As the holiday season unfolds, the atmosphere is filled with joy, laughter, and a seemingly endless array of social events. While many eagerly await these festive gatherings, they can be a labyrinth of stress and apprehension for those battling social anxiety. Feeling out of place or overwhelmed by social expectations? You're not alone, and the good news is there are proven strategies to navigate this emotional minefield with grace. Read on for a roadmap to managing social anxiety during the holidays.
Triggers and symptoms of social anxiety during holiday gatherings
The mere thought of attending parties, family gatherings, or even making small talk with strangers can send their anxiety levels soaring for those dealing with social anxiety. But what exactly triggers this anxiety during holiday gatherings? It could be the pressure to meet new people, fear of judgment or criticism, or the overwhelming sensory overload that often accompanies these events. If you cope with social anxiety, it can be helpful to track which settings or factors trigger your anxiety the most. Try to take note of when your anxiety starts up, when it is at its peak, and when it lowers. Try to also notice what happens to your thoughts and your body at these times.
How can we help prepare?
A common trigger for social anxiety is not knowing what to expect at a social event. To cope with this, it may be helpful to have a plan in mind before you arrive at the event. Decide how long you want to stay and what your goals are for the evening. Having a clear plan can help alleviate some of the anxiety and give you a sense of control. Another tip is to bring a trusted friend or family member with you. Having a support person by your side can provide a sense of comfort and help ease your anxiety. Additionally, consider arriving early to the event. This way, you can gradually ease into the social atmosphere and get comfortable before the crowd arrives. Finally, be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. Recognize that social anxiety is a valid condition, and it's okay to prioritize your own well-being.
Seeking support for social anxiety during holiday season
The holiday season can be tough for those with social anxiety, but seeking support can make a world of difference. It is important to lean on friends and family who can support you during these times. They can be a source of comfort during social events and provide a safe space to talk about your feelings. Additionally, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in anxiety disorders. They can provide you with tools and techniques to manage your anxiety and help you develop a personalized coping plan for the holiday season.
Obsessions: they're the fuel to our passions and the monsters under our bed. For some, especially those on the autism spectrum, the line between these two can be incredibly thin. We're about to share a raw and unfiltered perspective from a brave teenager who knows all too well the blessings and curses that come with having an intense special interest. Her experiences serve as an enlightening explanation for us all. So, buckle up as we delve into the complex world of obsession through the eyes of a young girl with autism. Trust me, you won't want to miss this.
For those who are neurotypical — that's 'science speak' for people whose brains work in a way that society considers 'usual' — it can be really tough to grasp what these intense special interests feel like for someone with autism. It's not just 'liking' something; it's a consuming passion that floods your mind and senses. Imagine your favorite song, food, or hobby dialed up to 100—that's closer to what we're talking about.
This brave teenage girl we're about to hear from isn't just giving us a window into her world for the sake of education; she's doing it in the hope that her story will foster greater empathy. She wants us to walk a mile in her shoes, so we can better understand, appreciate, and support those living with autism.
As we wrap up this enlightening journey, it's impossible to ignore the courage it took for this young girl to share her experiences. Often, girls with autism are pushed to the sidelines, their stories untold and their struggles unacknowledged. By stepping into the spotlight, our brave contributor not only gives a voice to these overlooked young women but also challenges our preconceived notions about what autism 'should' look like.
Her story is a powerful reminder that each person with autism is just that—a person. A person with feelings, dreams, and yes, obsessions that might not fit neatly into society's box but are an integral part of who they are. It's high time we all expand our understanding and ramp up our empathy. If we can do that, then this blog post has done its job, and a brave young girl's wish—to help us see the world through her eyes—will have come true.
So, let's keep this conversation going, not just for her, but for all the young people out there who are bravely navigating life on the spectrum. They deserve to be heard, understood, and most importantly, loved for who they are.
Being in a large, noisy crowd can be overwhelming, overstimulating, and intimidating for anyone. Add a sensory processing disorder, and you can understand why some children struggle with going to the Calgary Stampede or other crowded places in the summer.
