This time of year can be especially overwhelming for neurodivergent individuals. Take the demands of normal every day life, add in the million extra holiday based activities and compound that with family expectations/guilt. By January 1, my ND crew tends to be teetering on burnout (which is so not the mood that we want to enter into the New Year).
In the past few years, one of the major shifts I’ve had in my own life is learning to take a beat before I commit to anything. While I love joining in the festivities, I’ve also realized that the easiest way to circumvent burnout is to be proactive in my scheduling.
Some questions I ask myself:
Is this activity at the end of an already draining day?
Will I be super anxious and regret saying yes when it’s time to do the activity?
Do I have adequate down time slotted for the week?
Am I saying yes out of obligation or to make someone else happy?
There is a dialectic present here:
Accommodating my needs (in the interest of mental wellness) can be perceived as selfish – in fact it sometimes results in push back from the environment.
It is the most protective action I can take.
As a woman who grew up in the Evangelical south, we are socialized to put our own comfort below the wants (not even needs) of others. We’re given faulty programming and then spend our lives fighting against the critical voice in our heads that grows out of it. The more I learn about my own neurospiciness, I have been able to let go of many of the judgments I placed on myself for not being able to “do life” in the way everyone else around me seemingly does so easy.
The self-compassion guru, Kristin Neff, says that we can activate more compassion by moving from a place of self-judgment to that of self-kindness. This aligns with the dialectical mindfulness skill of Non-judgmental Stance.
When we use negative self-talk, we may think we are motivating ourselves to do better. However, most often judgmental stance just keeps us frozen in loops of old behavior. Critical voice wants us to believe it exists to help us improve, but that is far from the truth. Self judgments tend to be all encompassing – I’m a bad person, I can’t get it together like everyone else, I’ll never be able to _______. When you truly believe those statements at core, you tend to embody them in your actions.
It’s also important to remember that most of our harshest self-judgments are not our “original thoughts.” Someone in our developmental years observed us to be that way, and then taught us we should feel shame for it. In fact many times the things we judge ourselves about the most, are not even things that go against our personal value system.
For example – I would definitely never fault a friend for choosing not to engage in something that they feel would be detrimental to their mental health. It makes sense to show that same level of grace with myself. But that old critical voice would want me to believe that I am a bad person for choosing not to spend the holidays with family. What it comes down to: their value system places obligations over wellness – mine does not.
So as we swing full speed ahead into December, be mindful of where you invest your energy. Find a little time daily to assess your emotional battery, adjust proactively when possible. When you observe guilt, shame, self judgment or critical voice creeping in – check in with your value set. And remember that you are your most value resources, you’re worth taking care of properly.
Stay safe & sane this holiday season guys!
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