Homeadults with learning disabilitiesHow to Survive the Holidays

Next week marks the beginning of the “official” holiday season in America. I put official in scare quotes,

Laser eye kitty loves our Yule tree.

because I’ve been seeing Christmas ads since October. Seriously. COME ON.

Anyway, with the season comes familial gatherings and expectations. For those of with LD, SPD and those on the autism spectrum, that means a ton of extra stress. Our nervous systems will be hyper stimulated, some of us will need to deal with ongoing issues with people we may not mesh with, but still love very much, and it could become an extremely hard time for all involved.

So, here are a few tips on how to maintain some semblance of peace while allowing yourself to enjoy some of the positive aspects of the season.

Sensory Diet
Parents of autistic kids probably already know this term, as may many autistic adults, but a sensory diet is a set of activities, tools and routines that maintain balance an over- or under-reactive nervous system. It can consist of certain exercises, appropriate things being readily available to chew on, safe/quiet rooms, weighted blankets and a whole bunch of other things.

If you’re already on a particular sensory diet, it’s imperative to keep it going through the holidays. If you’re not, now might be the time to find the right balance for you. Even if you don’t have SPD, this may be something to think about.

In my case, for example, I need at least two hours of quiet alone time every day. My primary area of over/under sensitivity is sound, but if I get overstimulated enough, that explodes into vision, smell and touch, as well, which can then head into migraine territory. That alone time will be especially important next week, because I’ll be hosting family in our relatively small home, and I’ll be with people every day from this coming Sunday to next Sunday. Said people are awesome, but my nervous system can only take so much.

After the past few writing intensive weeks, my brain will be thoroughly scrambled come December 1st.

Personal boundaries are also important. This can involve touching, personal space, and conversational topics. If you don’t want to hug people, you don’t need to hug people. Just let them know why, and that it’s nothing personal against them.

I’d also extend this into media consumption. There are extremely important things going on in the world, like the mess in Ferguson, the wars overseas and problems in individual towns. Those things all must be dealt with, but if it’s taking all of your energy just to stay afloat in your personal life, it may be a good idea to take a break from reading articles or watching the news for a while.

How can you help anyone else, if you’re breaking down?

Take Care of Your Body
There’s no denying the indulging that tends to happen around this time of year. There’s no reason why you can’t enjoy sweets, turkey and food in general, but be sure to take walks, play physical games, dance like no one’s watching (if they are, ask them to join you) and drink lots of water, especially if you’ll be indulging in holiday liquors.

Do your best to get your sleep, as well, and remember to wash your hands! It is cold and flu season, and close quarters makes for the ideal grounds for germ sharing. Even if you get the flu shot, there is still the risk of either catching a strain not included, or of it being ineffective. There’s no harm in taking common sense precautions.

I know, I sound like a mother nagging her kids to behave, but this is all stuff that will help minimize stress on your nervous and immune systems. That reduction of stress will go a long way to enjoying this season as much as possible.

These are all things I need to remember, too, so if I start getting touchy, give me a gentle nudge to hide in a corner for a while. Don’t worry. The only peoples’ demises I’ll be plotting will be purely fictional.

Hang in there, and here’s hoping the season goes off wonderfully.

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