Holiday Self Care

The holidays can oftentimes be difficult for many of us, with the season changing and possibly  having to spend time with many different people, some of whom, we may not always be comfortable around. It is important, especially during these times, that we think intentionally about our health and self care. It is often easy to ignore or forget the strategies that we have set in place to care for ourselves in all the rush and movement that many people experience at this time of year. Even for those of us that try to limit the amount of activities we have to attend, the seasonal change along with the energy of the season can affect how we are feeling.

To help our communities enjoy the holidays, we have put together this list of 4 things you can do during difficult times to help you get through the holidays.

Take Breathers/ Breaks

Sometimes it can help to take a step away from difficult people or situations. For many people, it can be overwhelming being around many people. At times like that remember that it is ok to take a step away, breath and recenter yourself. A good idea is to try to build in break times into social gatherings where you are able to focus on how you are feeling and how to best care for yourself. It is ok if you feel comfortable doing so, to tell people that you just need some time to reenergize.

If possible keep in contact with support.

Often times many people travel during this time of year, sometimes separating, or bringing them back to their support structures. Whether it be through text, email, in person, or through social media keeping in contact with the people you have built up around you as friends, family or support can help you through difficult times. We can sometimes feel isolated even when we are surrounded by groups of people, and keeping in contact with people that make you feel wanted and comforted can go a long way to eliminating that feeling of isolation.

Be aware of what we are eating, and how that affects us

The holidays coming up are, for many people, feasting times. And while we can enjoy these times in community and sharing food with others (a tradition shared by many people all over the world to build strong and powerful communities) it is important to remember that food has a huge impact on our body, mind, and spirit. We should try to be aware of how certain foods change our moods. Many dishes during this time are hearty and heavy, making us feel sluggish and sleepy after eating. For some people this feeling can bring a sense of comfort and safety, for others it can leave us feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable. The same goes for the large amounts of processed sugars and sweeteners used in many dishes. For some people, they can experience a feeling of happiness and joy, but for others, those sweeteners can leave us with stomach pains, migraines, and other side effects. It is important that we keep in mind the ways different foods affect us and how we can still participate and enjoy our holidays without causing our bodies, minds, and spirits harm.

Practice intentional self care

Remember that self care is a year round process. It is ok to take time for yourself. Sometimes people meditate, breath, read, watch videos or movies, or just lay down and zone out. However you practice self care, it is important that you take the time to care for yourself, especially during stressful periods. Sometimes during the holiday season we can get so caught up in everything that we forget to care for ourselves. Below I’ve included links to past allgo blogs that I feel are good reads for this holiday season to help you on your self care journey.

Family

Discusses the difference between the family you are born into or raised with and the family you choose to be a part of.

Managing Anger in times of Outrage

Shares a few thoughts on activities or strategies you can use in times of anger or outrage.

5 Online Resources for Your Self Care Journey

A list of 5 resources you can access online that can help you practice self care.

Positive Coping strategies for enduring distress

A list of self care practices you can do during times of distress, separated out by category.

The holidays can be a very complicated time for many of us, but by coming together and talking openly and honestly about our experiences, needs, and feelings, we can help support each other and make these holidays a time of community connection and power.

If you would like to continue this conversation, or if you would just like to join community to break bread together, join us at allgo on November 29th from 6:00pm-9:00pm for our Holiday Gathering: A Community Gathering for Food and Support. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more about future events.

ACA Open Enrollment is Here!

Open enrollment for Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans officially opened November 1st and people  have until December 15th to enroll in one of the marketplace plans. This year, because of changes made to budget and politics in Congress, the open enrollment period is much shorter than it has been in past years. At the same time, the budget for advertising to let people know that open enrollment has started has been decreased. We encourage our community members to check as soon as possible if they qualify for a plan through ACA. Contrary to what many people think, and despite the efforts of certain members of Congress the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will continue to exist, and provide services to people through 2018. While an ACA plan might not be the best option for everyone in our community it is still important to know about the resources that are available. Many people may qualify for financial assistance to help offset the costs of health insurance premiums. Below we have gathered some resources that can help you learn more about and sign up for ACA marketplace plans.   

This link will help you determine if you are eligible for savings through ACA. After answering a few questions about yourself you can learn if you are eligible for a premium saving and then look at how that will affect the cost of plans. Keep in mind that the ACA website is being scheduled for maintenance every Sunday during open enrollment (except December 10th) from 12:00am -12:00pm and may not be available during those times.

Austin Specific Resources

Foundation Communities– will help people navigate the process of signing up for an ACA market plan. They have two locations around Austin and are open all year long to help people navigate the process of health insurance through ACA. No appointment is necessary during November or December. You can email at enroll@fondcom.org or visit the two locations below:

5900 Airport Blvd, Austin, TX 78752

Phone: 737-717-4001 (local Austin #)

2600 W Stassney, Austin, TX 78745

Phone: 737-717-4000 (local Austin #)

Community Care is also helping people navigate the process of signing up for an ACA Marketplace plan.  They have many different locations all over Austin which are all open at various times, and they can often meet with you the same day when you call to make an appointment. To schedule an appointment call 512-978-9015 and choose the eligibility option from the menu. The call center to schedule an appointment is open from 7:00am – 7:00pm.

