Sunday, December 08, 2013
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
I don’t think its much of a surprise when I mention that I’ve battled with low self esteem and all that brings to the table for most of my adult life. I call it the not good enough syndrome. The holidays seem to really magnify this disordered thinking, and can really ruin things for me (and those that I love the most). Between the wanting everything to be perfect to the general stress of this time of year, there is a recipe for disaster brewing.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Over the last few years, I’ve learned that stressing out over things isn’t going to make things better, it actually worsens the whole situation. Mommy running around like a lunatic doesn’t beget a great holiday season-it only serves as a reminder that the holidays are filled with stress and misery. I stopped it in its tracks, and instead of going crazy, I am going to enjoy the season (and the reason for it!).
There is a lot of planning that goes into the holidays. I have a notebook where I keep track of my master to do list, which stays in my purse year round. If I find a perfect gift (and its in the budget) in June, I get it. I have a designated spot in my sacred space for presents. I stick a post it note on there and away it goes until December. I have to admit my shopping load has lightened over the years. My nieces and nephews are all teens, so I get them gift cards or send money instead of buying presents. The Little Man is officially a tween, so the whole gazillion toys aren’t a must anymore. Sniff.
I also make a lot of things, since I love crafting. As a result, I need to set aside time to do so…and remember what I made for whom. Its just a matter of organization. I snap a picture, then use a photo editing program, scribble who its for and then save it to the cloud.
For Christmas cards, I use an app called Red Stamp. I design my cards, then send them to a local photo shop (keep it local!) and print them. I buy Christmas cards after Christmas each year to use the following holiday season, and then mail everything by the end of the 1st week in December.
I also have learned that I need to take care of me during this season. I make sure I get 8 hours of sleep every night, at least. If I need a nap, I take one. I know I will be eating a lot of treats I don’t normally eat, so I account for that when I plan meals. I drink a lot of water. I add more activity to my day. I know that I will indulge, so I don’t guilt myself over it, and just go with the flow.
When the negative side starts showing up, I take a step back and breathe. Literally. I spend some time each day just taking a breathing break. Five minutes of focusing on your breath makes a huge difference in managing your stress levels. I also make it a point of writing in my gratitude journal everyday. Reminding myself of all that I have to be grateful for is so important when I am feeling down. I also make sure that I do something off my happy list everyday, even if its just using a great foot cream and putting on fuzzy socks or soaking in the tub. Managing stress isn’t as difficult as I used to make it be.
I also look for options for dreaded chores. I hate gift wrapping, so I use the gift wrapping table at the mall. It is there to raise money for Children’s
I do like to spread Christmas cheer to others. It boosts the moods for both them and myself. I leave cookies for the mailman and the garbage men. I put change in people’s parking meters as I walk down the street. I do the drive through difference and pay for the people behind me. I leave a bigger than usual tip if I eat out. I leave treats by neighbor’s front doors. We volunteer to spread cheer for the elderly and children. If I am making someone smile, chances are its going to make me smile too.
I also make sure I have one me day during the season. I usually get my hair done, and rock a mani/pedi. A lot of times I also get a spray tan. I take myself out for coffee too, and just enjoy the solitude. In addition, I make sure I get dates with each of my boys in too. The time alone can do wonders for distressing this season.
There are so many little things we can do for ourselves during the holiday season to prevent stress. Pick one thing to do each day to make your burden lighter and enjoy the holiday season more.
Monday, December 02, 2013
My son is 11 and as he has gotten older, he has had better control over some autistic behaviors. A lot of that goes out the window during the holiday season. There are a lot of triggers for meltdowns for non-autistic folks-its even worse for those on the spectrum. When the Little Man was younger, many “fun” activities left us in tears and disappointed. As I learned to read his reactions and expressions, I realized that some supposedly happy things were actually causing my son extreme pain and distress.
Not all kiddos on the spectrum are the same. I always say autistic folks are like snowflakes-no two are the same. These are generalizations and some helpful hints that I’ve picked up along the way.
The mall can trigger more meltdowns than any other place except for Wal-Mart. The sheer number of people, the sights, sounds and smells can all cause sensory overload. Plan to go at less peak times (early in the morning or later in the day). Avoid at all costs on the weekend, since there are so many more people there, it can cause a huge meltdown. If you have to go, plan out your trip and use a social story so your kiddo is prepared. Rewards help too-I always let the Little Man have 30 minutes of play time in the play park at the mall to get through with our trip. It was a terrific incentive for him to work on self control.
Decorations can cause a lot of issues. A lot of kiddos like to touch and sometimes taste things that may not be appropriate for them. When the Little Man was younger, he used to have an issue with pica (eating non food items). He’s mostly outgrown it, but many other kiddos on the spectrum have the same issue. Pine needles, fake snow (especially the stuff you spray on the windows) and even some ornaments can be licked or eaten.
Church services can be agony for a kiddo on the spectrum. In the Episcopalian tradition, there is a lot of incense and candles on Christmas Eve. While this momma loves the ancient liturgy, for my son it was torture. I’m not an advocate for kids not paying attention or participating in church, but there are certain occasions that you may want to think of an alternative service or bring something to keep your kiddo occupied. We actually attend another church for Christmas because their service is much more sensory friendly. Don’t feel ashamed if you need to get up and leave the service either. You need to do what is best for your family.
The holidays can be both fun and challenging with a child with autism. Planning ahead, communicating with others and most of all, relaxing can limit meltdowns and behaviors. Always carry snacks, toys/crayons/books with you so your kiddo doesn’t get hungry (especially when there are long lines everywhere) and bored. Play games while you wait. Most of all, if a meltdown happens, its not the end of the world. Its your child’s way of communicating distress. It is what it is.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Friday, November 29, 2013
Saturday, November 23, 2013
My cup truly runneth over.