Holiday Survival: How to Take Care of Yourself

The time of this posting is the morning of 19 November 2012.  In the United States, we are on the verge of the Thanksgiving Day holiday, the start of the season of The Holidays. 

The holiday season can be especially cruel to those who are not in a "holiday mood" -- such as those dealing with depression or grief.  For those whose grief is new and raw, the holiday season becomes a marathon of feeling misplaced, forgotten, pained.  It becomes a question of survival. 

If the holidays loom fearfully before you, I offer this.  They are just a number of days.  You survive one day at a time by taking care of yourself.  I put together this list of tips some years ago after my mother passed away suddenly.  I offer it to you.
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1.) Eat.  You may not be able to taste it, but the tissues do need nutrients.  Think simple.  Think comfort.

2.) Try to lie down for at least six hours a day.  Do it in a series of cat-naps if you want.  You may not be able to sleep.  When your body needs sleep, your body will sleep.  But being horizontal helps even if you're not sleeping.  Try not to *try* too hard to sleep.

3.) Breathe all the way out occasionally.  Breathe all the way in occasionally too.

4.) Relax you jaw muscles.  Lower your shoulders.  Lift your eyes to the horizon.  Unclench your hands and toes.  If you can do those things, much of the rest of  you might relax too.

5.) Drink a little water or juice sometimes even if you aren't eating.  Stress (and crying!) is dehydrating.  And being dehydrated adds to the stress.

6.) If you normally bathe, consider taking a shower instead; if you normally shower, consider taking a bath.  Weird, but outlook-changing.  Likewise, if you always put on your left shoe first, do the right one first today.  Try it.

7.) Comfort-dress.  Put on your most comfortable clothes, even if the colors don't match.  Your most comfortable condition of dress (or undress).

8.) Try a new brand of . . . tea, coffee, breakfast cereal, after-shave, soap, hair gel, whatever.

9.) Make some time that is you time. Then, practice *not* feeling guilty about stealing that hour from your many other responsibilities.  Here are some ideas:  A.) Sometimes I go to the library after work and read the funny parts in a couple of the periodicals I don't subscribe to (I mean, why subscribe if all I read are one column and the cartoons?).  B.) Go somewhere comfortable and anonymous (Library, park bench, a bench at the mall...) and either pull out your phone and pretend to talk to someone (like those we have lost?) or pull out a book or magazine and pretend to read.  Nobody will bother you!

10.) I hate to say it, but exercise does help.  Even if it is just flexing  your ankles while lying on your back, it can get the lymph pumping.  (I have recently discovered that some park benches are high enough to kick my feet like a little child -- gentle exercise and "it takes me back ... ")  Gentle  walks ... on up to long aerobic workouts ... it's all okay.  Don't get down on yourself for not doing *more*.

11.) Find a piece of nature you can enjoy, even if for just a few minutes:  an all-day hike in the pristine mountains; an afternoon near the  surf-sprayed tide pool rocks; a detour into and then out of the  florist's shop (the air is so great in there!); a peek into  the pet store just to watch the baby whatevers crawl over each other.

12.) Write.  Some write in a journal.  I sometimes write "letters" to those whom I have lost.  Mostly I guess my grief writing is in the form of posts to alt.support.grief.

[Notice: the above recommendations are based on personal experience.  I am not any of the following: doctor, lawyer,psychologist, counselor, traveling salesman, or multilevel marketer.Permission is granted (Yes! Do! That's what it's for!) to use all or part of this document to help anyone dealing with grief.]

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