Saturday, 12 December 2015

The anxious dyspraxic guide to Christmas chaos

With the festive season being in full swing I thought I would write a blog to offer some advice for people with dyspraxia and/or anxiety or people who may simply find the festive season a little overwhelming. As with all of my blogs, everyone with dyspraxia is different so not everyone will find everything I talk about challenging. Plus I thought it would be good to write myself some advice to follow myself which I hope I can follow.

 I think it's important to go at your own pace and not compare yourself to others. Set yourself little challenges which are manageable for you and be proud of yourself for achieving them, keep going you can do this! Most importantly as well as being kind to others be kind to yourself- you're trying your best and that's enough and enjoy spending time with your loved ones.

1. Crowds and busy places: At this time of year places are a lot busier than normal, bars, restaurants, transport. Crowds can be overwhelming at the best of times if you struggle with anxiety or sensory overload. Finding the right time to go to places can be helpful and avoiding the busiest of times. Go to places where you feel comfortable going and take 5 minutes out if it all gets too much and do some deep breathing exercises. Having understanding company with you can be really helpful too.

2. Shopping: The thought of going into crowded shops can be chaotic especially if spatial awareness is a difficulty, again lots of people trying to fit into not much space, whilst having to navigate yourself round all the fancy sales displays not to send them all flying, or other customers flying. Then there's trying to carry everyone's gifts without dropping them. Again I'd say choose your times wisely, write a list of what you need, who for and what shops you need beforehand and choose shops you know well and don't do too much. If it all gets a bit too much find some space for a breather. Take bags with you which you find easy to hold and always remember there's the internet to shop too.

3. Public transport: Everyone needs to be somewhere at Christmas and public transport can resemble people packed in like sardines. My dyspraxia can make travelling on public transport difficult (blog to follow more about this.) Having music as a distraction can help with anxiety and having a friend with you to help travelling in busy times can make life a little bit easier.

4. The works do/Christmas party: As someone who struggles with social anxiety and  socialising in big groups of people these are the kind of events are quite a big deal for me. I always end up worrying I'll say or do the wrong thing, accidentally spill my drink or get food round me or not be able to process all the conversations going on at once. Sitting next to someone who understands can really help so you can let them know if you need to go out for a few minutes or to offer a little bit of encouragement. Try not to beat yourself up and be hard on yourself.

5. Wrapping gifts/writing cards: My dyspraixic wrapping skills have less to be desired for, my non dyspraxic (well to his knowledge) boyfriend seems to find it even harder than me, so it can be a mess of paper, sellotape and a various assortment of bows and ribbon everywhere. I think it's important to remember it's the thought that counts, my family know that they will never get perfectly wrapped gifts nor neat handwriting in their cards, but the carefully chosen gifts inside and the messages inside the cards them make more than happy. A lot of stores offer free gift wrapping services and if it makes you feel more confident use a computer to write your cards.

6. Change of routine: For some people a change of routine around Christmas can be difficult and overwhelming, if it is try and do it slowly and in little steps so you can get used to the changes.

7. Tiredness and fatigue: with all that rushing around and our brains having to process the world around us 10x harder on any day, it can be really easy to feel especially more tired and struggle with fatigue at this time of year. Be kind to your body, look after yourself and make time to relax and unwind.

8.Low mood: For some people whatever time of year can be a struggle Christmas regardless, if you are going through a difficult time this Christmas for whatever reason always remember you're not alone and there will always be a listening ear.

9. Christmas dinner: If you struggle with fine motor skills the thought of having to cut up various meats, preparing vegetables and trying not to spill gravy all over yourself and your clothes can be a challenge, especially when in company. I've yet to master the not spilling gravy, and I still struggle cutting up tough food, I always think it's the enjoyment of eating the food that counts, clothing can always be washed or make a quick dash to get some kitchen roll.

10. If you're a friend or loved one who knows someone who struggles with any of the above one of the best things you can do is have an open mind and be empathetic. Talk to them about the best ways you can help, the little things can make a huge difference not just at Christmas but all year round.

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