Geeky Self-Care: Holiday Edition

The winter holidays can be a wonderful time filled with fun and surprises and time spent with people you love.  However, it also has the potential to be a total turducken of stress: family tensions wrapped up in shopping insanity all stuffed inside of diminishing hours of sunlight. And you may well get the latest sickness that's going around too. It can be tough to focus on self care at a time of year that's often geared towards thinking of others. But you do need to include yourself in the kindness you're spreading as the year comes to an end. My fellow lady Smalerie has already shared some general winter self care tips. If you need some additional ideas, read on.

Comfort Media

Though the specifics are different for everybody, we all know what comfort food is. It's the food we turn to when we need an emotional boost from our meal in addition to the nutrition. They’re dishes that we know we like, safe choices for when adventurous eating isn’t on the agenda. They often have nostalgic value or connections to our pasts and they may or may not be good for us. The point is that they help us to feel good.

Most people - particularly we pop culture geeks - have our comfort media too. These are the movies, shows, podcasts, or what have you that we can reliably turn to for comfort. We’ve experienced them before and they may not be the haute cuisine of media, but they're soothing to us when we need soothing. They remain something that can hold our attention, but they're familiar enough that we can take our focus elsewhere or perform some task while keeping them in the background.

Like a lot of geeks, I count Star Trek: The Next Generation as a pillar of my comfort media. It's familiar, it's tied into my younger years and it's good background tv  I’m similarly soothed by epsiodes of Batman: The Animated Series. I listen to a lot of podcasts while I’m home by myself and some of my favorites get replayed quite a bit.

Indulge in your comfort media of choice however you choose. Put it on while you do boring chores or let yourself focus on it completely. Let whole DVD run. Play the same podcast episode over and over until you can recite every line from memory. Pick only your very favorites or skip the one that makes you feel bad for the poor alternate universe Riker. Whatever makes you happy.

Low Stress Entertainment

Sometimes your old standbys just aren’t cutting it and you need something new. But you still don’t want anything that’s going to be too taxing on your frayed nerves. A well constructed narrative can sometimes leave you stressed about the fates of characters you care about, and heaven forbid that anything remind you of current politics. You need something new, but reliably soothing and safe.

Fortunately, there are plenty of reviews and recommendations to pet you know what entertainment will provide you with some much needed calm while still keeping stress and negative thoughts at bay. I’ve recently been enjoying Stardew Valley, a retro farming sim with fantasy elements available on multiple platforms. For television, few things are as low stress as The Great British Baking Show, which has all the fun of cooking competition without the harsh rivalries and backstabbing of so many reality series. My go-to nighttime podcast for when sleep is elusive is the gentle Sleep With Me, a show designed to lull you to sleep while still keeping you focused on its benign subject matter while you’re awake.

Learn Something New

While studying a foreign language, teaching yourself to code, or learning some home carpentry skills are all good uses of your time, they're also big time commitments. For this self care suggestion, look for a skill you’d like to learn that will take a day, maybe a week at most. It can be something you’ve long wanted to know how to do, a si ole skill that will make your life a little better, or just something fun.

Thanks to the internet, tutorials for most things you’d care to learn are just a quick search away. You can also check out your local library if that’s more suited to your learning style,. However you choose to learn your new skill, set aside some time to learn and practice it, feel free to take a break if you get stuck or frustrated, and enjoy the sense of accomplishment when you're done.

Several months back, I decided I was going to learn to fold a fitted sheet properly. It took a few different tutorial and many attempts, but I kept at it until I understood what to do. Though I’m far from great at it, my sheets do look much better when I put them away and just knowing I can learn to do something if i try is a good feeling. Your project can be anything from learning to cook a simple meal, teaching your pet a trick, or mastering the art of tying your shoelaces securely.

The Deep Dive

We geeks are known for loving the things we love with a passion that drives us to learn ever more about them. But sometimes, our old favorites feel too familiar, like we already know everything there is to know about them. The point of this suggestion is to get you looking at something that's more unknown territory. You may or may not discover your new obsession, but you'll at least spend some relaxing time finding out about something.

The best starting place for this suggestion is some little interesting memory that you’ve tucked away in the back of your mind. Maybe it’s a song you heard and liked while out shopping but never got around to looking up once you got home. Maybe it's some half remembered TV clip from your childhood that pops up in your brain at random times. Maybe you saw a wild animal doing something strange once and want to know what that behavior was about. If this sounds interesting to you, but it's hard to pull up a suitable subject when you need it, you can try keeping a list, one that's easily accessible at all times so you can jot down these random things that catch your interest when they happen.

Once you have your starting point, you are going to dive in and research this thing with the same thoroughness you would use to learn about your latest geeky obsession. Don’t stop when you have the name of that young actress who made such an impression on you in that one movie. How did she get cast? Has she been in anything since? What is she doing now? What about her costars? After you track down that Sesame Street clip that you only remembered one line of, find out who made it. Who wrote the song? Who did the animation? What else have they worked on?  Feel free to let the research take you down whatever path you find interesting. Falling down a YouTube hole is perfectly acceptable. So is looking into something only tangentially related to your initial search or looking into something completely different if your current line of inquiry starts to get difficult or boring. There's no wrong way to do it, so long as you're having fun.

Many year’s ago, I set out to track down the music video for “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” I had heard the song plenty, but the video itself was just a few hazy memories of bits of animation. For some reason, previous searches had failed me, but this time I found what I was looking for. I was delighted to discover that not only was I correct in remembering animation, but also the entire video was an homage to Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland. I spent the next hour or so happily perusing the complete videography of Tom Petty (R.I.P.) and reporting my findings to some reasonable receptive friends.

Do you have your own holiday self care rituals? Did you try one of my suggestions and want to report the results? Share in the comments!