Since parents want their child to be able to have the same fun experiences as their peers in the summer, the solution does not have to be avoiding these places all together. Here are some tips to make trips to the Stampede more enjoyable for everyone.
Even if the trip does not go as planned, pat yourself on the back for trying and remember that there are lots of other times and places to practice coping with big crowds.
Registered Provisional Psychologist
By signing your child up for camp, parents get some kid-free time while still giving their kids the opportunity to try new things, meet new people, and enjoy their well-deserved break.
Registered Provisional Psychologist
Nowadays we have the news at our fingertips 24/7. We are constantly bombarded with stories about the pandemic, political unrest, the rising cost of living, gun violence, and climate change.
As humans, we are built to keep ourselves safe by being alert of our surroundings. When we hear about something that could cause harm to us or our loved ones, this alertness kicks in to keep us safe from these threats. We tend to keep this alertness and scan our environments for other possible threats.
Here are some ways to combat feeling the effects of this news anxiety cycle:
Finally, reach out for help if you’re overwhelmed. It is normal to feel discouraged or upset by sensational news coverage, but if you’re finding that these emotions are taking over your life, reach out to a mental health professional to support you in finding healthy ways to cope.
Registered Provisional Psychologist
As parents, we want to be able to give solutions and fix problems for our children. Supporting our teens in being social and developing meaningful relationships can improve their possible feelings of loneliness.
Here are some ways to support your teen while they navigate new friendships:
Teens with autism spectrum disorder face challenges in building friendships that their typically developing peers might not face. The suggestions above offer some concrete ways to support your teen in building meaningful, healthy relationships that will make their teenage years enjoyable.
Registered Provisional Psychologist
Emotions can be hard to understand and cope with for anyone, including fully functioning adults. Add being a teenager and having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to that, and emotions can become a completely overwhelming and frustrating part of life.
As parents, we want our children to be happy and healthy. However, when we are unsure of how to support them, it can feel helpless. Here is a list of ways that can help support a teen in understanding and dealing with emotions:
✔️ Offer up new language for naming emotions. Black and white thinking is typical of people with ASD, so it is possible that your teen is lacking the language to share their feelings. Using a mixture of words when talking about feelings can help with this.
✔️ Model emotional expression. If you are feeling happy, describe to your teen what that feels like for you. Saying things like “I am really looking forward to my day today! I have lots of energy and am feeling really comfortable in my body” can give your teens some insight into how they might identify and share this same feeling.
✔️ Share the hard feelings too. Not shying away from talking about harder emotions like sadness, frustration, or anger is important. Normalizing these feelings for your teen will encourage them to open up when they’re not feeling great. Sharing something like “I am worried about how my meeting is going to go at work today. I’m feeling jittery and keep thinking about what could go wrong” can allow your teen to see that ALL emotions are a normal part of life.
✔️ Offer coping strategies that work for you. If you know your teen is struggling, share what helps to calm you down. Keep in mind that different strategies might work better for your teen.
✔️ Be patient when your teen is trying to share their feelings with you. Give them the time and space to reflect on their feelings and access the appropriate words.
✔️ Help them set healthy boundaries with sharing. While helping your teen navigate the world of emotions may be your goal, it is still important to remember that they might be striving for independence in their teenage years. Offer open communication around feelings, but also keep options like journaling or counselling open if your teen does not want to divulge every feeling to their parent.
Emotions are an important and complex part of everyone's life, especially for teenagers with autism spectrum disorder. While it can be difficult for them to understand and express their feelings, it is still crucial that they do so. There are various ways to help teens with ASD manage their emotions, such as through therapy or medication. With the right support, they can learn to cope with their emotions and lead happy, fulfilling lives.
Registered Provisional Psychologist
We all know how important physical health is to keep our bodies going, but mental health is just as important, and many of us overlook its significance.
It's important to work towards a balance between these two sides of your overall health.
Here are 10 reasons you might want to consider when thinking about starting therapy.
