Helping Neurodivergent Young Adults Have a Stress Free Holiday
The holiday season can bring joy, but also a lot of stress, depression, and anxiety. The demands of the season such as shopping and running errands while battling crowds, social obligations, houseguests, and relatives are all potential stressors for most people. In addition, changes in one’s daily routine can be challenging as most people find comfort in routine, especially neurodivergent folks. One of the most stressful aspects of the holiday season is the various extra events that disrupt the daily routines that neurodivergent people depend on to manage their anxiety and remain regulated.
One way to help your neurodivergent young adult is to offer coping strategies for handling the holiday season. Here are suggestions:
Acknowledge the stress of being expected to socialize: Neurodivergent people can be introverted or extroverted, and many enjoy socializing with people they feel comfortable with. But being social often takes a great deal of mental effort and can be exhausting. It can help when parents or friends of neurodivergent young adults see that they are doing their best and their efforts are appreciated.
Allow comfortable clothes: A neurodivergent person’s anxiety about a social event can often be reduced if they are allowed to dress comfortably. There can be sensory issues involved that dictate the clothing choices. A compromise of allowing comfy clothes, as long as they are clean and appropriate, may go a long way to reduce anxiety and stress.
Prepare ahead for the environment of a holiday event: Often holiday gatherings are loud and festive which may be enjoyable for some people but excruciating for others. Some people like to bring earplugs to help drown out some of the noise. In addition, a holiday event may have alcohol or people may be smoking. If this is untolerable, it may be best to skip the event and just send best wishes.
Avoid Family Members or Family Friends That Cause Stress: Discuss ahead of the event who will be present. If there will be people who are critical or unkind to your young adult, let your young adult know that it is ok if they don’t engage with those people. Also, remind your young adult that they are not required to hug or be hugged by anyone.
Pack a Stress Relief Bag: A tried and true strategy is bringing a backpack with comfort items. Your young adult may want to go to a quiet room and listen to music on headphones or read a book for a bit.
Allow An Escape Route: Let your young adult know that it is perfectly ok to excuse themselves and go outside for a short walk or go to another room for a short time.
With a little preparation and a lot of understanding, your young adult can enjoy the holiday season in their own way.
Happy Holidays from all of us at Advance LA!