Thanksgiving – sensory treat, or a sensory threat?

Thanksgiving, generally advertised as an opportunity to practice gratitude, spend time with your extended family, maybe eat a bit too much, and then hit the stores for Black Friday.  All your personal values rolled into one long weekend.  Sounds perfect in every way, unless you view this as a sensory torture fest. Thanksgiving: a sensory treat or a sensory threat?

Image result for free picture thanksgivingThis topic of extended time with family members is generally brought up several times a week for the months of November and December.  There is considerable pressure to socialize, eat, shop, and be merry, but this may not be a good match for my client base.  How to navigate the choppy waters?  Here are some tips:

  • What are your values around major holidays and social gatherings?
    • Do you value family time in a group, or 1:1?
    • Do you prefer structured time, such as playing board games, or maybe you prefer competitive debates about politics and such?
    • Do you value solitude, and can manage the energy for only one event a week?
    • Once you know what you value and prefer, you can prioritize these events in your schedule. Let others know ahead of time how you intend to use your holiday time, and gather support for your choices.
  • Consider your values around food, food gatherings, and the socialization of meals.
    • Can you handle people chewing, or the varying textures of the foods?
    • Can you handle someone making your favorite casserole with a new ingredient (nooo!) or do you avoid casseroles all together (gross, food touching!)?
    • Is a noisy meal too much, and if so, can you arrange for a quieter and still meaningful gathering? Do you enjoy cooking and sharing your creations with others?
    • Let your sensory needs and your values guide your decision making. There will be much pressure (Just try one bite! I swear you will love this [insert aversive food here]!) to bend, comply, and meet the standards of others.  You certainly can bend and comply, and that is a valid choice.  You can also assert yourself, based on your needs and values.
  • Consider your values around shopping.
    • Do you live for Black Friday, the thrill of the hunt, and the victory of the special purchase?
    • Do you prefer online shopping?
    • Do you prefer to avoid the entire event, and consider such commercialism an affront?
    • Again, know your values, prioritize your time accordingly.

The holidays can be a lovely time with friends, family, and values guided living.  Alternately, the holidays can be something to “survive” or avoid, especially if your needs don’t match the cultural expectations of your family.  One version sounds filled with meaning and personal connection, and the other version sounds stressful.  There will probably be some bending on both sides of this holiday equation.  Living according to your values will be part of a winning strategy!


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