The Shopping Challenge

Even if you personally choose to avoid certain activities during this time of the year, other people’s participation in their holiday routines may have a big impact on you. Case in point:


When you are autistic, even in the most serene, peaceful circumstances, shopping can

  1. cause a major affront to the sensory system &
  2. provoke anxiety or frustration

Add crowds of people rushing to buy holiday meals and gifts into the equation and those of us who are hypersensitive or have a lot of anxiety  may get headaches, have panic attacks, shut down or eventually burn out.

A few of the things that stress us out are:

  • Figuring out what to give as gifts
  • Figuring out where to buy gifts
  • Dealing with holiday traffic
  • Navigating busy stores
  • Ambient stressors (like flashing lights, lots of noise, the hustle and bustle of the holidays).

Perry’s Story: Shopping is always a challenge for me due to my sensory issues. I find the experience exhausting in the best of circumstances. and impossible during the holidays. I used to feel guilty and wonder how a smart person like me could fail so miserably at a task most people find easy to do. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it’s best for me to let someone else do the shopping and that frees me up to focus my energy on what I do well, like cooking and cleaning. I’ve also gotten very clear on who I decide to give gifts to during this time so I don’t feel overwhelmed. I have 6 people, all in my family that I will either make or purchase gifts online for. That’s it.

Just thinking about it can be incredibly stressful – let alone figuring out how to deal with it all!

So, how do we deal with this?

Here are some tips to avoid overwhelm during holiday shopping.

  • Ask people if they have a preference for gifts that they like to receive.
  • Do some research (online perhaps) to see where you can purchase your gift(s)
  • Do your shopping in the off-hours, after most people have gone home
  • Figure out exactly where you want to go in the store, ahead of time
  • Wear noise canceling headphones to block out sound and send the message that you don’t want to be bothered.
  • Wear sunglasses and/or a hat to block out lights.
  • Shop during early morning or late evening hours and avoid being in stores during lunch hour, after work or the day just before a holiday when the majority of people visit stores.
  • Purchase gifts before or after the holiday season and have them ready in advance.
  • Use your creativity to make thoughtful gifts throughout the year instead of buying them.
  • Know which stores already cause you to feel overwhelmed because of lights, colors, or sounds and avoid these during the holidays.
  • Shop online.
  • Have someone shop on your behalf.
  • Plan to take a nap or make sure you get extra sleep if you need to shop to recover afterwards.
  • Do not schedule other stressful activities during the same day that you shop.
  • Expect that it will take extra time for heavy traffic and waiting in lines. Plan your schedule accordingly.
  • Some traditional holiday foods may be hard to find because they are in high demand. Get these items early and freeze them or plan non-traditional holiday meals that don’t require hard to get items when possible.
  • You do not have to buy gifts for everyone you know. Make a list of a few people that you want to give gifts to instead of shopping for everyone. For those people you would like to acknowledge without spending money on a gift, you can send a card or handwritten note to show your thoughtfulness.

The following worksheet can help you plan your gift shopping. When you have determined what your gift budget is then decide who you want to give gifts to this year and how much to spend on each person.

Gift Planning Worksheet


family, friends, neighbors and colleagues that you might want to buy gifts for this year.

Should I give a gift this year?


Total gift budget?


Maximum amount to spend on each  person (be sure to stay in your overall budget).







































##ActuallyAutistic#Asperger's#Asperger's Syndrome#Aspie#autism#autism spectrum#Autism Spectrum Condition#autistic#coping strategies#holidays#Living Well Holiday Guide

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