This post is a part of Nicole Carman’s mental health-related holiday post series, “Taking Care of your Mental Health during the Holiday Season.” It was written and contributed to this post series by Megan, who is a mental health advocate, Social Worker, and avid Netflixer. She loves cats, too, which is fantastic, since cats are great!
To see the post line-up for the previous and remaining posts in this series, please visit this page on Nicole’s blog, Navigating Darkness. If you enjoy this post, please comment and consider sharing it on social media!
Well here you are. The turkey is placed on the table, the side dishes are all uncovered and your stomach is starting to get grumbly. You can finally take a deep breath and relax……but will you?
Holidays are some of the toughest times. There’s so much to do: cooking, cleaning, shopping, visiting, but we often forget about the most important thing: taking care of ourselves.
I don’t know about you, but I’m obsessed with the idea of perfect, but perfect is not obsessed with the idea of me. I make mistakes like “oh the pumpkin pie is burnt on the corner” or “I forgot the green beans.” I think these little mistakes are going to be holiday ruining, but most times they go unnoticed. Or I’ve had Thanksgiving dinners where the fighting is non-stop. Fighting over politics, over the meal, over anything and everything. Those are equally not as fun. If possible, you should try to take a little bit of time for yourself.
Here are some tips that I personally use:
1. Excuse yourself from a toxic situation
When things have gotten heated at my family thanksgivings, I like to excuse myself and go to a different room for a few minutes. This gives me some time to calm down, cool off and not engage. I’ve found saying that you have to use the restroom works. Then you can splash water on your face or reach out to a friend on your phone.
2. Contact a trusted and safe person
I like to send out texts during my emotionally moments. It helps me to have a friend tell me that it’s going to be okay or even setting up a time later in the day to vent about what happened if they’re not immediately available to talk.
If you find yourself unsure of who to reach out to, you are always welcome to send a DM to the incredible people at @MHCrisisAngels on Twitter.
Sometimes we can’t physically leave a situation for whatever reason. When this happens to me I like to “meditate.” I particularly like the 4, 7, 8 method:
Step 1: Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
Step 2: Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
Step 3: Hold your breath for a count of seven.
Step 4: Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
I also like the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique. This asks you to identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
You made it through dinner! Now what?
So now that you’ve made it through dinner, you’re free but still feeling worked up, or angry or anxious. What now? Well, here’s where you can use any of the coping skills or self-care tricks that you already use!
I’m a big fan of bath bombs. You can usually find pretty cheap ones at your local dollar store. Give me a bath bomb and some of my favorite music and I’m good to go. I also find that re-watching one of my favorite movies on Netflix helps me a lot. I really like (don’t laugh) the Runaway Bride with David Tennant, and Penelope. They may seem dumb to some people, but you don’t need to justify your self-care to anyone. If it works for you, then it’s good.
As November turns into December and the holidays continue, I hope that you’ll remember these tips for having to interact with your family and the aftercare. Remember, the holidays are supposed to be about spending time with your loved ones and celebrating honored religious traditions (if you celebrate). Go easy on yourself if it isn’t perfect or the way you envisioned it. It will be okay.