By Gavin Kiley, NJCTS Youth Advocate
I’m pretty sure that everybody can agree that, as wonderful as it is, the holiday season can be very stressful, and for people with Tourette, more stress means more tics. Over the years I have noticed personally that my tics seem to spike around Christmas and New Years, and it wasn’t until about 3 years ago that my mom and I figured out why.
Of course there is the easy explanation of the excitement for Christmas, which has always been my favorite holiday, but as I looked a little deeper I found that this time of year has a lot of stressors that could definitely be causing my tics to spike. I’m a student, and for me winter break also means the end of the first semester, so at this time every year I have midterms, which obviously cause me a lot of stress; that combined with the aforementioned excitement, little stressors like thinking about gifts to get my friends and family, and the constant stress of having to watch the New York Giants play football every Sunday adds up to create a perfect storm for my tics to go through the roof.
I figure that I’m not the only one going through this, so here are a couple ways that I have found to help me control my tics a little better around the holidays, and a few things that people without TS looking to help a loved one can do to make this time as easy for them as possible. First, I try to take things one day at a time, and what I mean by this is focusing on what I can do in the present, and not what I will have to do in the future. This is a great way to relieve stress while still getting the things I need to do done. The other big thing I do is make sure that I am getting enough sleep. This may seem obvious, but lack of sleep is a serious problem with today’s youth and will definitely cause a rise in stress levels and tics, so making sure to get enough sleep around this time of year is crucial.
For people trying to help loved ones with Tourette’s a great thing to do is just talk to them. Ask them if there is anything specific that is bothering them that you can help with, or if they just want to talk about something with you. The best way to relieve stress is by talking about it, so while it may not seem like it, this makes a huge difference! However the biggest thing you can do is simply just showing them love and respect, and treating them how you would any other person, although I’m sure a nice gift wouldn’t hurt.
Happy Holidays, Gavin Kiley