As we enter the holiday season, 2e families and 2e adults are feeling lots of the BIG FEELS; some positive, some not so positive. You, your child, or your student might be feeling:
Relief over a schedule that includes vacation days.
Trepidation over office parties and social gatherings filled with small talk.
Excitement about travel and reuniting with safe space friends and family.
Apprehension about travel and reuniting with not-so-safe humans (family and others)
Exuberance over giving and receiving gifts.
Foreboding over the idea of giving or receiving gifts.
Anticipation over rich and sweet holiday foods.
Agony over what rich and sweet holiday foods do your system.
The need to mask true feelings and your authentic self just to fit in.
Fear of sensory overload.
The need for alone time.
There are so many more feelings floating around as we enter the holiday season. Some of us feel the energy shift in the air; whether it’s positive or negative. Somehow this time of year brings with it different expectations than the rest of the year. Some of these expectations are outwardly overt and some are self-imposed. How can 2e people mitigate and adjust to avoid burnout, fatigue, and breakdown?
Be Self Aware
First, it’s important to understand why the holiday season can bring out the worst in you, your child or your 2e student. Likely there is heightened sensitivity. You have superpowers that allow you to absorb, notice and react to more things. You see and feel more than the neurotypical person standing next to you. Music, food, clothing texture, and the intensity of EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. IN. THE. ROOM. – it all affects you in a big way. Additionally, you may disagree with some of the very things that fuel others to celebrate. You might feel guilty celebrating when you are simultaneously aware of others’ suffering. Perhaps you can’t help but fall back into old unhealthy patterns you’ve worked so hard to change.
Now that you have an awareness of why you feel overwhelmed or negative about the holiday season, acknowledge and accept yourself and how you respond to various stimuli and triggers. Make a decision whether to “grin and bear it,” in essence mask your true you or if there is a way to plan for challenges. Can you wear something soft underneath the scratchy wool sweater grandma always knits for you? Can you meditate before attending a challenging event? Are you able to plan to arrive with someone you like or ensure that the host knows you are only able to stay for a certain amount of time? Can you generate a few questions to have on hand when you’re cornered with someone you don’t know and have no idea what to talk about?
Honor Your Authentic Self
Can you insert YOU into the situation? If you hate giving gifts, can you make donations to worthy causes in people’s names? If you are vegetarian and bothered by your extended family’s love for meat, can you arrive after the main course? Will you scope out a quiet space to take breaks when you are sensorily overloaded? Can you plan downtime in your own home before doing anything the day after a big potentially triggering event? Can you promise yourself something lovely and soothing to look forward to after a difficult gathering like a warm bath or snuggling under your favorite blanket with a cup of tea?
These are the steps to take care of yourself and others – by allowing yourself to be your best self in the face of challenging environments. One last bit of advice: If some of your holiday experience includes trauma from various acquaintances, give yourself permission to skip the event. Reach out to the people you care about and schedule one-on-one time with them. You do not have to put yourself in emotional danger to please others. If you can make the holiday season more accessible, you might just have a good time and end up looking forward to it next year!
The holiday season is about pausing and appreciating blessings. Help yourself and those you love to do just that.