New ways to do old things for the Holidays
Many people today are having to adapt to new ways of celebrating old traditions due to Covid 19
restrictions. It might be a good time to think through establishing some new traditions of your own.
So many autistic people struggle with holiday gatherings and activities because of sensory overload. Many of us will try to cooperate with family agendas because of tradition, social pressure/guilt, or a thousand other reasons, even though such gatherings and activities are very hard on us. I am here to tell you that you can celebrate without all of the stressful bits by establishing new traditions of your own.
Sensory overload is especially tough in groups at parties and places like crowded malls or stores, noise levels reach preposterous heights, flashing lights and sparkly things are even more common than “ever day” experiences.
Due to Covid restrictions, these experiences may be less this year as crowd sizes and gatherings are limited, etc. Why not establish new ways while everything is changing anyways?
For me, family gatherings were always distressing and stressful. Noise and chaos of so many stimulated adults and children all in one home or at a restaurant/ etc was so overwhelming. I was anxious to the point of feeling ill and it took me years to connect the distress it caused with the physical illness I almost always had at these gatherings, even getting ill before hand.
Instead I taught myself to seek out smaller gatherings, one relative or friend at a time in my home or meeting in a quiet place for a quiet activity together. There never seems to be enough time to visit at the large gatherings anyways.
Why not send cards or make phone calls or emails/ messages to individuals who are dear to your heart and make plans to meet or interact with only a few at a time instead?
Or stay home and wish everybody the best from afar?
Its OK to put your health and sanity first, no excuses needed; say “I’m sorry I can’t make it this year” and wish them well.
I learned to tell them simply that I had other plans this year, no excuses about my sensory overload, my sense of upset and failure about it all, etc..
My life became more bearable when I learned this coping skill.
Its OK to say no. Its OK to visit with individuals or not to, its OK to change plans even if there are established “tradition”. It is OK to do what it takes to make your days Merry and Bright… instead nightmares of struggles using coping skills and failing.
I am here to give you permission to allow yourself a life of fewer struggles, less frustration, less sensory overload and better days. There are so many alternatives to the things that cause such intense struggles for you.
Shop online, use the mail to send gifts or cards, use the phone or email, you can show your love and still give yourself the gift on health and well being.
Covid restrictions may make this even easier for those of us who are worried about “bucking the system” of “established traditions”. Blame Covid if you need to, you can do this!