Happy Holidays: Mind Your Cups and Spoons

There is a list of topics and titles in my WordPress app I’ve been wanting to work on and create posts from dating back to the beginning of October. I’ve wanted to write. I’ve needed to write, but lately I just can’t. For the last few years this time of year, starting in mid-fall through new year’s, has been really difficult for me. And while this year has been better in a lot of ways, I’ve found myself being unable to get down the words I have swirling around in my head.

I know there are many people who struggle with this time of year, whether due to seasonal depression or other mental health issues, loss, being separated from loved ones, or a myriad of other reasons. Whatever the case, a lot of people find this time of year to be a time of stress and loneliness rather than a time of joy. This can often be magnified for those of us who are disabled or living with chronic illnesses.

If any of the above resonates with where you are right now, let me start by saying I understand. Maybe I don’t know your exact situation, but I know the feeling of looking to the holidays with dread rather than excitement. I know what it’s like to mentally prepare yourself for environments and situations that aren’t fully accessible to you. I know how stressful it is to plan for long family gatherings or a long day filled with multiple obligations.

If you have dealt with this already this year, Thanksgiving dinners (for those who celebrate), holiday parties, pageants, family dinners, know I see you. I know that struggle. I understand feeling like you are balancing your needs against obligations and desires to attend festivities. I hope the holidays have been nothing but accessible, welcoming and as stress-free as possible.

Though I think we all know the reality of that happening is probably out of reach for many. In that case, may I offer a simple suggestion to mind your cups and spoons. Wait, before you click off this post let me explain what I mean.

First when I talk about minding your cup, I mean the place inside you where all of your energy for interacting with others is kept. This is the well you pour into others from to fill their cups. You pour into your friends when they are hurting, your children when they are sick, and a hundred other examples. It can be extremely easy during the holidays to get so involved with pouring into others that we neglect ourselves. Be sure to spend time with those in your life who pour into you as much as you pour into them. Lean on them and allow them to lift you up when you need it.

As for minding your spoons for those of you who are not aware, I’m referencing the Spoon Theory*, an analogy created to explain the ways in which disabled and chronically ill people use energy differently than abled people. In short we are all allotted a certain amount of spoons per day with which we can complete certain tasks. Abled people in this analogy start their day with more spoons and generally use fewer through out the day, while disabled people have fewer but use more on any given task.

When I say mind your spoons then, I am talking about the energy exerted to complete tasks. I won’t go into specifics here because I know each of us has our own methods for doing this. I will say this though: listen to your body, listen to your brain, give it what it needs. Whether it’s rest, or a few minutes of quiet, more water, less stimuli, meds, meet your needs.

Meet your needs and do it without guilt. Even if that means canceling plans. Set that boundary and enforce it. The right people will understand and if anyone does get upset if you bow out that’s on them. The holidays are about togetherness and sharing the time with people you love, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of your physical or mental health.

I hope the holidays are a time of celebration and happiness for you. But even more than that I hope they are a time of peace. Spend your time the best way you can with the people you love most. And for those of you who will be alone through the holidays, whether for your first time or not, I’m thinking of you. I hope you can get time with loved ones soon and that you spend the holidays being as kind to yourself as you can.

Reach out to someone if you’re able, a text, a phone call, even if it’s commenting on this post. These may just be words on a screen, but the person behind them is real and she cares about you. Be well, friends.

*I am aware of the origins of the Spoon Theory and how its creator has fallen out of favor with many in the disability and chronic illness communities. However as it is still widely used I felt it the most accurate and easily accessible for the analogy. My apologies if this decision offends anyone.

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