Video Transcript: This month’s blog post is going to be a bit different than the rest. For the month of December, I wanted to focus on mental health and creating a calming space for the holiday season. If you know me well, you know I suffer from anxiety and sensory sensitivity. For those that don’t know what this means, it means that I have a low threshold for sensory stimulation, such as noise, and I suffer from panic attacks when I’m overwhelmed. This can make events, such as the holidays, a really tricky time for me as I can get easily overwhelmed with all of the noise and chaos.
Now, I’m an interior design consultant and not a doctor, so I obviously cannot give any medical advice, but I can say that for me, focusing on self-care has been a big game changer. Everyday I try to get a bit of me-time, which usually means reading a book I enjoy, to just relax and be in the moment. This allows me to keep a baseline for the little everyday stressors that come up.
I have also identified some of my biggest stressors, and have come up with techniques to try to mitigate the issue. For example, cooking dinner is stressful for me as I’m usually rushed. It’s made worse by children screaming in the background. So while cooking a meal, I wear headphones and listen to calming music. My kids have also learned by now to try and stay in their playroom so that I can’t hear all the noise.
But sometimes a panic attack comes on, no matter how hard I try. Calming, deep breaths usually do the trick, and if I’m at home when this happens, I retreat to my “calm space” – an area I’ve set up with lots of pillows where I can just relax and breathe. When overwhelmed I like to feel enveloped and safe, but because of my sensory issues, I don’t want to actually be physically touched by anyone, so a hug doesn’t work, but lots of pillows does. I’m almost cocooned within them all.
The holidays however, can be a different ballgame. It usually means being in a large group setting, which means a lot of noise and stimulation. So for me, it sometimes requires zoning out or putting on headphones, or sometimes just leaving the room for a bit to bring that sensory input back down below my threshold. Also, I’ve learned to be easy on myself, because it’s not my fault I’m this way, it’s just a part of my being.
So take a page from me, and try to take it easy this holiday season. Create your own calm space if need be. It doesn’t need to be fancy at all, just a small spot with items that make you feel safe and help you to relax. And if you’re ever feeling completely overwhelmed or panicked, please call your doctor or the Alberta mental health help line at 1-877-303-2642.
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