This is my 6th year being sick at Christmas. My family isn’t religious, nor are we strict with traditions. Luckily because we’re so chill, being sick at Christmas hasn’t been as detrimental to me as it is to some people. I’ve had plenty of time to think about what it’s like being sick at this time, so I thought I’d share a few of the things I do. Maybe someone else will find them helpful.
1. Cope Ahead
This is one of my most used skills. Coping ahead is figuring out what vulnerabilities you might face and planning how you’re going to deal with them. For me, just being at home is a vulnerability because it’s where I became most ill. This puts me at a higher risk for using behaviors like cutting, etc. This year I made a plan with my therapist to reach out to a friend and just say hi every single time I get an urge. Another vulnerability for me is not having food that I enjoy eating. When I don’t have my favorite foods on hand I end up not eating anything at all. So I coped ahead by preparing a grocery list and going shopping right when I got home. I use coping ahead for just about anything that might require it. It really helps to avoid crises.
2. Know Yourself
This one is hard and takes time to figure out, but once you do it’s a gold mine. Know yourself- know what you need, what you like, what you dislike. Know what makes you giddy, what brings out the holiday spirit in you. And then use that to your advantage. I love christmas lights so I make sure there are plenty around the house. I love to wrap presents, so I make a fun activity out of it with time to myself and some good music. I also love to bake, so this year I picked out a few recipes to tackle and have been baking the past few days! When I do these sorts of things that I know are important to me and bring me joy, I’m better able to enjoy the season and get the most out of it.
3. Self Care
Ah self care, perhaps the hardest skill to start using. But man is it great once you can start. Self care is like the Parks&Rec TREAT YO’SELF. It’s doing little things to pamper yourself as a way of building self love and positive emotions. I know what you’re thinking but I promise, you DO deserve it. Treat yourself to a little something every day. Some of my go-tos: paint your nails, light a candle, have some hot chocolate, watch a new episode of your favorite show. This is a great one for the holidays when stress runs high but also for the rest of the year. The more you do these things the better you’ll feel in general and about your worth as a person. I swear it.
4. MAKE Some Alone Time (if you need it)
I am one of those people that needs about half my time to be spent alone in order to remain sane and a decently nice person. Not everyone is this way, but if you are it is SUPER important for you to schedule yourself some alone time. The holidays are notoriously the worst for alone-timers. With family members constantly up your ass, it may seem hard to get time to yourself. I don’t care how hard it is, honestly, just fucking do it. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be miserable and taking it out on everyone else if you don’t. There is no shame in needing to step out to recharge. Sit with a book in the morning or evening when the house is quiet. Take a long shower. Say you’re working on a gift if you need to. Take a nap. Seize any excuse you can to be alone- this will help you recharge so you can enjoy being social. This is what works for me, anyway.
5. Respect Your Limits
This one is especially directed to the eating disordered folk out there. We all know you can’t recover overnight, so there’s no need to try to. Try your best to be healthy and whatnot, but don’t feel like you have to be constantly outside your comfort zone. The holidays are stressful enough as it is. There’s a ton of food and sweets which can be very triggering. Don’t listen to your ED voice, of course, but you also don’t have to listen to your hardcore Recovery Voice either. Listen to your “I’m Managing” Voice, I guess. Maybe you’re not comfortable eating a handful of cookies, so eat 1 and call it a day. You don’t have to be a Recovery Warrior 24/7. You are allowed to be just a normal person trying to do your best. Aren’t we all? For example, meat kind of throws me off a bit (old ED rules). Instead of going all meat crazy and eating it 3 times a day, I just stick to eating the meat that my parents make for dinner. I’m not restricting all the way, but I’m also not striving for valiant perfection.
6. Take It Or Leave It
Maybe these tips work for you, maybe they don’t. Don’t know till you try. I wish you all the best of luck in getting through this season with minimal damage.
Much love to all you super-humans out there,