Home » Blogs » Divergent Thinkers: Asperger's, NLD & More » 10 Ways Neurodiverse People Can Survive and Thrive During The Holidays

10 Ways Neurodiverse People Can Survive and Thrive During The Holidays

There’s pressure on everyone during the holidays and that pressure can be stressful. It’s like “be happy or else,” which doesn’t work for anyone. Here’s some ideas for having holidays go well, for yourself, your spouse or your child:

  1. Be realistic and meet your basic needs – time alone, structure, whatever keeps you balanced.
  2. If you are staying with family or other hosts, it’s a good time to self advocate in a positive way.  Use a positive statement “I really enjoy being here” (if that’s the case) or “I appreciate your having me” and then follow it by your need “I just want you to understand I’ll need to take some breaks”.
  3. Find ways that work to handle holiday social demands. Identify a few people you can talk to and find a moment when they’re alone or there’s a lull in conversation to say hello and happy holidays. Don’t try to be mega-social if you’re not.
  4. Listen and use body language like nodding if you are stuck in a social situation. You don’t need to worry about the right thing to say; people appreciate feeling someone is interested.
  5. Excuse yourself if you need to leave, don’t just walk out. Find someone to whom you can say, “I’ll be back.” It will also remind you that you’re connected to someone.
  6. If something is a sensory overload (noise, lights, etc) take care of yourself. High five rather than hug, steer clear of that pine-scented candle, go to the room where there’s the least noise.
  7. Be authentic, but remember that it’s best to just say what’s positive. If you get a present you hate, just say thank you. You don’t have to say you love it. Whoever gave it might not understand what you want, but he or she did think of you.
  8. Reach out to those who understand – you want to feel connected during the holidays too. Whether it’s someone there, someone you can text or online, let yourself reach out.
  9. Use what helps you self-calm. If you meditate, this is a good time to be regular, even twice a day, and use the meditation techniques for a minute when you start to get irritated. If pressure helps, have something available to use.
  10. Think of something you enjoy and fit it in – listening to some music you really like, watching a movie, going for a walk at sunset. If things aren’t perfect, remember you’re not alone in feeling that way. Many people struggle between the expectations of jolly holidays and the reality, both neurodiverse and neurotypical. Notice what you can feel good about and take a moment to enjoy.


Photo by Thomas Rousing Photography


10 Ways Neurodiverse People Can Survive and Thrive During The Holidays

Marcia Eckerd, Ph.D.

Psychologist since 1985, serving on CT ASD Advisory Council, Professional Board SmartkidswithLD

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Eckerd, M. (2018). 10 Ways Neurodiverse People Can Survive and Thrive During The Holidays. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 10, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Dec 2018
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.