Nothing else is worse for trashing all my spoons than the holidays. I don’t know what it is, but when I get around my family specifically at the holidays for some reason it is so hard to draw boundaries or do pacing. Maybe it’s that I revert back to being 12 again and feel like I have to live up to everybody’s expectations of me? Normally I am really good at saying no. Even when someone isn’t asking me to do something, I feel this nebulous exterior expectation of how things “should be” and I feel a great deal of anxiety about living up to it.
This isn’t conscious. Consciously I completely disagree with this and actively work to undo it. But in the moment I find myself acting unconsciously and before I know it all my spoons have slipped through my fingers and shattered across the floor.
Normally I’m a huge advocate of direct communication and working things out with the other person. However I recognize process takes a lot of spoons then I may not have, especially with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Sometimes I just have to do what I have to do to take care of myself. And that comes first before anything else. I don’t actually owe anybody any explanation and feeling like I do is just socialized pressure that impinges on my health.
These may not work for you, but hopefully they spark some ideas
Find ways of getting a break. I set alarms on my phone reminding me. Even just 5 minutes every hour helps me a lot. Good ways to get a rest if it feels hard to just say it directly:
- Put reminder on my phone to never expend more than about 30% of my spoons at a time. By the time I notice, I’m flagging it may be too late
- Go to the bathroom and stay a long time. If asked, say not feeling well. I don’t need to explain that I always feel unwell
- Say I’m not feeling well and find a bedroom or quiet space to lie down
- “Forget” something in the car, then rest there
- Go for a “walk” and find a place to sit
- Say I need something from the store, drive to store, nap in car. If asked, say it was hard to find what I needed (since this is probably true)
- Arrive late and leave early
- Put a relative who likes to be bossy in charge of making sure I take breaks. Gives them purpose and reminds me to do it
- Anything I do, like chopping vegetables, try to do it sitting down
This can be so hard! And often the person I most need to say no to is myself. Questions I ask myself to help myself figure it out:
- Am I willing to do nothing else today and the next few days if this takes all my spoons?
- What will happen if I don’t do this?
- If I don’t do this will anybody be seriously harmed?
- Is it more important to do this thing or is it more important to spend time with loved ones?
- Will anybody remember that this wasn’t done in 10 years?
When the person won’t accept no as an answer or it would just take too many spoons to have the conversation (this includes getting out of political conversations):
- Excuse myself to go to the bathroom.
- Say I need a kleenex
- Say I’m going to see if ____ needs help.
- Ask friend to call with urgent problem. In a huge pinch, just pretend someone is calling, preferably work
- Avoid areas like the kitchen or people who get into politics
- Cough on them and say I think I’m getting a cold
- Start talking about graphic medical procedures I’ve had
Some of these are rather silly but the trick is for each of us to find what works for us. We are worth the effort! Wishing you a high spoon, low pain day