Advice & Resources

Kylie’s Tips for Making It Through the Holiday Season in One Piece

Welcome to the first Merry Monday post for Life on the Spectrum! I hope you’ll enjoy these nifty tips and strategies to help cope throughout the holiday party season. Also I wanted to mention be on the lookout on Fridays as well for the occasional Festive Friday posts. Both are just my way of bringing a bit of holiday cheer and spirit to Life on the Spectrum during the holiday season!

Surviving Holiday Parties and Family Gatherings

It’s that time again… the most wonderful time of the year. Or at least the most busiest for everyone when it comes to family, family plans, and gatherings galore there’s much to celebrate leading up to the Christmas season.

This time can also be quite overwhelming, and socially draining for us on the spectrum ,like myself, who aren’t the most socially inept at navigating family plans and finding downtime in between a challenge. From my experiences it is a careful art of engaging with loved ones and spending the necessary time to recharge between social interactions.  To help with the awareness and prep I’ve realized a few tips myself that anyone (on the spectrum or not) might find helpful when it comes to navigating the holiday season.

How I Keep Calm and Positive during Party Season:

Tips:

1. This is only one time (hopefully) throughout the whole year to gather with family and interact with relatives:

So in order to survive I’m reminded myself of this throughout the evening, and have swiftly inhaled and exhaled in relief as it sets in. It’s also a good chance to catch-up these people on what’s been going on; and test one’s social skills. At least this has been my experience, and therefore I find it highly rewarding if I can open up about something or show some effort in interest others.

2. While being around a lot of people- either family or friends- may be overwhelming at time, I am working on being grateful for them (in the end, they are family):

Now every person I

may not know, or feel as close to but these people who turn out to these holiday celebrations and parties still count as family. Whether we are close to one another or distant doesn’t matter. It’s the thought and expressing private gratitude that counts most, and helps me try to get through the long evenings. This also helps me focus less on the fact that there’s a lot of people around and more on why they are here- to visit, catch and wish each other a Happy Holidays.

3. Look for familiar faces (in the crowd/crowds)

Sometimes it can be hard to know who to have a conversation with, never might start, but a bonus for me is that I’m often there earlier enough to set-up and see people settle in which means finding my ideal and comfort spot is easy. This acts a way to find a  conversation or more accurately observe conversations, and feel one’s way into a few interactions. Because finding a way to interact with everyone is tough, but if you can spot out a few closer relatives- say like Aunts or Uncles, cousins even to converse with and focus on sharing with them the crowd will seem less overwhelming.

4. Plan Ahead/Prep Ahead (this actually can be helpful for family too):

While mentioning

upcoming plans may not always be helpful to me in most cases, a time that I found advanced warning helpful (once becoming aware) is when it’s come to big family gatherings. Why? Because this way I have the necessary time to prepare myself for the day, and start to think about what it means and plan out my approach to it: whether it’s been a little social, hanging out in the background, or unsuccessfully help out knowing in advance helps me mentally prepare for any of these scenarios and avoid day of stress.

5. If you find yourself overwhelmed, wanting it to be over, and the gratitude piece isn’t working, try on another’s gratitude:

Sometimes it can be hard to be grateful for overwhelming situations, especially if it’s outside our control, comfort zones, and involves a whole lot of socializing. Which I’m guessing is often the case when it comes to parties during the holiday season. Add to that the excitement of the upcoming holiday (Christmas) and people’s gladness of catching up and seeing each other which then things can get a little hectic. I’ll understand that perhaps being grateful for that situation is the last thing on your mind. Consider this, it is the season of giving and if you’re having a hard time sometimes getting another person’s perspective or appreciation for it may help boost your worthwhile to be there.

A recent example of this has been talking to my Grandma at our latest family function. Hearing how excited and happy she was about the party, and seeing that in her made it more worth to be there.  The lesson is sometimes these occasions aren’t all about us or our preferences- especially if it’s something we haven’t plan- sometimes it’s about doing things for others.

What You Can Do If It’s Some Space and Quiet You Need:

6.If you find yourself too overwhelmed by it all, try and find a less crowded space to hang out for a while until you’re nerves are calmed. 

This could be the kitchen, or a hall area, or quieter corner. A recommendation though- if needed- is in the kitchen. This way you are able to help out and can briefly escape the madness, until you are feeling comfortable to return into the party. Although kitchen can be pretty busy too when it comes to common gathering areas, so the best way about this is find either where there’s someone familiar, or a quieter space to sit back and observe another’s conversation.

7. Go for a walk/Ask if it’s okay to go for a walk.

This one I haven’t try yet, but remember hearing from a friend that it’s a great way to get some fresh and space from the festivities going on inside. Why? Because going out, you’re not as close to the energy/commotion indoors, get the chance to have some fresh air, and the space to calm yourself or nerves down before entering back into the chaos happening inside the party. Be sure to let someone know before you leave the party that you need some air so they don’t worry and also you may never know- there might be someone else whose needing a break, that’s willing to walk with you (if you are hesitant to go out on your own).

8. Lots of Rest:

There’s two ways I go about this- one is if it’s within my control I’ll try to get to bed early or earlier in order to get a full night’s rest for the following day. The second I use if I’ve neglected the getting enough sleep, and that’s using the commute to get in a quick nap during the car-ride. If you’re not on help-out duty/prep duty and it’s at your house; you could also attempt to get in a nap at your place to be better prepared for the activities to come later on that. I find doing this helps boost my own functioning, ability to cope/not be overwhelmed and over-all spirit throughout the event.

This is just a small list to start you off this holiday season; however if I remember or come across anymore to add  I’ll be sure to keep you posted! Or if you have any useful tips to share feel free to comment below I’d be interested to know!

Kylie

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