|Hey look! Rudimentary photoshop skills!|
The holidays are in full swing, and although they should be full of fun and frivolity, they can also be a time of extreme frustration and discomfort, especially for people with SPD.
If you’ve dealt with SPD for a long period of time, these reminders might be helpful, and if you’re new to it, you might find something to add to your growing tool kit. I hope these ideas will be helpful for both people with SPD and parents of a child with processing problems.
If you’re attending a party or a larger than usual family gathering, do your best to talk to the host about the following:
- Establishing a quiet place in which to take a break if you start feeling overloaded
- If you can’t do the first thing, at least let the host know you may need to step away for a short time. This may avoid some awkward moments and potential hurt feelings.
- Any dietary requirements, if food will be served
- Coping mechanisms specific to your needs, if they may impact the host or requires them to do extra planning.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the host about these things, that’s alright. Work within your comfort zone, and see if you can find someone to help you out if necessary.
Bring An Ally
If possible, attend events with someone who understand your unique needs, or make sure someone will be there who does. This is helpful for parents, too, since your time may be occupied with helping your child through a rough time and a friend can help smooth ruffled social feathers while you care for the little one.
Although you may already be good at advocating for yourself, it’s always helpful to have someone there to back you up, or at least normalize the situation a bit more.
If you need something like silly putty, a worry ball or something else to give you necessary sensory input through your hands, keep it with you and use it when needed. This is a common enough coping mechanism for a broad range of problems that it may go unquestioned.
If questions are asked, there’s no harm in being honest about it. A lot of people carry things like worry stones around with them, and you may be surprised at how many people understand how calming doing something like squeezing a foam ball can be.
Take extra care when dressing before the gathering. There will be a lot of sensory input flying around, and wearing the wrong clothing might exacerbate the problems.
This may seem like a common sense thing, but it can be easily missed when you have other things in mind. Since pictures may be taken, it’s also tempting to dress for fashion instead of comfort, but finding a balance is ideal.
If possible, plan on wearing layers. If you find tight clothing soothing, there are things like leggings and tighter shirts that you can wear under a nice (or ugly) sweater, for example. If you happen to live in a colder climate, you may be doing this already.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Do whatever you need to do before the party to regulate your systems as best you can. Some folks with SPD find that working out earlier in the day will help them feel better able to handle parties and gatherings. If you don’t quite know what works best for you yet, try some experimentation.
If you’ve never been to the place the party’s being held at, see if you can arrange a trip there beforehand, so you can be familiar with the building’s layout and any procedures the company may have in place. Something as simple as knowing where the bathrooms are for a quick escape can go a long way to making a gathering a more pleasant experience.
At the very least, you’ll know how to get there, so you’ll be less likely to face the embarrassment of being late.
If possible, find out what sort of foods will be served and activities will take place, too, so you’ll know what to expect beforehand.
It may even be a good idea to plan out your outfit, how you’ll carry your fidgets and put together a schedule for pre-party activities the day before. That way, you’ll just be able to dress, grab your bag and go.
SPD can be very difficult to handle, especially if you don’t have coping mechanisms fully in place yet, but that extra preparation can take away some of the frustration the holiday season brings and replace it with fun.