I never knew I was the kind of person to get super emotional about the holidays until I spent my first Thanksgiving and Christmas away from home last year. Picture me walking through the streets of Sevilla in the pouring rain crying and carrying all the ingredients to make green bean casserole. True story. This was poor Sam’s first encounter with the American hysteria surrounding Thanksgiving, and I’m sure it won’t be his last. Needless to say, I was slightly more prepared for the emotional roller coaster this November. In addition to the temperatures dropping, I’ve been away from my home and family for three months now, so the dormant homesickness is more than ready to spring to life right as Thanksgiving approaches. This time around, I’m making an effort to curb the wave of homesickness with activities and self care practices to get me through the holiday season.
With Thanksgiving coming up, we took advantage of the opportunity to take a day trip to Zaragoza (a two hour bus journey from Logroño), where they have a store called Taste of America and sell Thanksgiving ingredients along with all kinds of other American treats that are difficult to find here. Zaragoza also has Starbucks and Taco Bell… and I am not gonna lie and say these weren’t some of the main selling points of the trip. That gingerbread latte soothed my little American soul, but of course Zaragoza turned out to be pretty spectacular too.
If I’ve learned anything as someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, it’s that nothing helps me more than physical activity and being in nature. When my friend Caroline asked me to walk with her to a local pueblo called Fuenmayor, I knew this was just what I was needing. The sun, the colors, and the beauty that living in La Rioja exposes me to are already doing wonders for my mental health this year. There are several of these hikes that are accessible by just walking out of my front door, so there’s no excuse not to bundle up and hit the trail every now and then, even as the temperatures begin to drop.
In addition to travel, I’ve collected a few home comforts that have been helping to keep me cozy lately. My mom sent me a diffuser which is now probably one of my favorite things that I own. My favorite oils to diffuse so far are lavender and vanilla. When I was sick recently, a teacher I work with Charo, recommended I get a lavender seed bag from my favorite store Natura. You can heat it up in the microwave and snuggle with it, which is great for people like us who are still stubbornly holding out on using our heating. Basically I plan to make a little lavender cocoon for myself with these things and blankets and hide there until spring. Inside my cocoon I’ll be writing letters to send to friends, which is another favorite pick-me-up activity of mine.
I’ve been intentional about carving out time for art this year. Spending time creating is so important to me, and while I feel I’m in a moment of re-working my relationship with writing, art, and even this blog, I also feel like the transitional phases have such high potential for beauty. Just getting started with doodling and sharing imperfect creations with others has felt really refreshing and important to me, especially for someone as self critical as myself.
Hopefully with these fun and comforting strategies in place, as well as the help of my amazing online therapist, I can make it through the winter without any holiday meltdowns. But hey, even if I don’t, at least working on being kinder to myself is opening new doors and yielding fun and happy results along the way. The good news is, I’ll be spending Christmas with Sam and his family in England this year, my first time visiting the UK! I am so looking forward to a Christmas filled with family and tradition, and I’ll be sure to keep the updates rolling in along the way!