The holidays can be really difficult for some people with more visitors, different routines and a variety of situations that can be quite stressful. I know I find it difficult to go back home sometimes. At uni, I live by myself in a little flat. But for the holidays, I go home to my parent’s house. This means I have to adapt slightly to both their routines and the holiday festivities. It isn’t always easy but I have some tips to help navigate some situations that are common over the season.
Tip One: Socialising
I’m quite introverted by nature – I’m not the most chatty and I like to recharge by being alone. The holidays can be busy – Christmas, New Year, and birthdays too – and therefore tiring because it involves a lot of socialising. Being shy has meant I find conversation sometimes hard, and having a hearing impairment also means my brain is constantly trying to keep up with all the speech around me.
To combat this, I try to gravitate towards people I know who will take the lead in conversations when I feel a bit more tired. They’re happy to talk about what they’ve been up to instead of asking questions directed at me. You may find this might be someone closer to your age – a cousin or sibling perhaps. Failing that, I go towards the person I’m closest with. In my case, it’s my parents. I know I could sit in silence next to them quite comfortably. This gives me some quieter time within the social setting.
I also like to make sure I have my own space that feels familiar. My bedroom is a memorial to my childhood – the same bed, wardrobe, bookshelf. And I like to bring with me a few favourite items I have in my own flat. My teddy bear is one. By having a space that is mine, it means when I get the time to recharge, I truly do. I have the comfort of my space with items that make me feel safe and happy.
Tip Two: Change of Routine
With different trips and people visiting, your sleeping routine might be changed and your plans might alter. And this can be stressful. To navigate this, I like to ask my parents what the rough plan is for the following day. Are we at home? If we are going out, where and how long for? Who will be there? This helps me to prepare myself mentally and it takes away the stress of the unknown. This can also enable me to make a choice. If my parents say we are going to go out for breakfast, I might suggest I stay at home because I’ve felt tired and could do with prioritising some more sleep instead. This avoids any last-minute arguments, changes of plans and (unnecessarily) waking up earlier!
I also like to let my parents know my plans so that we can figure out how each day will work best for everyone. It’s a two-way street and they’ll be grateful I’ve let them know in time that I’m off to see a friend before they make arrangements.
I also try to stick as closely to my usual routine as possible: showering in the morning still, doing some uni work, and having meals at a similar time. This helps me to know what to expect as well and gives me a sense of control over my own choices. Not everything has to change. I also try to stick to a regular bedtime routine – making sure I get enough sleep and I am ready for the next day.
Tip Three: Food
Living by myself means I’m solely responsible for the food I have and when I eat. At home and over the festive season, I am more likely to eat food prepared by other people and at different times too. To help with this, I try to contribute. In the way that other family members might bring some food to a party, I like to make something I can offer too. Sometimes even a few bits. These can be super simple contributions like sausage rolls, or mac and cheese: just some of your safe and easy foods that you know you will eat. This helps to feel included but also make sure there will be foods you expect and like.
I try to make sure that I stick to regular times for eating. With parties and guests, this may not always work but if I know my dinner is going to be later than usual, I’ll still eat breakfast and lunch at the same time I usually would. That won’t change. But then I’ll usually have a snack in between lunch and dinner to keep me going if I’m feeling hungry. It’s important to not let yourself feel hungry or thirsty and that you can satisfy your needs still, even with a slight change of timings.
If you sometimes struggle to eat in crowds, something I’ve found helpful is to eat next to someone you are really close to. This could be a sibling, parent, cousin or friend. Instead of being in a big group where you feel watched, it can just be you and them. You’ll be more likely to engage in a conversation with them that isn’t overwhelming, and it might distract you from the thought of eating around lots of people too.
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