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Hacking the Holidays With a Neurospicy (neurodivergent) Brain

By Wendy Ringie


Lean into your neurodiversity when it comes to gifting, instead of letting it add to your stress.


Even if you love to give gifts, the pressure to come up with the “perfect” or even a “suitable” gift can be overwhelming. Part of my own neurospiciness is that as someone with ADHD, I have poor working memory. I long ago accepted the fact that I will not always remember my best friend’s favorite color, or what size pants my partner wears, or what sports team my uncle follows.


My solution has been to keep a Google spreadsheet with this information in it. I also have columns devoted to food sensitivities or texture issues, info on pets/kids/plants babies, fandoms, favorite authors, birth order, zodiac sign, do they care about zodiac signs, scent preferences (floral or musky? Food-based or woody?) and most importantly, DO NOT BUY items. My mother has enough funny coffee mugs, so I have “No more coffee mugs” on her section of “the dossier,” as I like to call it.


Prior to this spreadsheet, I had a ton of notes in my phone’s notes app and it frustrated the hell out of me trying to wade through them. I also have an undying hatred for creating spreadsheets. So this year, I reached out to a friend on the autism spectrum who LOVES spreadsheets and organizing data create it … as her Christmas present to me. In exchange, I’m leaning on my 20 years of retail experience and knowledge of fashion to help her find a couple of holiday outfits that won’t trigger her sensory issues. I even set up a Pinterest board so we can get an idea for potential “looks.” Creativity is an acknowledged ADHD trait, and clothing is my paint! (We’ll go over sensory issues and holiday clothes a little later on.)





Allow yourself, and even schedule, time to reset.


Even the most extroverted person can get easily overstimulated at holiday gatherings, and there can be a lot of them. Allow yourself the grace to take some time to reset, even if it means leaving a party early or excusing yourself to go for a walk around the block after Christmas breakfast with the family, but before presents. And remember, you can always politely, but firmly decline an invitation. Most of my guilt for turning down an invitation or leaving an event early comes from myself, not from the host or guests, so I’m allowing myself the psychological safety to be guilt-free when putting up a time-related boundary.


It’s also not just knowing your boundaries, but also having either one afternoon a week, or at least an hour every day for “downtime.” Having regularly scheduled time to do a hobby or stress-clean or play with your pets is going to help take a huge mental load off and allow you to let go of any masking behaviors. It’s a good habit to get into after the holidays as well.


Two Words: Fidget Toys


Fidget toys make great ways to stim in social situations, come in a huge variety, are inexpensive, and also a great stocking stuffer to ask for, and to give (even neurotypicals like ‘em.) I just got a set off Amazon and I’m already seeing a huge uptick in my ability to be in the moment and present at work after two days. I’m going to bring them to a party this


weekend and see if they help as well in that setting!


If you’re on medication and haven’t researched the side effects with a fine toothed comb, do so now.


Although alcohol interactions are probably what springs to mind immediately, there’s a lot of different ways your meds might be impacted by something you wouldn’t think about, and some side effects that you might have to monitor more closely in different environments. For instance, citric acid stops your body from absorbing stimulant ADHD medications like Ritalin for up to an hour between ingesting citric acid and taking the medication. If you take your pills with breakfast, maybe opt for tea instead of orange juice at the family breakfast.



If you’re on Adderall or something similar, watch your fat intake in the morning, as a high-fat breakfast negatively affects the absorption and effectiveness of these medications. You might eat mostly oatmeal at home, but say you’re meeting your sister at your favorite hometown diner with the fantastic bacon skillet – well, maybe seeing if their huevos rancheros are any good might be the wiser choice, especially if you have More Shit To Do that day. **



Medications for a variety of neurospicy conditions can be affected by heat. A lot of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications interfere with the body’s ability to regulate body temperature.*** Some medications also screw with your sense of thirst, or make you sweat more, or sweat less. If you’re planning a tropical getaway or Vegas vacation for New Year’s, be mindful about heat intolerance and related side effects.



If you have texture-based sensory issues, especially with clothing, plan out your outfits in advance for events to avoid triggers.


My dyspraxia and ADHD make me super-sensitive to texture. I hated my holiday dresses growing up because they were just s


o itchy and stiff most of the time, and I can’t tolerate a collar that’s “too high.” What's too high? I can't articulate it, but I know it when I put it on! Living in Colorado, my dressy wardrobe consists of a lot of jewel-tone colors, scoop necks or v-necks, and stretchy fabric that I can layer (no itchy wool or scratchy sequins! Cardigans and cardigan clips! Footless tights so I can wear cozy socks that match my top!)


My partner is also ADHD and prioritizes comfortable clothes, even around the more formal events. He found out that black jeans can be dressed up for most occasions, and wearing an undershirt when wearing button-ups helps mitigate his sensory issues.


If your clothes cause you distress, you won’t have enough brain power left to function. Remember, it’s more important to feel put together internally than just simply look “put together” externally.


And of course, it’s very punk rock to say “Fuck you” to fashion standards and expectations. So by all means, feel free to use t


hat as an option if you just don’t want to deal with special holiday outfits at all.


Happy holidays, however you choose to celebrate, from this neurospicy punk!



Wendy identifies as a Neurospicy Chaos Goblin who has spent much of her life educating and advocating around neurodiversity issues, queer issues, and intersectional feminism. She was born and raised in Colorado. She currently lives in the suburbs of Denver with her partner, two rescue dachshunds, and more speculative fiction books than she has shelves. When not at home, she can often be found at a punk show, museums, or wrangling her word count (both fictional and factual) over a cup of tea.



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