How to Handle the Harrowing Holidays
Can I be honest with you guys today…I mean, extra honest? Cool beans: I hate holidays. Hate them with a passion. They became an inconvenience after my parents divorced because I always have to try fitting in both sides of my family and if I can’t, I used to get the guilt trip for it. It’s even harder now that I’ve been sick with the new addition of my traumatic brain injury. Tack on being on medical leave without a steady income. Oh yeah, it’s been great fun (extreme sarcasm alert).
I’ve read tons of articles on how those with anxiety complications and other health problems handle holiday seasons and I’ve got to admit…some of them are quite funny. Of course, it’s not funny that they are forced to maneuver due to health reasons but at least they are doing it with a sense of humor and that’s always something to look highly on. Some of my favorites include sneaking off to rooms that are just downright laughable.
For example: on one of my support pages that I’m involved with about TBI survivors, we had a lovely discussion on this very topic. How to cope with the overwhelming holiday season. If I may share, one young woman responded with this answer to the question: Q: So what do you do when you feel overwhelmed at a family function? A: “I hide in the bathroom. I just sit there and play on my phone or text people until the coast is clear.” I thought her answer was absolutely perfect. Why is that? Probably because I’ve done the very same thing before as well. I made things even more humorous by adding on: “yeah just hide in the bathroom, they’ll just think you’re taking a while to do your business.” I mean, it works! If you don’t want to deal with anyone, the one place you can be alone would be the restroom.
But in all seriousness, I’d like to list some things that have worked for me during these stressful times of the year. (That sounds horrible, it really does, but for those of you who understand the overwhelming stress that the holidays bring considering you have a chronic illness, you’ll come to see the validity of these methods.
1. On a budget? No problem: Here’s the thing that I believe: I believe that holidays, especially Christmas, is a time where families should not have to break the bank just because they feel obligated to give everyone a gift. To be honest, no person should go through with any action if they feel it’s obligated. It takes away the positive feelings and emotions from giving for doing for another person. So my solution to this would be to make your gift with your hands because doing this means that you personally offered your time and effort into making that gift for them instead of running out and simply buying something for them. This would prove that love went into making the gift. What I did last year for the holidays is I baked for everyone their favorite snack.
2. Limit your stay: I realize this might seem rude to some, however, your health is more important and should come first. If your family doesn’t understand this, then they don’t need to be in your company anyway because that would be disrespectful to you. Those of you who have a chronic illness already know that any type of stress will make your illness or your symptoms 10x worse. It sucks but it’s true. So an easy solution to this problem would be to limit the amount of time you are in a group of people or are in stressful situations.
3. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Going back to what I said earlier, if your family doesn’t understand your illness and what it does to you, then don’t be afraid to tell them why you are acting the way you are. Now please don’t confuse this with having to defend yourself. None of us should have to defend ourselves. What I’m trying to say is that if someone asks you a question about why you need to do a certain action for yourself, then don’t be afraid to tell them. The difference lies in their reaction and their attitude while asking you questions. If they have a poor attitude about it, then don’t waste your time with them. If they disagree with whatever action you choose to take, then again, don’t waste your time with them. Simply go about your business without anyone being the wiser.
4. Don’t allow obligations: As I mentioned earlier in number one, don’t do anything that feels like an obligation because it not only takes away from the action but it’ll put you in a bad mood. And that would be like the Grinch showing up for Christmas dinner. And I’m not just referring to Christmas in this post; I’m referring to any major holiday that families typically gather for. My favorite holiday is Valentine’s Day ❤💋 but my family does not get together for that holiday which is one of the reasons why I love it so much because it’s not stressful. I’m a romantic so this day of the year is my kind of day. Saying all this, it’s important, not only that you make sure you feel well, but that you are in a right state of mind, as in attitude, to attempt being around others.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for a ride: This is one of my favorites because driving is a hit or miss for me. I’m on some strong medications that disallow me to drive sometimes. I feel guilty asking others to pick me up, but it keeps me safe and it keeps everyone else on the road safe as well. One of my medications has a side effect of drowsiness and the last thing I would need is to be drowsy and delirious behind the wheel. That just wouldn’t be smart.
6. Wear ear plugs or sunglasses/welding glasses: I swear by this rule. I have both earplugs and welding glasses, level 5 and level 8, that I wear almost daily. These bad boys have helped manage my migraines countless of times over. Ear plugs on the other hand have done a lot too. The earplugs will help with being overwhelmed with noise that family make. Now depending on your sound sensitivity, you might be able to get away with more noise than others. But I strongly recommend that you do not allow yourself to push your own limits because the last thing that you need is to add on more symptoms to the ones you’re already dealing with. Please refer to the Grinch analogy mentioned above Lol.
7. There’s no shame in staying home. Now, I get it…family expect a lot from you and they would probably consider you to be rude if you completely skipped out of going to a holiday gathering. But this goes back to what I was saying earlier about obligations. If your family is making you feel like you must attend every gathering that they have, then it might be time to think of some other important questions such as: is risking my help worth it? If they are unwilling to understand me, should I even go around them to begin with? What will this cost me both health wise and financially? Is it worth being over-stimulated? What are the pros and cons to attending? If there are more cons than there are pros, your answer should come easily for you.
8. Reward yourself: In the event that you do decide to tackle the family gathering and make it out alive, feel free to reward yourself for putting in the effort and ensuring that your health maintains a top priority. What I mean by rewarding yourself isn’t to go out and spend a bunch of money that you don’t have on stuff that you really don’t need. Without breaking the bank, I mean go out and get yourself an affordable treat for yourself such as: ice cream, a candy bar, your favorite movie, or stuff like that. Spend the rest of the day doing what you like to do best.
9. Pray about it: Honestly, this should have been #1, but my mind tends to race and I have to write the first thing that comes to it otherwise I forget. When you’re faced with a decision whether or not you should attend the family gathering or not, the best thing to do, considering your health and how you feel at the present, would be to pray about it. If you’re really adamant about trying to push through it, then pray that your symptoms will be managed and you won’t feel worse because of any stress that might occur.
10. Utilize your support system: This also goes back with #5 and asking for a ride. if you’re unable to attend the family gathering then ask your caregivers to be your advocate during the event. There have been times that I haven’t been able to attend a holiday meeting and my mother had to be my voice when she met with the family. My family doesn’t like coming to me directly for answers about myself. Instead, they like to go to my mother… for some odd and rude reason. I’ve complained about this before, but this is why #10 can actually be a catch-22. You want to use your support system / caregivers to help with your health, transportation, and to serve as an advocate. However, you don’t want others getting used to going to them to ask questions about you personally. You would rather them come directly to you since their questions pertain to…well, YOU. It only makes sense.
All that being said, this is my list of actions that I take when the holidays come rolling around. Some of these may work for you, others may not, and that’s fine. It’s important that you too what’s best and what works for you individually. However, don’t feel bad and don’t feel guilty because you have to put your health first. Don’t let others give you the guilt trip either. That’s the last thing you need.
Enjoy the holidays the best that you can!
Take care and God bless!😇
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