Hello, Divergent Dear Ones!
Fall is here, and we finally have some cooler temps here in Texas. I personally LOVE a cold and rainy day. It just feels super cozy and invites me to curl up with a cup of coffee, a cat, and a good book, or maybe I let myself binge a show on Netflix. If I’m working, I wrap myself in my favorite therapist cardigan. (You may know the one.) The common thread? Turning inward. Slowing Down. Cozy Comforts.
Whether you’re like me in your love of colder weather, or you’d prefer to be on a nice sunny beach, this time of year also pulls us to gather together in various ways recognizing the seasonal shifts from light to dark, warm to cold, outward to inward. The days get shorter. The nights get longer. In some places, leaves change colors dramatically. Some animals migrate to warmer climes, while others prepare burrows, dens, or lodges for winter. Harvest season comes to an end, and we “store up” for winter.
Our rituals and celebrations mirror these changes. Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, and Dia de los Muertos are all traditions in which we honor the dead and offer foods, treats, and mementos. We’ll gather around tables with food and family celebrating bountiful harvests with holidays like Sukkot and Thanksgiving. And before we know it, we’re celebrating festivals of light such as Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Winter Solstice.
So, while we may enjoy the seasonal shifts and the celebrations that accompany them, what are we Divergent folx to do with all this gathering? All this people-ing? All this social pressure? All this potential over-stimulation? It’s not all slowing down and coziness. Sometimes it’s super busy and chaotic. Sometimes it’s really fucking overwhelming! I mean Cousin Bob’s political opinions are offensive, and it doesn’t feel safe for you to be out around him. Tio Daniel wears that really strong cologne that gives me migraines. Auntie Betty makes that dish everyone else raves about, but you can’t stand the texture. And Granny will definitely get her feelings hurt if I’m not giving and receiving hugs.
I’m exaggerating a bit for effect, and hopefully you don’t have ALL these challenges at once. The reality, however, is that for folx who are neurodivergent in some way, navigating the holidays can be SUPER challenging. So, let’s talk about some ways to mitigate potential harm or distress, plan for increased self-care/recovery, and decide in advance on some healthy boundaries. Let's tend to our Divergent selves and give, if we choose to, from a place that honors our special needs and challenges.
First, know your special needs, sensitivities, sensory triggers, and over-excitabilities. Examples: Are there strong smells or flavors to which you have reactions? Maybe there are certain textures of food or clothing that feel terrible. Sometimes it's loud noises or very specific sounds. Crowded spaces or lots of touching can be problematic. Changes in routines, sleep schedules, and/or locations are common and often hard to handle. And family conflict or perceived injustices can be triggering too. Maybe you're just figuring out what your sensitivities are, in which case, pay attention to what your body is telling you feels right vs. what feels overwhelming in some way.
Second, whenever possible, plan in advance to tend to your special needs rather than trying to ignore, mask, or suppress them. Examples: Create sensory kits with smells, tastes, and textures that you like. Wear comfortable clothing. Talk to trusted folx in advance. Have a code word and a plan of action for your trusted folx to help you if you need it. Practice politely declining things that trigger you. Have an exit/escape plan in case you get overwhelmed. And last but not least, you can say NO. "No thank you, I do not care for any (fill in with that gross dish you can't stand)." "No, I won't be able to make it (to the annual family political debate)." "No, I already have plans (to stay home with my cat)."
Third, during this season of giving that we often turn into a season of rushing around, exhausting our inner resources, and trying to please everyone, remember to take your cues from nature. She slows down. She rests. She gets really cozy in a safe little den. She doesn't apologize or feel guilty for this, because Mother Nature embraces the natural tending to - the rest and restoration - necessary for healthy life cycles and re-emergence into abundance in the Spring.
Give the best gifts to your neurodivergent self this season. Give yourself rest, recreation, and joy - in whatever weird and wonderful way you find it.