Autism at Christmas can be tricky. I have mixed feelings about the festive period. I love the decorations, sparkling lights, good food, Christmas movies, gift giving and time with family. I find other aspects extremely stressful. My to do list grows with Christmas shopping, wrapping and other organisational tasks. My calender gets busier with festive gatherings with friends and children’s Christmas performances and other school celebrations, alongside my usual commitments. Without careful planning and strategies it could very quickly turn into festive overload and meltdowns.
This year, over a year since diagnosis I’ve managed to keep things more manageable. Last week, after starting to feel overwhelmed I had a trim of my calendar and to do list. Now I’m feeling pretty calm considering we’re less than two weeks away from the big day! So here are my top tips for autistic people.
Tips for a calmer, happier autistic Christmas;
Minimise the to do lists. This year I have avoided feeling like I should be doing more. I haven’t sent Christmas cards, nor made my own Christmas cake or pudding.
Don’t overcommit socially. December can end up being a very busy month. To be honest this is the area I find most difficult. I often find myself saying yes and then looking at my diary and seeing that it’s actually way to busy. School activities, friends social events and family outings could quickly lead me to feel exhausted, overwhelmed and overloaded. So I’ve carefully planned my diary to include lots of alone time in order to cope with the exhaustion of the extra socialising.
Remember that your health and well being is more important than Christmas. I’ve had to say no to things that my children would enjoy, and not do things which I ideally would like to achieve. Ultimately though I know that my children will be happiest with a calm and cheerful Mum. So I choose to take care of myself because that’s better for my whole family.
Stick to your schedule as much as possible. I’m happiest when I have my schedule to guide me through my day. I get up and go to bed at the same time each day and eat my meals at set times also. I need to do my yoga and find time to pursue my hobbies. I have a schedule on my phone which guides me through the day, built into that are free periods where Christmas activities can be added.
My main message is that you shouldn’t things that will upset you or make you anxious on account of pressure to do them because it’s Christmas. I won’t be wearing scratchy party clothes, nor attending large, noisy social gatherings because these things are exhausting and uncomfortable for me. I won’t be cooking from scratch because my energy and resources are limited and I choose to use them on family activities.
I hope you do Christmas the way that works best for you and that you have a very, merry, time.