Healthcare.gov – has a feature where you enter your zip code and will let you see all the organizations and people around that are able to assist you in signing up for a plan.

Access to health insurance is important, especially to QPOC who are disproportionately affected by health and safety needs. The Affordable Care Act requires many insurers to provide certain preventive care health services for free. Click here to see all the Preventative Medical Services available at no cost to adults who have an ACA health care plan, click here for services specific to women’s health, and here for services specific to children’s health. Remember that these services are required under the ACA to be covered by your ACA insurance plans at no cost to you. To read more about why Preventative care is important to QPOC click here

To read more like this or to hear about future events allgo is hosting follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Preparing for, Coping with, and Radically Accepting Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Jae Lin

The weather will continue to get cooler as fall turns into winter, and the sun will start to appear for fewer and fewer hours each day (here in the northern hemisphere). This seasonal change, for some, can mean pulling out the big coats, driving with mittens on, and turning on the fireplace. And for some of us, it also means a declining mood and falling energy levels.

Most people with seasonal affective disorder are affected in winter, but many people experience summer depression as well. Whatever season affects you, there are preparations you can make and coping skills you can practice to make the time more bearable. Furthermore, embarking on a journey towards radical acceptance can be rewarding and freeing.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is a type of depression where a person experiences mood affectations in conjunction to the arrival and departure of seasons. The National Institute for Mental Health writes on their website:

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer. Depressive episodes linked to the summer can occur, but are much less common than winter episodes of SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not considered as a separate disorder. It is a type of depression displaying a recurring seasonal pattern.”

The symptoms for SAD are the same as those of major depression, including feeling hopeless, low energy levels, having problems with sleep, losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, thoughts of death or suicide, and more. The distinction is that people with SAD experience a pattern of depressive symptoms that coincide with specific seasons (for two or more years).

Preparing for the Season

Since SAD is by definition cyclical, the patterns of start and end are relatively reliable. As the season approaches, preparations can be made in order to ease the transition and hopefully lighten the overall load when the depressive symptoms hit (or intensify).

Here are a few suggestions and/or reminders on preparing for the season:

  • (Re-)commit to (re-)establishing a regular self-care regimen.
  • Consider beginning, reviewing, or restarting a plan for therapy (of any kind).
  • Consider beginning, reviewing, or restarting a plan for medication. Carefully understand and make a note of how and when medication needs to be taken. Keep simplified notes on this and place them where you store your medication, so you don’t have to worry about reading extensively for or remembering these details later on.
  • Stock up on the small comforts that serve as easy, go-to coping mechanisms (for example, your favorite candles, a comforting snack, art supplies, a new journal, etc)
  • Be ready for the weather. If you’re preparing for cold weather, plan out your wardrobe to include thermals, lots of layers, and pocket warmers. If preparing for warm weather, place fans strategically around your living space, pull out or invest in a good windshield shade if you drive a car, clean your ice tray, and etc.
  • If you feel comfortable doing so, start a conversation with your friends, loved ones, coworkers, and community members about your experiences with SAD, what changes may happen in your relationship or engagement level. It can be difficult, to be honest about what we need, but the people who love and care about us want to be helpful.
  • Consider investing in a light therapy lamp, particularly if you tend to spend much of your days indoors because of work, living situation, school, etc.
  • Do what you can to lighten your regular load of commitments, stresses, and roles if possible. This could mean backing away from certain projects or people, setting more flexible deadlines, or asking for some extra support.

Coping During the Season

When it comes to coping through depressive episodes, SAD episodes tend to be pretty run-of-the-mill, with the extra consideration of the weather.

Here are some thoughts on coping and balancing mood and weather during the season:

  • Find as much sunlight as you can and find ways to be in it.
  • Use a light therapy lamp regularly if you have one.
  • Try to keep yourself within mild temperature conditions as much as possible. Particularly in summers and winters, weather can often be extreme.
  • Do your best to keep up with prescribed medications.
  • Even if you are on a “break” (because of school, seasonal work, or anything else), try to maintain a regular and daily routine.
  • As much as possible, stick to relatively consistent schedules of sleeping, eating, bathing, exercising, etc.
  • Be gentle with yourself.

Radical Acceptance

It can be hard not to feel seasonal affective disorder weighing down your hopelessness. In part, this is because hopelessness is a common symptom of depression, but the cyclical nature of SAD can also seem daunting and endless. Every season always comes and goes again with every new year.

In so much of mainstream mental health affirmation, the concept of a linear recovery, a goal of perfect health, and that promise that “it’ll be okay” or “it gets better” is so prevalent. But for many people, and particularly those who experience seasonal affective depression, these concepts can be invalidating. Sometimes, mental illnesses are chronic, and they might never get better. And that’s okay.

For me, by radically accepting that my depression is chronic and seasonal affective, I allow myself the freedom to break away from viewing recovery as linear and progressive. Every year, winter will always come around again, but so will spring. Some years may be darker than others, and I might never be “better.” But I am worth caring for, worth loving, and worthwhile just the way I am—by others and by myself.

My radical acceptance is not perfect; it’s taken the better half of a decade for me to be where I am, and it’ll take much longer—maybe forever—to grow closer to a fuller acceptance of my seasonal affective depression. And that’s okay. That’s okay.