gift-giving, and family gatherings.

To make matters worse, the National Alliance on Mental Illness noted that 64% of individuals living with a mental illness felt that their conditions worsened around the holidays.

However, there are ways in which we can prepare ourselves and hopefully deflect some of the increased stress of the holidays. It’s important to realize that we do have more control than we think we do.

However, it’s equally important to realize that even if we put these ideas into practice and continue to feel overwhelmed or depressed, professional help is available.

6 Signs You May Be Struggling Around the Holidays

We’ve identified six common issues that come up this time of year, as well as suggestions from our mental health experts for ways to address them.

1. You’re Lacking the “Holiday Spirit”

Being surrounded by cheeriness can be stigmatizing when you don’t feel the same level of enthusiasm as others.

The pressure to be social, happy, and present can make it difficult to speak up if you feel otherwise. You may also feel left out if your spiritual traditions aren’t the dominant ones on display this time of year.

8 Winter Sensory Activities for Children with Autism

8 Winter Sensory Activities for Children with Autism

posted on Hopebridge

With the winter solstice around the corner, many people are already in holiday mode and preparing for a new year. Some children may not notice or understand the change of seasons, others may be overwhelmed by it, and others may embrace it completely. No matter which side your child falls on, it’s a good time of year to incorporate new activities and learning experiences into their everyday play.

Whether you need ideas for children who are home for winter break or you just want a few easy ways to spice up the season in your back pocket, our Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers came up with a list of BCBA-approved, autism-friendly sensory activities to introduce children to the sights, scents and sounds of the season.

At Hopebridge, we believe in the magic of learning through play. In addition to making it a key part of our ABA therapy programs, it’s important to bring play to life at home, too. These at-home projects are intended to provide entertainment, education and engagement all at the same time.

These activities are great for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and sensory processing disorder (SPD), but they can be exciting for neurotypical individuals, too! From toddlers to tweens, these experiments have the opportunity to strengthen self-regulation and help them cope with sensory intolerances.

Before you get started, remember that the best part of sensory activities is the engagement between you and your child. Play alongside them, talk about what each of you are doing and most importantly, have fun with it!

Grieving During the Holidays as a Special Needs Family

Grieving During the Holidays as a Special Needs Family

posted on Raising the Extraordinary

The holiday season is my favorite time of the year. I love Christmas. Celebrating the birth of Jesus, the decorated trees, nativity scenes, cookies, seeing family, ringing in the new year with anticipation of what’s to come. It’s a very exciting time of the year filled with love and joy.

Well, most of the time anyway. As a special needs family, the holiday season can also bring feelings of grief as we are bombarded once again with the realization of just how different our family is. Don’t get me wrong. I love our family and everything about them. But even though my love for our family runs deep, it doesn’t mean there are not those moments where I feel the sting of their diagnoses all over again.

The holiday season is a time of reflection. Often, we find ourselves reflecting back on our Christmas celebrations as a child. We want to experience some of those same traditions with our own children. As a special needs family, we may or may not be able to participate in these traditions with our children.

Our children with special needs may not be able to participate in Christmas pageants. They might have sensory sensitivities that prevent them from wearing the pretty Christmas dress. Maybe their diet restricts them from enjoying Christmas cookies. We may not be able to take them sledding or skating. Sometimes, it may even be as extreme as not being able to attend family gatherings because of the sensory overload it can bring.

Holidays with Special Needs Children

Holidays with Special Needs Children

posted on Lori Lite’s Stress Free Kids 

Tips to enjoy the Holidays With Special Needs Children

Set Up a Safe Brain Break Space

Your child can enjoy downtime when they feel over-stimulated at your house or your relatives. Set up a brain break space and be sure that the other children and guests know that this space is off-limits. Empower your special needs child to recognize when they need to go to their brain break space. Practice, practice, practice ahead of time to know when the mood is escalating. Did I say practice? Empower children by packing a relaxation bag they can go to if they are feeling anxious. Bring earphones and their special relaxation music or stories. Playdough, stress ball, music, video game, even a camera can help children relax and give them a focus if they have social anxiety.

The Indigo Dreams Series gives you stories that incorporate actual relaxation techniques. The other kids may be jealous give them their own space to de-stress. You may start a new trend!

Get Ready

Social stories, books, and movies can be a big help in preparing your child emotionally for holidays. Comfortable clothing and small dose exposures to holiday sounds can help physically. Think ahead with an eye for anxiety causing issues. If wrapping paper too loud? Use easy open bags or just decorate with a bow. Are the electronic bears with bells at Grandma’s house going to cause sensory overload? Ask her to unplug them before you get there. Let friends and family know about triggers ahead of time. If your child doesn’t like to be hugged suggest a handshake or just a wave. Your friends, family, and special needs children will be glad you did.

Prepare Your Children For Gatherings

Eliminate unnecessary anxiety associated with getting together with family members you rarely see by looking through photos of relatives prior to your event. Play memory games matching names to faces. This will help your children feel more comfortable with people they may not have seen in a while. Aunt Mary won’t seem quite so scary when she bends down to greet your child.

Use Relaxation Techniques

Incorporate deep breathing or other coping strategies into your day. Let your children see you use techniques when you are feeling stressed. Encourage them to use relaxation techniques on a daily basis. Breathing, visualizing,and positive thinking are powerful tools.

Incorporate Positive Statements Into Your Dinner

This is empowering and reflective. Each person at the table can state an attribute of their own that they are thankful for. For example, “I am thankful that I am creative.” Feeling stressed? Try, “I am thankful that I am calm.” Your special needs child can prepare ahead with a drawing or sign language if they want to participate without speaking.


25 Must-Do Christmas Events and Holiday Activities in New Jersey for Kids

25 Must-Do Christmas Events and Holiday Activities in New Jersey for Kids

written by Laurie Rein, posted from Mommy Poppins

Looking for the best holiday activities and Christmas events in New Jersey? Read on for our top picks in the Garden State in 2023. 

Make your list—and check it twice—because we’ve got all the details you need for annual must-do holiday experiences and top Christmas events in New Jersey. These Christmas events and holiday activities in New Jersey are sure to get everyone in the seasonal spirit over the next few weeks.

Bookmark this page—we’ll update it with fun new happenings as we learn about them. You can also stay up to date with all the family-friendly fun in our Family Activity Calendar and find more Christmas events and holiday hoopla in our seasonal Holiday Guide for New Jersey Families, which includes the best Christmas train and Polar Express rides in New Jersey.

As always, if an event piques your interest, click through to our listing for all the details, including addresses and times. And keep in mind: Cool things to do with kids often book up quickly, so register or buy your tickets ASAP.

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