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Autism and Holiday Overwhelm

The holidays can be a lot for autistic and other neurodivergent adults and kids.

Fellow coach, Danielle Sullivan, and I discuss the specific challenges for neurodivergent women during the holidays in their The Neurodiverging Podcast.

We often learned our role from a young age, and take on most of the holiday responsibilities. Today, girls today still have more chores and less allowance than boys, as highlighted in the NYT article, "A generationally perpetuated pattern: Girls do more chores." No wonder the holidays can be overwhelming for many women, who feel more stress than their male counterparts about how their home looks or whether all the presents will be purchased in time.

Men are four times as likely as women to not do anything in preparation for the holidays. Forty-eight percent of women say they do it all.

When we learned the sad truth that only 25% of women say they relax at any point during this season, we wanted to offer some dialogue around a better holiday season. As neurodivergent women, we empathize with your added stressors and hope to come together and do better. Watch or listen to our podcast here.

Let's take some time considering creating a December you'll enjoy.

Creating the holidays YOUR way

  • Pick and chose what events you will attend and how long you will stay.

  • Consider an exit strategy when you need it, beforehand. Arriving with a partner or kids that will want to stay longer? Take different transportation so that you can leave at your agreed upon time or whenever you deem it is time to go.

  • Have a previous-selected location in mind to take a break from the event. Talk to your host beforehand about a spare bedroom or office where you can escape for a bit. Bring your favorite small fidget toy in your pocket.

  • Determine what activities you don't want to miss and what you will pass on this year. Do you love a particularly soothing church service in town? Want to decorate a tree with handmade decorations with your children? The biggest holiday gift you can give yourself is to do December and other holiday months the way you want and need. You have a precious life to live as you see fit.

  • Discuss sound and lightening levels with your host, church, or synagogue. Feel free to bring ear plugs / sunglasses.

  • Some cities are beginning to have sensory friendly holiday offerings.

  • For Jewish families, there are now menorah and dreidel popper sets for those of us (children or adults!) with ADHD, AuDHD, ASD, and sensory processing challenges. Amazon and other stores also offer odor free lamp oils.

  • Stick with routines as much as possible. For situations that only come this time of year, feel free to practice your attendance for your own comfort or that of your children. Consider bringing foods that you know you will enjoy.

  • Bodhi Day / Rohatsu, the Buddhist tradition celebrated on December 8th, includes the calm of meditation.

  • Kwanzaa is a meaningful and nonreligious 7-day celebration of African American and Pan-African culture. In this writing, a family shares their special celebration with their autistic son.

It is up to you to decide which end-of-year traditions are meaningful to you, if any.. I lean in more toward the quieter, calmer moments and enjoy the darkness and bits of rest this time of year. If you need help creating those same soothing, cozy moments, feel free to book a session with me to explore what will give you peace and joy.

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