Its November, some of you may say that Christmas is miles away, but for me it starts as soon as Halloween ends. I’d like to think I’m prepared, I mean, I’ve wrapped almost all my presents and the Christmas tree is still up from last year (yes, I’m one of those people).
I love Christmas, its my favorite time of year. I love everything about it. Well, almost everything. Christmas, although wonderful, brings anxiety, stress and sensory overload. The crowds of people, the bright lights and loud music, and of course the turkey – I absolutely HATE turkey. As I’ve gotten older I’ve found I’m more able to manage the festive season, I’ve gained the ability to slightly adapt to my surroundings and learned when to walk away when things become too much. But it isn’t always that easy. Its important to remember that for an autistic Christmas can be extremely overwhelming – pretty much like everyday, but 10x’s worse!
Here are some of the tips I’ve learned over the past few years:
- Sleep is important – Growing up I would stay up late and wake up way too early, leaving me exhausted. I still feel the excitement, but realised I need the sleep too. Without sleep I’d turn into the Grinch, I’d be grouchy, and ‘have my spikes up’ as my mum would say. A good nights sleep is key!
- Keep routine as best as possible – its Christmas, so routine is probably out the window, but its still important. Regardless I follow strict routines, and changes to this upset me. For example, I have this one polar bear decoration which I have to put on the tree every year, without it it wouldn’t be Christmas, its become part of my routine. Its important to factor this into the holiday season, and if its impossible then ensure changes to schedule are explained fully in advance – you can prepare for this!
- Quiet Time -I’ve found that over Christmas I become more overwhelmed, there’s so much more going on and my brain goes into shutdown. I’ve found that having quiet time gives me the chance to recover, be it briefly or for longer periods of time. Its important to have a quiet area, a retreat, somewhere to go when things become too much; that way it ensures time to calm down and recuperate.
- Sensory Overload – I dislike bright flashing lights and loud noises, and Christmas is full of this. Luckily at home our decorations aren’t too flashy. Its important to remember that decorations and lights can be overwhelming and can lead to sensory overload – in some cases its unavoidable, but its important to consider where possible. A useful thing to combat loud noises is the use of ear defenders, or sunglasses to deflect the bright lights.
- FOOD! – I am such a picky eater – at the Christmas dinner table my plate consists of Macaroni Cheese (my substitute for turkey), a Yorkshire pudding and four bland vegetables (Potato, carrot, broccoli and cauliflower). Not the most appetizing. Its important to remember that nothings changed – just because its Christmas doesn’t mean I suddenly like new foods. Its important to prepare/adapt foods to suit the needs of everyone around your table, including the picky eaters.
There’s so much to consider around the holiday season, for me the main thing is happiness, Christmas makes me happy and I try to enjoy it as much as I can – without things getting in the way. However you celebrate, Christmas is a time for family, friends, and fun!