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What I Keep in My Holiday Survival Kit as Someone With Dysautonomia

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Everybody knows the holidays can be a stressful time for anyone, but especially for those with chronic illness, mental illness, disability and more. For us, the holidays can mean chaos for our bodies and minds with little time to rest and recover.

For people who know me, I carry around a backpack everywhere I go every day. I found a backpack to be the most convenient way to bring everything I need with me for an entire day, and having two straps to distribute the weight is an added bonus!

woman's backpack filled with essentials for managing dysautonomia

When it comes time for the holidays the items in my bag increase in number and they vary depending on what I have planned for the day. One thing is for sure though, without my trusty backpack I would not make it through any given day, let alone the holiday season! Today I want to share with you what I put in my “Survival Kit” and give you some ideas that you may want to add to yours.
These items keep me both mentally and physically under control during the holiday season:

  • Cell phone – to be able to contact people or listen to music
  • Journal – be sure to include something colorful to write with!
  • A book – if you enjoy reading
  • Earbuds or headphones – for listening to music
  • Gloves and fuzzy socks – to stay warm and comfy
  • Sleeping eye mask – for being able to take a nap if you need to, or block out light in case of a migraine
  • A fidget toy or small stuffed animal – can be useful for staying grounded and for distraction from self-destructive behaviors
  • Blanket – for lounging at someone else’s house or if you’re just feeling a little chilly. I have found blankets to be a huge source of comfort and security for me.
  • Extra medications – you never know if you’ll get stuck somewhere or if you forget a dose
  • A list of people to call in a time of need – it might be a list of friends, doctors, therapists, family members or whoever you may need to contact in a time of crisis
  • Water bottle – staying hydrated is soooo important in how we feel, I take a water bottle everywhere I go! I like having the comfort of drinking from my own water bottle from home, and it is nice and convenient to refill wherever you go!
  • Tea bags – I keep tea bags with me because they are small, light and they taste great! I like to keep tea bags with me in case I’m feeling under the weather or I’m just tired of drinking plain water.
  • Pictures of people and things I love – if I’m having a panic attack or I’m just feeling too overwhelmed, I find it nice to be able to scroll through pictures on my phone of my dog and family and friends! It helps me remember the good things in my life.
  • Salt shaker and glucose tablets – as someone with dysautonomia I keep a salt shaker and glucose tablets in my bag with me at all times! I can’t even count the number of times it has saved me when my blood sugar drops too low or I haven’t had enough sodium in my diet to keep my POTS under control.
  • Essential oils – lavender and peppermint to help cope with indigestion and migraines, along with other aches and pains. Lavender also helps me in times of high anxiety with its calming scent.
  • An escape plan or safe word – something my therapist and I developed last year as a coping tool for my anxiety at family events. I love my family and wouldn’t trade them for the world, but sometimes I get overwhelmed by the sights and sounds and chaos of getting together. This is when my “safe word” comes into play. When I start to feel overwhelmed I can just tell my parent my safe word, which is usually “I’ll be back” or I will sign “break,” and then my parent or whoever I’m with knows I’m just stepping out to ground myself and bring myself down to a calmer state of mind. It saves us from confusion and overstimulating uncomfortable moments.
  • Candy or snacks – I feel like this one will vary from person to person. I like to keep snacks with me all the time. It prevents blood sugar crashes and POTS episodes. I like to bring some of my comfort and go-to snacks with me when I go places so I’m not out and about scrambling to find something that won’t upset my digestive system. Most of my life revolves around food in some way, shape or form, so for me having snacks in my kit is a no-brainer.

This is what I keep in my bag most of the time, but especially during the holidays! Without these items I would struggle to cope with myself mentally and physically. It has also made me more confident when it comes to my anxiety of having health issues in public because I know I have the tools with me to get through it. Hopefully you all will find some of these items helpful for surviving the holiday season! Sending extra spoons everyone’s way!!

Happy holidays,


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Originally published: November 13, 2017
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