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ASERT has put together some resources for those with autism and those who care for people with autism relating to the current Coronavirus outbreak.

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Taking Care of Yourself During the Holiday Season

A family is sitting at a table. They are smiling as they eat their dinner.

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By Out-of-Sync Woman

In the past, I used to feel alone, like nobody understands me, especially around the holidays. I thought most of the people I know looked excited and happy about the holidays. I wished I felt that way. I spent so much time dreading the holidays that by the time they arrived, I was already stressed out. This left me very little energy when I needed it the most. Even now, the holidays still signify changes in my routine, extrasensory stress, socializing with people I don’t usually socialize with, small talk, traditions and generally just feeling out of place.

I’m not sure how to let go of the bad feelings I connect to the traditional holidays. I know that holding on to these emotions isn’t doing me any good and it often makes it harder to move forward. I need to learn from the past and move on. How can I best take care of myself? If I need to go to a gathering of any type, I try to prepare ahead time. For example, practicing coping mechanisms and using them before I get stressed out. Having an exit strategy planned is important. Talking to someone I trust about expectations for the gathering is also prudent. I find it helpful if I explain that I might need to leave early. It’s advantageous to try to get a good night’s sleep before the event. Stick to routine before and after the gathering. I try my best to use these techniques; I’m not always that successful, but I do try my best.

Taking care of myself sometimes means coming up with a socially appropriate excuse for why I can’t come to such and such event or gathering. If it’s not healthy for you to go and you don’t like the people there, don’t go. That’s one of the wonderful freedoms of being an independent adult! There are times when I realize no matter how much I think I may want to try going to an event, it’s not worth it if it puts me in a bad place or I feel lousy afterward. It’s important if you’re going to cancel/not attend a get-together, try not to do it last minute and be polite and gracious when turning down the invitation. I know it’s hard to do make these decisions but I really try to stick to my guns about what’s best for me.

No matter if you decide to attend a holiday gathering or not, it’s important to get back to routine as soon as possible. For me that means keeping the same bedtime and wake up time, trying to eat healthy, sticking to the same work out routine, and cutting myself some slack.

I have recently realized I’m not alone in this discomfort and that there are lots of people who struggle with similar issues. The holidays aren’t the happiest time for lots of people for a variety of reasons. Knowing that I’m not alone helps, but taking care of myself is the best gift I can give myself this (and every) holiday season.