The holidays are a strange and interesting time filled with a lot of joy and a lot of struggle. We don’t have to look far to see both the warm mugs of tea, coffee, and cocoa, the brightness of holiday lights, as well as the cold and darkness these things push back. This may all seem simply metaphorical, and at the same time the daily lives we lead can very much follow suit. Many big life changes with jobs and family take place in the holidays as well, for better or for worse. With these strange circumstances it can be a difficult time of year to keep personal balance, especially for those among us with BPD and other circumstances that cause emotion disregulation.
Whether you’re planning to attend a number of social gatherings (in person or online) spending an extended period of time on your own, or anywhere in between, there are some useful strategies that can help us keep our routines working and our spirits up.
Mindfulness helps with being peacefully in the moment, and also with planning ahead effectively.
This season will likely interrupt a lot of our usual practices, like remembering medication and filling prescriptions, meeting with supportive people we rely on, even maintaining the amount of time we spend on taxing tasks. It is wise to make sure we find time for the effective skills we rely on to centre us. We can ask ourselves how we manage our symptoms through the rest of the year to better be mindfully aware of these practices.
Healthy coping strategies can not only help us stay connected to our skills, it can also help integrate Rational Mind and Emotion Mind to stay in Wise Mind. Any planning we can do ahead of time, especially during parts of our routine where Wise Mind is easy to access, can be quite helpful when we find ourselves in the harder times this season can bring.
It can be helpful to plan ahead by compassionately knowing our own triggers and preparing skills for when these will come up. It is easy to get caught up in our regular reactions to the people and situations we know will trigger us when we do this, an issue mindfulness can help us overcome. Once we’re in a mindful state, it is easier to check over the details, such as the fact that the holidays are almost over, and the darker days of winter will pass if we wait them out.
Avoid Alcohol and other substances
Often times throughout the holidays we will find ourselves surrounded by and offered substances that aren’t as helpful as they appear. Many social situations will have champagne in tall glasses, and while these seem like they will help us “relax”, they can actually take us off track for using our skills.
If we can, avoiding situations with alcohol involved is a helpful way to keep from that temptation. This is not always a feasible option, so other strategies we know have helped in the past are quite useful. It can also be freeing to know that while we can be tempted to drink or take substances, thinking that they will help us manage our symptoms, it will actually have the opposite effect, and we therefore don’t need it.
We also don’t need alcohol in order to enjoy ourselves and the festivities we attend. If being the only sober person in a social situation makes you uncomfortable, you can always ask someone you trust to join you in abstaining. Strength in numbers is not an irregular strategy.
Find Personal Support
While we’re talking about strength in numbers, another helpful resource is the trusted friends and family that you can spend time with. However many details you have shared about your BPD and emotional disregulation journey with others, those you know have your back can often be relied on to help you in many ways.
Talking to them about assistance you might ask for ahead of time can help you in tough moments, even if you don’t end up asking for it when you get there. Knowing that we are seen and heard can be incredibly helpful for boosting confidence. And of course it makes it more effective when we ask for that help when we do need it. Having someone to help along the way gives us extra resources to pull from when our limited supply runs down.
In a similar vein to getting support from people you know and love, seeking treatment as needed is also a useful tool. Whether this is a proactive approach before an upcoming gathering or as assistance after a particularly difficult one, reaching out to professionals who can help you is a useful option. This is what they are trained for, after all, no different from any other time of year. They will likely be able to direct you and guide you in helpful ways you may not have thought of.
Another strategy that help us to find peace in ourselves and maintain our own balances is to give as well as receive. If we spend the whole season believing that we have to focus on ourselves alone . The incredible compassion and generosity that many of us have can make an impact like no other during the darkness of winter holidays. If there is a talent we have that can be used to help others, and if those people are happy for it, a lot of good can be done with it.
Letting this come before our own wellbeing is a danger to look out for, we do need to maintain our balance. A helpful analogy here is putting on our own oxygen mask before putting someone else’s on during an inflight emergency.
Once we have found our own way forward, we can turn and help others, enjoy the season to a much greater degree, and see the brightness and warmth a lot clearer.
For more details and ideas, more helpful articles are below: