Self-Care Challenge for the 4th of July: 5 Ways to Stay Sane

The Fourth of July…close your eyes and what do you see? A spewing of red, white and blue everywhere? Bright red brake lights highlighting the epic traffic jams for miles while families tow RV’s and boats slowly up to vacation homes and camps? Do you see the bright hail of fireworks illuminating the humid sky and sprinkling down into drops of sparks intended to remind us of our freedom? Upon reflection, I see this. I am in tune with my insanity and I often reflect upon how I evolve emotionally during holidays, especially ones where it appears most of the world is off at a beautiful vacation home.

It begins subtly. I recognize the holiday is coming as commercials on TV and the radio blast on about sales and specials. I push it out of my mind. I will probably have to work or have a side job or something that will prevent me from being like the “rest of the world. I have convinced myself that everyone except for me has a yacht.  My thought pattern progresses to social media where I see a plethora of photos of families on lakes, in boats, swinging from trees (yes! I have seen it!), splashing in pools and sipping margaritas from frosty,  salt-lined glasses the size of actual pitchers. Then I fly down the roller coaster of emotional self-pity where I ponder reasons why I, at several years sober, do not have a yacht! So what if I cannot really swim effectively and am afraid of sharks. I should have a damn boat by now!

I am happy to report that after many years of work on my fragile ego I have developed a plethora of self-help and coping skills that have allowed me distance between what I believe everyone else has and what I have. I question myself introspectively asking myself why I would even feel this way and ultimately what drives me to consistently compare peoples’ outsides with my insides. While coming up with answers to my psychological battles is helpful at times, changing my thoughts and actions has proven more helpful. Below is a list I have developed based on many, many years of connecting with like-minded friends, visiting therapists, self-help groups, reading books, blogs, trial and error, and ultimately examining who I want to be as a person and in this world.  This provides me with a personal freedom and I truly cherish.

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  1. Gratitude Time

I know! I know! Who in their “right” mind wants to feel gratitude when they are sloshing around in the pond of self-pity and loving it? Well truth be told, the attitude of gratitude adage really works. I am not suggesting to write a gratitude list per se, but to take a different spin on it. Connecting with friends and seeing how they are doing and truly feeling makes me grateful, not that they are suffering, but that I am not alone! Remember it’s all about me right now! When I take that time to back it up and reach out, the reality that is not shiny and pretty and sparkly on social media (or my mind) really comes out. Wait?! Not everyone goes on vacation on holidays? And not everyone owns a camper and a boat and a summer home? In reality, I feel that I am not alone when I reach out and for that reason I am grateful. There’s no doubt in my rational mind that there are people lounging on a lake for the holiday that are truly miserable. That makes me grateful that I have found it in myself to be thankful for what I really do have and for the connection that I have in my family and friends.

  1.   A Holiday Journal

Let’s face it! Everyone needs an excuse to go buy a new journal (and some bright, new sharpies to go along, naturally)! You can create this journal and have it inspire you in a few different ways. You can use pictures, photos, quotes, and section off certain holidays in your journal.  Then for each holiday think of a great memory you had as a child or even a few years ago and collage, write, paste, color it all up with words and pictures that remind you of that wonderful time. Then, continue to add to it every year on that holiday. This brings out a creative streak of thinking of new memories that you want start and new traditions that you want to make with family and friends.

Another way that you could approach this is having the journal be a bucket list journal for each holiday. Explore magazines, bookstores, the internet, friends’ stories of exploration and fun and come up with ideas for each holiday that you would like to try and who you would like to celebrate along with you. This provides a great way to think about the fun times ahead and truly believe there will be fun times ahead. Nothing is forever and you will not be sitting home sad on a holiday forever.

  1. Book A Massage

This may not be super ideal for everyone, however, there are many places that have coupons and introductory specials that make massages actually affordable for the layperson like me! The release of endorphins and feelings of relaxation and of course pain relief are reasons enough. Think about others out there “living the dream,” slathering on sunblock and falling asleep in the sand only to wake up with sunglass-shaped tan lines. Luckily that is not you! You may not be able to make a beach house happen, but taking care of yourself and realizing that you deserve a massage and wellness is key! A massage is currently much more affordable than a camper.

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  1. Write A Letter/Send A Card

I kid you not. Post Offices are still open and sell…gasp…stamps. People are employed and work to provide this very antiquated service for us. When I’m feeling sad and icky, I like to either make/buy a little card or write a personalized, in my own handwriting, letter on actual paper that once came from tree. I choose someone who is near and dear and who would be ever so delighted to hear from lil ole me! It could be a relative in jail, a long lost aunt you haven’t spoken with in years,  your bestie from childhood, or your mom! Make someone’s day and I guarantee you will smile, if even on the inside, thinking of how happy you made someone. By the time you are done, you may even want to do another! You can also make it super exciting by adding old personal photos with a handwritten memory on the back or a small collage of quotes to inspire the receiver. Everyone loves to be loved, hippie or not!

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  1. Walk A Dog (or sniff a baby)

There are so many shelters, vet hospitals, and clinics that need dog walkers and helpers. Many owners, especially on holidays, will board their animals and unfortunately the animals lack the attention that they are so accustomed to and fond of.  For some animals, these locations are their actual forever homes. Who doesn’t love the cuddle and enthusiasm of an animal getting ready for a walk or a treat.

Another option in this volunteer category is to sniff a baby! They really do release feel-good pheromones!  There are shelters and non-profits who would  love to have you come in and spend time with the babies/children or host a small art group, feed an infant, provide brief childcare, etc. Seeing those who are even less fortunate and need this additional help, always helps me step back and fills my heart with a type of happiness that cannot be filled in other ways.  There’s nothing like a child so excited that you are willing to read Goodnight Moon to him, even though he makes you read it 80 times and points to every picture on every page. These small acts are so meaningful and no matter where you live, you will find someone, somewhere who will benefit from this type of selfless giving. It truly brings as much to the giver as to the receiver.

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This concludes how to make it through any holiday really! These are only five ideas, but the truth is there are many, many more that I have tried and that work. I welcome your ideas too!  I still do not have that coveted 5th wheel RV with a queen bed nor do I have a yacht with the name Curly Queue scripted in Lucinda Handwriting font on the side.  I compare myself less to others and I’ve come to realize that as I age, I become more sensitive to motion anyway! Who wants to end up hurling lunch over the side of a boat that was meant to bring serenity in the first place!?