The holidays can get a little crazy. Whether you’re traveling or people are coming to stay with you, the break in your normal schedule can be especially hard for those of us with mental health issues. It’s more important than ever to up the self-care and stick to a schedule.
For Thanksgiving this year, I did not follow that advice. A lot of family came to stay at our house, and I agreed to dog sit for an ex-coworker. It sounded like a good idea at the time to make some extra money and have a place other than our crowded house to escape to when needed, but the shock to my routine left me out of whack for days after.
It was a busy week at work; we spent Tuesday out celebrating my birthday; I was responsible for the wellbeing of four dogs (one of which refused to come back in the house for more than 24 hours); my family wanted to see me; and I still wanted to tend to my everyday needs of healthy eating, exercise, alone time, and sleep.
The entire week after Thanksgiving felt like I was living in the Twilight Zone. I had trainings at work for the first three days outside of my office, which didn’t help my efforts to get back on track. My body was mad at me, and I could tell. My stomach was off, and I was always exhausted. It took longer than usual to get back to my old self.
So with Christmas and New Year’s just around the corner, I’ve reflected on my mistakes and want to share some holiday survival tips for those of us already worrying about the next few weeks:
- Put yourself first.
No one wants to say this out loud in fear of sounding like a self-centered millennial, but when you take care of yourself, you are a healthier and happier person to be around. Pay attention to how you feel and what you need throughout the chaos. If you need some ginger tea to soothe your stomach as the family drives around looking at neighborhood lights, get yourself some ginger tea. If you need a break during the present opening, excuse yourself quietly and go lay down in a room for a few minutes. If that 30-minute run at the beginning of your day is what keeps you sane, go on that run!
Your family might think you’re high maintenance or rude, but in the end, you know what’s best for you. It’s better that they think you’re a little rude for a half hour than they spend the whole weekend walking on eggshells in fear of your next panic attack. If you’re family knows that you struggle with holiday get-togethers, try to give them a heads-up before the festivities start to avoid any miscommunication.
- Incorporate your normal routine into your holiday schedule.
The days during the holidays can be unpredictable. One day, you’re sitting around the house watching TV and eating cookies. The next, you’re expected to visit family friends, swing by the mall for gift returns, play cards with the grandparents, and still be dressed to impress for a 5 p.m. dinner out with family. To avoid feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts, incorporate aspects of your normal routine into your unpredictable days.
If you exercise everyday, continue to exercise. It may not be at the same time as usual, but that rush of endorphins will help you feel balanced. If you’re used to drinking eight cups of water a day and eating a salad for lunch, continue to do that. You might be a little jealous as everyone around you drinks wine and eats their weight in creamy casseroles, but at the end of the day, you won’t be up all night regretting your decisions. And if you have a bedtime routine that involves reading for ten minutes before bed, read that book! Yes, you may be sharing a room with ten cousins, but that’s what flashlights and phones were made for. Ten minutes of light won’t stop them from snoring, I promise.
- Find downtime.
Holidays can be a lot for people with depression or anxiety. It’s a lot of talking, a lot of running around, a lot of heavy food, and a lot of unpredictable excitement. Participate in the activities and enjoy yourself as you celebrate with family and friends, but also allow yourself some needed downtime. Go to bed an hour earlier than others. Volunteer to run to the grocery for that last ingredient Mom forgot. Plan to head home a day earlier than needed so you can decompress at home before diving back into real life.
Whatever method you use, find some time before, during, and after the holidays to reflect and breathe. Be thankful for the gifts of the holiday season, and be thankful that you know how to survive them!
Let me know if these tips work for you this holiday season. Comment below with your holiday plans, and be sure to follow Anxious Abroad in the New Year!