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My 5 Holiday Go-To Self-Care Tips

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When I was a little girl, the holiday season was one of such joy and excitement that my inner being could burst with joy. I can vividly remember being a young child eagerly waiting next to my older brother admiring the glow of the Christmas lights on the unwrapped gifts. Not only on the day itself, but it seemed the entire month was one of counting down to the best day of the year. Opening presents, family, food and being off from school! I felt like the excitement overflowed and I couldn’t imagine fast-forwarding to adulthood where a twinge in my stomach now occurs. No. It isn’t one of excitement, but uncertainty. Expectations. Pressure. One may naturally think others put these emotions upon me, but something inside changes every year as the season approaches and a sense of sadness comes along with the anxiety of the day in general.

I could say that being diagnosed with depression and anxiety at 19 and dealing with self-medicating through substance abuse altered my state of excitement, but I distinctly remember a shift in emotions at the age of 13. Nothing traumatic happened, nor did anyone try to ruin my day. But I remember realizing at that age that things change when you get a little older. A little less excitement then there used to be and around this age I started to self-medicate to ease the anxiety I felt not only around the holidays, but year round. Luckily, some habits have been attended to. However, this anxiety (I experience generalized, acute panic attacks and social anxiety) is something I have not quite “learned” to live with, but I manage the best I can, perhaps like many of us do.

I know I’m not the only one who experiences these emotions in adulthood, but sometimes dealing with these diagnoses is still challenging for me and I do wish I could regain that happiness back in a way. However, with that said, I have managed to ultimately accept the feelings I may experience and try to be as best prepared as possible.

Here are some of my personal “go-to’s” in regards to self-care during this holiday season:

1. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not as “merry” this year. As the saying goes, “It’s OK not to be OK.” For some reason this has helped me tremendously when I can remember to say it to myself or write it down on a post-it note.

2. Anxiety doesn’t own you. I know I’ve felt and can still feel like the term “anxious” or “depressed” defines me, but it doesn’t! Yes, I may “have” these disorders, but I don’t have to let it be the only thing that defines me. It makes a person unique and beautiful.

3. Search for memes, watch funny videos, enjoy a movie, play games on your phone: something to make you laugh or engage in a positive manner, even if it feels hard sometimes. Whenever I’m down and feel extremely alone, I know I can turn to funny memes (relatable ones) that don’t make me feel like I’m the only one feeling certain ways.

4. Check in with friends or family. I know this isn’t easy for me. I have terrible phone anxiety, but sometimes reaching out is the hardest part and I know usually when the conversation ends with a good friend or family member, I feel a lot better having had human connection. Luckily, I reconnected with a cousin last year who has very similar thoughts/behaviors/diagnoses and even though “misery loves company,” we have the best time because we understand it’s not self-induced. Despite the days I feel I’ll never survive, I know I can lean on my “person” for support.

5. Have a backup plan for yourself in regards to work events, family gatherings, etc. I try my best to show my face and leave early, if possible (even though I have surprised myself having a good time, while thinking I definitely wouldn’t). I try to charge my phone, keep my medication handy and have an escape route if possible to go and breathe for a bit.

While these may absolutely be altered to suite your individual needs, this is what I have learned so far and for me, acceptance is always first in recognizing and dealing with anything. Once I accepted, “OK Bethany, you may feel sad and that’s OK. It will pass,” I have tried my best to live by this mantra and realize that taking care of myself, whether diagnosed with mental disorders or not, is essential during this time of year.

Am I perfect? Not at all.

But who is anyway?

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Getty image via GizemBDR

Originally published: December 11, 2017
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