Ah, it’s that time of the year again. Time to go shopping for presents, attending family reunions, and reconnecting with old friends. The Christmas holidays, and any holiday in particular is something truly special. However, along stuffed bellies and awesome parties come along with the stresses of the season as well, from picking outfits to gift shopping, to preparing and hosting parties. For those on the spectrum, and for Aspies, the holidays can be overwhelming at times, and are very tiring. This can bring about meltdowns, shutdowns, and uncomfortable situations. So, as I sat planning how I would survive the holidays (which technically started in October, for me), I decided to compile my very own list on how to survive the holidays.
1.Jot Everything Down in Your Calendar- In the Philippines, the holiday season starts in September, with Halloween parties in October, and Christmas parties starting to crop up as early as late November. It is important to plan ahead, and jot down all holiday related events in your planner and calendar. This will allow you to prepare yourself mentally, emotionally and physically for all the fatigue coming ahead. Also, it will allow you to block off days in which you recharge and relax for the next round of gatherings.
2. Buy Gifts Ahead of Time- This rule applies to birthdays and other events as well. This will allow you to avoid the Christmas rush, which usually mean overcrowded malls, which are definitely not ideal for ASDs and Aspies. However, if you have to go to the mall, make sure that you know where you are getting your gifts, and make sure to take a break and “recharge” in your own way in between when things get too much for you. Also, make a list of people you need to give gifts to, stick to a budget, write down some ideas for gifts, before you go shopping.
3.Set Expectations (And Do Your Homework)- This is probably one of the hardest things to do on this list. I think that it is important that you know who you will be with, and what the setting is, and how long you have to be there. This will allow you to gauge how much is enough, and when you have to disappear for a moment to “recharge” yourself. Also, sometimes, this can also help you figure out if a particular event is worth going to. I learned it the hard way during this year’s Halloween party. I was excited to go to it, and I had my costume ready, but I didn’t expect the bar to be so small, and there to be so many people to the point that to get across the bar, you have to navigate your way through a sea of people. Luckily, I was with a friend who recognized that I was getting overwhelmed and brought me out for some fresh air.
4.Prepare to Socialize- Before parties, as soon as you know who you will be dealing with, or have a rough idea of who you will be with in the party, prepare some talking points and ice breaker questions so that you will have an easier time socializing with others.
5.Pick Out Outfits Ahead of Time- One of my biggest problems is choosing outfits for the holidays, and I always come up with a plan last minute, which gets me really stressed even before the party has started. This year, I’m opting to already start picking out my outfits and make up for each event I am attending this year. This will save me so much time come the day of the event itself, as all I need to do is pull out that particular ensemble, and as there will be less make up experimentation going on that will leave me in tears.
6.Emotional, Mental & Physical Self-Care- This is probably one of the most important things on this list. Make sure that you are emotionally, mentally and physically ready for the stresses and the one after another parties.This includes knowing when you are overwhelmed and excusing yourself for a while so that you can recharge, or actually skipping a particular event if you feel that you are physically tired. It is important to have days of rest in between partying, and it is important to still exercise and eat healthy during this season. After all, you don’t want to be stuck at home sick during an event which you really wanted to go to. Know your limits, and don’t overbook and over extend yourself. Know what triggers you, and let your support system know about it so that they can also help you when the time comes. Meltdowns are inevitable, so make sure that you have your coping mechanisms with you all the time.
7.Be Flexible- We are not the most adaptive of people, but it is important to remember that while some traditions still might hold true to you and your family every year, as the years go along, those will adapt and change, and that’s okay. What’s important is that you are with the people you love and care about, and that you are all having a good time.
8.And finally, surround yourself with people who understand you and your diagnosis, and tell them the things that you think might trigger you, so that they can help and remind you about things when needed. They will definitely be the ones who will bail you out of uncomfortable situations, and cover for you when you are recharging in your room so that you can still party afterwards. Your support system is definitely something you will need to fall back on during the holidays.
These tips are mostly geared towards adults and females, but I think that some of these can also apply to children as well.I hope that this will help ASDs, Aspies and other who can benefit from this list enjoy the holiday season and come out of it unscathed.
How do you survive the holidays? Are there any other tips you can add to my list? Sound off in the comments below!