Christmas is a time for gathering together family and friends, enjoying delicious food, and celebrating both the traditions and spontaneity that come with the holidays. However, for both children and adults who experience different sensory sensitivities, Christmas can quickly become an uncomfortable or overwhelming time. People can be hypersensitive to sensory inputs; bright lights, too many or loud noises, strong smells and taste aversions, or from increased physical touch. Especially with COVID restrictions this year, 2020 has meant less exposure to large groups, unpleasant sounds, and an increased capacity to control one’s environment (with work and study from home). This can make Christmas a more difficult time, not only for those with sensory sensitivities, but also for those who experience anxiety, or find extended social activities difficult.
While we may not always be fully aware of those around us who have sensory sensitivities, there are various ways to make Christmas gatherings sensory-friendly for everyone;
- A quiet space –ensure people are aware of quieter spaces they can retreat to if Christmas events start to become over-stimulating; such as an outdoor space, or a quiet room to sit and recharge.
- Stretch it out – Try to spread out Christmas activities over multiple days and with clear breaks within and between days for down time, instead of a single jam-packed day with multiple environments, people and situations to adjust to.
- Accept ‘no’ – Even if you’re sure they’ll love a certain tasty food, fun activity or new song, allow others to say no to your requests and engage with Christmas in the ways they’re most comfortable.
- Tell someone – if you, your child, or someone you know has clear triggers or sensitivities, it can be helpful to let a host know beforehand, just as you would if you had an allergy.
Emily Bemmer (M Clin Psych, BSc (Hons – First Class)) is a psychologist who understands the importance of forming a genuine and caring therapeutic relationship and acknowledges the expertise and insight each client brings about their own lives and situation. She acknowledges therapy requires a collaborative and balanced approach, to utilise the warmth and support that sessions provide to explore difficult issues, tackle challenges, and implement strategies to work towards client goals.
Emily’s clinical training and experience has equipped her with skills in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health concerns for adults, children, and families, gaining experience across hospital, private practice, and research settings. Some of the areas she has worked with clients include depression, anxiety, emotional regulation, life transitions, social skills, and family dynamics.
In her work, Emily is committed to the use of evidence-based practices, in a way that is client-centred and modified to increase both engagement and tangible outcomes for clients. Emily is also committed to ongoing professional development through regular supervision, review of psychological literature, and research to ensure her clients receive the highest level of care.
Outside of work. Emily enjoys going for bushwalks, exploring new places, and spending time with friends and family.