✔️ A psychologist will help you make sense of your thoughts and feelings and will help you to work out how your thoughts and feelings affect the way you behave.
✔️ A psychologist will help you identify patterns in your behavior so you can understand your thoughts and actions and how they impact your quality of life.
✔️ A therapist will help you develop coping skills for dealing with stress, anxiety, depression or past trauma.
✔️ A psychologist can help you with your relationships, explore new things, and cope with stress more effectively. Therapy can also help you overcome depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. You may have to try a few therapists before you find one who suits your needs.
✔️ A psychologist will work with you to figure out what goals are most important to you and how to set up a plan to achieve them.
✔️ They can help explore and resolve inner conflicts and work with you on any mental health problems that may be present
✔️ You'll get a better understanding of yourself and the world around you, and learn to appreciate and respect other people's differences.
✔️ A psychologist can help you find a way to cope with difficult feelings and situations.
✔️ The chance to talk about your thoughts and feelings in a safe environment, without fear of judgment.
✔️ The chance to learn new skills and strategies for coping with your feelings or dealing with difficult situations in life
If you are having a hard time and feel like you can't cope with your feelings, talk to someone. It's important to remember that it's not your fault. You aren't alone.
"Go upstairs, get yourself ready, and then we can go to the lake". Sounds easy doesn't it? Some kids (and adults too) struggle with these daily tasks and can quickly get overwhelmed and frustrated at the thought of completing a request like this. And let's not forget it can be frustrating to sound like a broken record on repeat as the person trying to get everything organized. But have you ever tried a visual schedule?
A visual schedule is a sequence of images and/or words that provide a child a clear expectation of what to do for a particular routine or task. It clearly lays out in an easy to follow format, the sequence events are expected to happen, as well as when the activity is over. This type of schedule is great for things like getting dressed, going to school, or using the washroom.
Visual schedules are helpful for a number of reasons, such as helping with transitions, reducing anxiety, increasing independence, and increasing flexibility.
Creating a visual schedule
Remember that this is supposed to be easy and appealing, so creating the schedule with your child is a great idea. You are likely to get a much bigger buy in if they were part of the planning and creating stages. It may get messy but that's half the fun isn't it?
This is also a great opportunity to model how to be flexible when things don't go as planned. Create some spaces in your schedule to allow for the unpredictable moments, use a blank visual or a question mark because some days don't go quite to plan.
Using a visual schedule
There are a few key points to consider when you are using a visual schedule to make it as successful as possible.
The sun sets the night before we have to spring forward 1 hour on our clocks, 1 hour of sleep is instantly lost. Tomorrow is going to be a nightmare as you get used to a switch in time AND deal with the tired & grumpy kids.
But what are some ways we can help them cope with the change? We have some tips to minimize the impact of this annual ritual of skipping forward an hour when spring hits.
Plan the Lead Up
There are a couple of things we like to address here. Firstly, if your child is well rested prior to the change, then they will handle the change much better. With this in mind, try to ensure they are getting sleep in the lead up to the time change.
Secondly, and this may be the biggest suggestion, stage the time change. If it's not absolutely unavoidable, then don't try to have them adjust to a 1 hour change in one brutal hit. Move the clocks a little bit each day in the lead up. 15 mins per day or 30 mins per day is MUCH easier to handle and may even be almost unnoticeable to them. Once the 1st day of the actual change arrives, it will be a piece of cake.
Routine, Routine, Routine
Did we mention routine? It's more important than ever to stick to your regular routine of a bath, reading a book, or whatever you do in your house that sends the signal that bedtime is coming. This routine will help them so that the only thing that changes is the number on the clock.
Don't Be Too Hard on Them
Yes there may be more temper tantrums than normal, more backchat, or more attitude in general. It's important that you take care of your ability to handle the loss of an hour sleep too, grumpy meeting grumpier never ends well for anyone. Keeping the house calm, relaxed and even a little more forgiving than normal will benefit the kids and parents. Pick your battles, is this one even worth participating in? More than likely not