My Holiday Hibernation Checklist
I can't be the only one jealous that bears get to spend most of the holidays hibernating in caves. They go sauntering into their caves, easy as they please to nap through blizzards, ice storms, delayed flights, lost luggage, or grief reactions.
According to Britannica.com, "hibernation is a state of greatly reduced metabolic activity and lower body temperature adopted by certain mammals as an adaptation to adverse winter conditions." This magic doesn't happen all by itself. Hibernators prepare their bodies and caves to make it through. "Before entering the hibernation stage, animals generally store fat to help them survive the long winter."
Why should you consider holiday hibernation?
The demands of our cultures, economy, jobs, relationships, and social commitments might seem like normal objective expectations, but they're not. They're just what we know to do. Sometimes we need a break from physical, emotional, and sensory stress.
Fact: Human bodies can only take so much before things start to fall apart.
Fact: AS and other chronic illnesses make everything harder. This means stress and turmoil weigh more heavily on us than for Muggles.
Fact: We're not robots. We're not machines meant to just keep on and on, to keep doing until we wear out.
So I'm just supposed to skip everything?
Maybe, or maybe not. The main goal is to center our wellness in interactions throughout the holiday season.
I'm proposing holiday hibernation as a restorative process and respite from overdoing it. Here are a few things to try.
1. Structure your time to manage exposure to stress and triggers
We all have different bad buttons installed on us based on our experiences. You know what bothers you about the holidays. Maybe it's specific people or situations, anxiety about what AS will allow your body to do, or financial stress. No matter what, it's important to attend to these issues.
2. Manage social media and news
- Consider deleting social media and news apps from your phone or tablet until the holidays have passed.
- Choose one or two specific times to check your accounts, exchange greetings, attend to necessary tasks, and then log out. I don't mean "close all". I mean actually log all the way out. This helps cultivate accountability for our actions.
- Stop scrolling and do something else the moment you feel upset.
3. Prioritize rest, even if it's hard to sleep
- Consider giving yourself an early bedtime.
- Take a nap.
- Block off an hour or two to do absolutely nothing.
4. Plan to protect your mood
- Make a list of safe shows, movies, music, and other activities to see you through the season.
- Catch up on shredding junk mail, cleaning closets, or emptying the junk drawer.
- Exercise, if that's safe for you.
- Visit a local museum, library, or take a day trip.
5. Activate the squad
- Arrange a daily text or call with a trusted friend.
- Write letters or cards to special people.
What helps to keep your holidays manageable?
Other than back pain and fatigue, what is the most common symptom that AS patients experience?