The holiday's can be a challenging time for many people with all sorts of illness, disabilities or impairments. This post comes from my experience of living with physical chronic illnesses. I also write from having lived experience of having difficulties with my mental health and on top of that also having autism. So with a combination of all those things Christmas and New Year poses many challenges for many different reasons both physically and emotionally.
Here are some of the things I find help me cope with the Christmas and New Year period that I feel might help others too:
Ensuring you have enough medication & medical supplies
Making a schedule
From when I was in hospital I developed with the Occasional Therapist a 'Daily Plan' which is a schedule for my day with set times for rest, activity, meals, physio etc. I normally keep to this as much as possible with the odd adjustments which I'll do for the holidays. You may already have something like this, or you may already have a calendar, planner or diary or you may want to create a document on your computer specifically for the Christmas and New Year period.
On this I'd suggest putting on your schedule events that you are going on that you are going to such as Christmas dinner, games night, when you'll have or go and see friends and family, when you'll be opening presents etc. From there you can then plan rest periods, time to yourself, when you get washing and dressed etc - whatever is relevant to you and what you need to plan for to help manage your symptoms.
I've also made a timetable for Christmas card and gift wrapping and what needs positing to help me keep on track but also to pace myself with this activity and also to ensure that I've got everyone's gifts and that I also don't forget to wrap something.
Make yourself a safe space where you can retreat to for time-out
For me this is my bedroom and I find having a place to retreat to when I need to rest, or I'm in need of somewhere calm or familiar really helpful for my mental health. It's my 'safe zone'. (Unfortunately I'm unable to build myself a blanket fort as in the picture I chose.)
You might want to add things your safe space such s things that you find comforting or calming such as creating yourself a self-care box*.
Having a safe space of place set aside can really help you emotionally as it's a place to retreat to when things become overwhelming for example or you're just needing some self-care space and alone time away from hubbub of the house.
* Link it to a blog post I wrote with a list of 30 things to put into a self-care box
Knowing it's okay to sit out of events
Often you can feel like your missing out if you don't attend certain events. If you know what events are happening you can prioritise and plan which ones you can attend and with your schedule you can plan things like saving up your energy levels or ability to eat. or manage any other symptoms that you experience. Also know that for some events there is always next year.
Try not to feel guilty or rude for not attending particular events; it is an act of self-care and it allows to to pace yourself out to get through the holidays.
Noise cancelling ear plugs/headphones
Make a list of coping techniques
Coping techniques are different for each person and what may work for one person may not feel beneficial to someone else.
Some of the coping techniques I find help me are:
- Planning ahead
- Making 'Now & Next' plans
- Engaging in self-care
- Setting boundaries
- Taking time out
- Using the 5 Senses technique
- Breathing exercises
- Spend time being creative
- Being gentle, patient and generous with myself
- Listening to music
- Telling myself that whatever I'm experiencing/feeling will pass
- Taking time away from social media/technology