A few weeks back I wrote a few tips from the atheist side of things and I thought that I might come back to this topic from another important aspect of my life, Autism. The holidays are both wonderful and horrifying to many of us on the spectrum. We love to give, to receive, to spend time with family but at the same time all of these things can cause us a lot of stress and anxiety. So without further ado, here are some tips for Aspies during the holidays.
1.) Know your exits
With the holidays come social gatherings and in any social gathering it is important to know your exits. If things get a bit to stressful, or you find yourself headed towards an overload head towards that exit. An exit isn’t meant to imply you are leaving but that you are heading off for a moment to regroup. If it’s warm enough I will step outside for a few minutes and if I can’t do that I’ll head to the bathroom. Anything that you can do to get yourself back under control can be very helpful.
2.) You don’t have to eat that
Another thing that comes with the holidays is food, some of which is probably fairly disgusting to you. Forcing yourself to eat things that you don’t like can add a layer of stress to the holidays that I don’t believe a neurotypical could understand. Eat what you like, pass on what you don’t. If someone offers you something that looks unappealing, thank them for the offer but pass on their offer. If the need arises, and it might, you can always pretend to have a food allergy which prevents you from eating whatever is being offered.
3.) Remember people don’t like the truth when it comes to gift giving.
If you get something that you don’t like…the answer is not to say you don’t like it…no matter how correct that answer might seem to be. Just smile and thank the person for the gift and then if it is something you truly hate you can always attempt to sell it or take it back after the holidays. A person giving you a gift is more about the idea that they thought of you than about what is actually given, at least that is what I am told…however I’ve had people give me gifts that were so foreign to who I am that it almost offended me that they would give me that type of gift….even so the best option is to pretend you like it and move on.
4.) Steer Clear of Truth Serum
If one thing leads me to make inappropriate comments it is alcohol. If I’ve had a few then I am likely to tell people exactly what I think of them and so during the holidays I avoid any type of drinking. You probably know yourself fairly well and maybe one or two will help calm your nerves and allow you to enjoy the festivities more fully. However, know your limits.
5.) If you are unsure about what to get someone ask
Sure, I might think getting Star Trek stuff for Christmas is the ideal gift. However, this might not be the case for others around you. If you are unsure then the best option is to ask. One of the big problems that I have faced in life is how neurotypical people seem to pick up on what other people like and are easily able to get them something that they might enjoy. I’ve never been very good at picking out gifts for people and before I started asking I had several awkward experiences…Note…it is never ok to buy a loved one a vacuum for Christmas…you live and you learn…
6.) Look for others who might also be on the spectrum
I have a cousin who is also on the spectrum. At thanksgiving he was sitting all by himself and not talking to anyone. I noticed this and asked him what his interests were. At first he didn’t say much but the second we got onto the topic of “Star Wars” he was as happy as could be. His mother told me after the dinner that it was the happiest she has seen him in a long time and that he had told her that he had never enjoyed a holiday gathering more than that day. Life is confusing, being on the spectrum can suck at times, and so sticking together and having a good time is important.
7.) Have Fun!
Try to have fun. Get through the holidays and then unwind with your favorite activity, tv show, or movie series. One of the best parts about the holidays is that they only come once per year. Try not to stress too much about them and yet at the same time realize that the holidays are stressful for everyone. Love your family, enjoy your friends, but always keep your mental well-being in mind.
Have a safe and happy holidays!