Guest post: How I prevent sensory overload at Christmas by Rebekah Gillian

When we think of Christmas, most of us view it as a joyful time of year. It’s an opportunity to get the extended family together under one roof, and to eat as much as you can stomach because calories don’t count at Christmas, right? For many, the lead up to Christmas is equally as exciting, with carol singers lining the streets and supermarkets blaring Christmas music from their speakers. 

While these traditions are great, and I’d never shame anyone for engaging in them, they can also be incredibly overwhelming. I’ve always struggled with them, but it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with autism in 2015 that I really understood why. Talking to people like Lydia, and hearing opinions from others in the comment section of my blog, has made me realise that I’m not alone in this.

Despite finding many traditional Christmas festivities difficult, there are some things I’ve done to make it more manageable. Here are just a few of the things I do differently around the Christmas period. 

Avoid Supermarkets As Much As Possible

Last year, one of my local supermarkets thought it would be a great idea to have a live band playing music in the entryway throughout December. I understand this might make a pleasant change for some people, but for me, it was sensory hell. 

Even before then, however, I’ve avoided supermarkets around the Christmas period as much as possible. Every isle is full of people shopping, chatting, and children running around recklessly. I’d rather leave this job to my parents if I can help it!

Space Out Social Commitments

I always find that coping with sensory input is more difficult when I’ve been socialising nonstop for days on end. This can be difficult to avoid at Christmas, especially when socialising with friends and reconnecting with extended family, but it’s so important to remember to look after yourself. I try and limit myself to two days of social interaction at the most, before I take a day to isolate myself and recover. If I go over this and stretch my energy resources, I find myself struggling, and far more prone to meltdowns than I might normally be. 

Ignore ‘Traditional’ Christmas Food

Food is something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. Branded a ‘fussy eater’ and shamed in front of my classmates on several occasions because I wouldn’t try new foods, it wasn’t until I left school that I discovered my limited diet could be related back to my sensory processing disorder. 

Traditional roast dinners are so overwhelming for me, with various textures and tastes all on one plate. Christmas dinners, as you can imagine, are a hundred times worse. For this reason, my parents have switched things around, and ignored tradition in favour of pleasing everyone on Christmas day. This leaves me and my immediate family to enjoy a stress-free day with a buffet full of foods everyone likes, leaving the more traditional Christmas roast to boxing day, where we have leftover buffet food to fill ourselves up on if needed.

Rebekah Gillian is a freelance writer and Blogger; you can visit her blog her. You can see her previous contributions her

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