I love holiday seasons! Those special days like Christmas, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, etc., are often not just a single day for me. There are so many things to do, people to see, activities to participate in; how do people manage if they limit these awesome times to a single day? Sounds like a recipe for sensory overload to me. Even when I prolong the pleasure (or the agony, depending upon perspective), over a couple of days (or a month), the experience can become overwhelming. The sights, smells, and sounds of any of the holiday days can be exquisite, and intense. Neurodiverse individuals are often even more acutely aware of these sensory aspects (aka stressors), than neurotypical individuals are. I am often asked at the clinic how to help families mitigate holiday stressors. Sadly, there are no magical aspects to this as different people respond differently to different stressors. Generally speaking though, there are often a few things I suggest trying to help make special occasions more manageable for our neurodiverse loved ones and their families.
Saying No During the Holiday Season
Holiday season is upon us. December can have lots of excitement, gatherings, and celebrations. We may feel sucked into the hustle and bustle. We will try to be everywhere and do everything so that we squeeze all those visits in and no one is disappointed.
Is this realistic?
I want to give you the permission to say no. Your time and energy is important, valuable, and you get to decide how and where it is placed.
If you are having an inner battle about what decision is best for you, here are some strategies that you can try:
Do a gut check or feelings scan and really listen to what your body is telling you. If you are exhausted and overwhelmed then this self awareness is important and should be honored.
Take time to answer. As a society that is driven by cell phones and technology usage some of us may feel the need to provide an immediate response (I know I do …..). Put the phone down in the evening and come back to the response in the morning with a fresh perspective.
Speak your truth in a clear and decisive way. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a kind and pleasant “no thank you.” I encourage you to practice this short and sweet response.
Do not overexplain, defend, or debate your response. You have permission to make the decision that is best for you. Only you know what that is. Own your emotional needs with love and self compassion.
Cheers to you!
Blog Post by Registered Social Worker, Nicole Wright
Death and dying are a part of our lives and it is inevitable that we will all experience the death of a loved one. Death ends a life, and not a relationship. Your relationship with your loved one is instilled through the memories you made, the conversations you have of your loved one, and the continued connection you embrace of your loved one. Grieving during Christmas can bring on intensified emotions and I am here to share my life experiences to help you find some comfort and hope during this year’s Christmas season. Sixteen years ago, on November 18th, 2006 my life was changed forever; my brother Kevin tragically died in a car accident near Hudson Bay, SK. He left behind his wife, two children, his parents, his siblings, and many more relatives and friends. I remember vividly the first Christmas without my brother. Many tears of sadness, shock, numbness, and disbelief. These emotions during “The most wonderful time” of year were intensified throughout the Christmas season. Grief today for me during the Christmas season feels and looks less intensified. Grief today for me is filled with blessings, joyful moments, reflection, resilience, connectedness, and many conversations about my brother as I keep his spirt alive in my heart and in my family.
To help you cope during the Christmas season the following has helped me accept and acknowledge my grief and work through difficult times:
FEEL – Give yourself permission to feel whatever shows up in your heart, mind, and body. It’s okay to not feel okay. Accept what feelings are showing up and breath through them one at a time.
TALK – Keep your loved one in your conversations. Encourage yourself and others to share their stories.
CONNECTEDNESS – Connect with family, friends, and other grief community supports. We are wired for connection and when a loved one dies we need connection more then anything.
TRADITION – Continue Christmas traditions that have been established, but also make new traditions in memory of your loved one.
SELF-CARE – Taking care of yourself can look like going for a walk, baking, taking a bath, journaling, listening to music, etc.
Our grief will never go away; our grief of a loved one will feel differently at any given time. Sometimes the grief feels more intensified and sometimes does not. The hurt and pain losing a loved one does for us is unimaginable; however, the way we recover and work through our emotions of grief is how we are able to manage and cope. This Christmas season I am here to hold space for all those that have lost a loved one.
Blog written by Registered Social Worker, Trina Hjelsing