Dyslexia counselling - Getting through the holidays
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Pennie Aston - SPECIALIST DYSLEXIA COUNSELLOR - MSc NCS (Acc) MBACP (Registered)
5th December, 20140 Comments
At this time of year, there can be lots to get excited about. There's a break coming; time to be with the family, presents to buy, food to prepare and work to be juggled as well. For the Dyslexic Aware Counsellor (DAC), there will also be the need to understand how demanding this period can be for their neurodiverse (ND) clients. With that in mind, this is a short exploration of things that may help.
Dealing with anxiety
ND people are sometimes more anxious than convergent thinkers. All the things that need to be done tend to be held in the mind all the time. Like wearing a cap of ping pong balls on springs. Each one with its own visual connections. As you can imagine this can be very exhausting. Things that can help are:
Because we tend to ruminate on things a good idea is to list, list, list. What needs to be done? How long will it take? When does it need to be done by? Crossing out things as they are done is also enormously satisfying.
Always, always carry a note book to write things down as they come into your head. That way the ideas won't float away leaving you kicking yourself for being so forgetful, which in turn can make you very anxious about what you'll forget next.
How many times have you written cards only to find that either the spelling is wrong or you've made a mistake. Use one of those brilliant erasable pens which come in a myriad of spectacular colours. Just remember they work on friction so don't leave anything you've written too long in the sun.
Have a calendar on display so you can see at a glance what you have to do, day by day. Even better, use your creativeness to make a mind map of what you need to do and when. ND people are not great with time so having a visual reminder helps.
Even the most organised ND person can feel overwhelmed by thoughts, events, stimulation, directions and instructions - so be gentle with yourself. Your wonderful mind needs time to organise all the visual information and external stimuli it's subjected to.
Where can you find a safe space to be on your own for a few minutes? Even if it's a loo break it can be enough to just centre yourself and breathe. Holding a little two-minute sand timer and watching the sand trickle through can help you remain mindful of the present.
Before you run off at even the thought of organisation, remember that anxiety is often caused by the lack of it. So it's worth putting a bit of effort in here. As with dealing with anxiety your lists, maps and calendars will be enormously helpful.
Colour code things
This reduces the need to read as you will see at a glance where it belongs by its colour. Use a highlighter for the best results.
Keep different things that need to be dealt with in different coloured folders. Maybe Blue for Monday, Yellow for Tuesday etc.
Work out a realistic amount of time for doing tasks. Keep away from assuming you will be able to fit everything in. Work it out, because the likelihood is if you have packed too much in you will get anxious that you won't get everything done.
Use post-it notes to gauge what is involved with a project. Put one on the floor for the beginning and another for the end. Then write post-its for everything you will need to do in between to achieve completion. That will help you visualise the process each step of the way.
Strange one but get dressed first. So many potter around doing bits and pieces before they get dressed and then panic when they realise they've run out of time.
Pack your bag/briefcase the night before
If you have an appointment the next day, pack everything you need in advance and put it by the front door. That way, if your mind wanders off, and as you're dressed anyway, all you have to do is grab your bag and run.
Many ND people, because they think in 3D, can find it difficult to follow instructions and directions. After all which way is 'up' when you can move things around in your head any which way. If you can, check out your route prior to the day you need to go to your appointment. That way you will reduce your anxiety about getting there on time as the sat nav in your head will have had time to make sense of where the location is.
ND people often don't realise how susceptible they can be to other people's emotions. It's like they're made of emotional blotting paper. It also means that there is often a great gift of intuition. Their visual processing and ability to sense what's going on and how people are feeling can be a great attribute for a vicar, policeman, nurse and counsellor. It can also be pretty exhausting when everyone's around and you are the one pulling it all together.
Share the load
There can be a tendency to control everything so it is just right. Stop and think, "is it worth the hassle". Could someone else do it or at least help with it?
Yes, you may have great insight but that doesn't mean everyone else has. Remember to ask if you need help and don't be frightened to say "this is a bit overwhelming for me - can you take over for a bit?"
It can be difficult to follow lots of people talking at the same time. If others are not ND they may not realise how demanding this can be on you. If you're following the best you can and lose track just say, "I'm a bit lost. Can we recap?" Most people won't mind and, if they do, what does that say of them?
Making a mess
You may either be the culprit or the creator! Have some empathy and understanding. Say sorry (and mean it) if you have unknowingly left the breakfast dishes, newspaper liberally spread with marmalade and wandered away with your cup of coffee. Do your best to remind yourself to clear up after yourself - towels, socks etc. It can be infuriating for a non-ND spouse to be cleaning up all the time and often this behaviour is interpreted as deliberate and designed to infuriate. It is often not intended as such and your resident Einstein is probably thinking of a zillion other things that have taken priority.
With regard to the above the best way to minimise arguments it to talk about it. So easy to say but how often does passive aggression, tiredness and just plain irritation turn in to full-scale war about many other unspoken misdemeanours. ND people can be forgetful, disorganised, find it hard to find the right words, get lost in conversations, not be able to take too much stimuli and find it hard to show their emotions. They can also be wonderfully creative, attractively quirky, very imaginative and super intuitive. Look for the things that attracted you in the first place and, from both points of view - talk.
You've used all the tips above. You've got the tree, the shopping is done, the presents are wrapped. Work is finished for a while. The house may be full but you still manage to create a two-minute 'loo' break to centre yourself. You've learnt to ask others to do their bit and also how they can help you. As an ND person, it can be hard to relax so remember to balance the chaos with some creativity for yourself. Listening to music, painting, creating a collage. When you feel you might be about to short circuit, take a deep breath. You've come this far. All will be well.
Have yourselves a very merry Christmas and see you on the other side.
About the author
Pennie is a counsellor who specialises in the emotional repercussions of dyslexia. She is dyslexic herself and has raised a dyslexic family who are now in their twenties. Fully appreciating how dyslexia can impact on all areas of life, in 2007 she set up the charity GroOops to support those with an assessment of dyslexia.
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