10 Tips for Autistic Adults Whose Holiday Routines Are Disrupted This Year
I find the holidays are always a stressful, emotional time of year. Being autistic, there are some extra areas I have to navigate, such as sensory overload and change of routine. However, news of the holidays being different due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a hot topic of conversation — a conversation that has caused me anxiety and a few meltdowns. It feels like it’s been nine months of constant changes in routine, regular sensory overload, everyday communication challenges, fatigue, and unpredictability mixed with a heightened state of, well, everything. Now that I find myself in the holiday season, I feel like I’m overloaded and overwhelmed to the point where I get stuck trying to figure out how things are going to be in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. I also get stuck figuring out how to prepare as an autistic adult.
In the past, I knew what the plans were no later than the week before Thanksgiving. I had times, locations, number of people, and menus to plan what my needs were and how to meet them. This year, many people’s plans have shifted. My partner and I have been having conversations. However, a lot is still unknown aside from the safety precautions. We decided to stay home and not see any family in-person for Thanksgiving due to me being immunocompromised due to health conditions. Our extended family plans are not concrete, and I don’t know how our unknowns will mix with their plans. My anxiety has been extremely severe without access to the traditions and routines I previously relied on, and I’m simultaneously trying to figure out what tools I will need to help navigate what will be a very different holiday season this year.
That’s why I discovered these 10 tips to help me prepare for the holidays as an autistic adult that I wanted to share:
- Have a conversation(s). Communicate about how holidays will be different and plan ahead for what they will look like this year.
- Decide on how to best incorporate the things that are most important to you.
- If having virtual/in-person events or gatherings to celebrate, think about your needs and how to best participate. For example, if larger virtual gatherings with family and/or friends are overloading, an option to consider might be breaking the virtual gatherings into smaller amounts and spreading them out across the week.
- Make space for different emotions, expressions, sensory breaks and alone time.
- Take time to do things you enjoy and engage in self-care.
- Set your boundaries and uphold them.
- Remember, it’s OK to struggle.
- Keep it simple.
- Seek support if needed (i.e., support groups, professional counselor, family etc.)
- Make sure your strategies and tools are available to you and easily accessible when you need them.
Getty image by Karma15381.