Hooray, it’s convention season! . . . Boo, I’m going to be exhausted and probably sick.
As a wellness professional, my main concern is for everyone’s health and well-being during con season. Here are some ways to make your self-care a priority while still getting the most out of your convention experience. You may have heard some of these before, and some might be new to you.
1. Carry a Water Bottle (and Drink from It Often)
You’ve heard it before, and I’m saying it again. Drink water. No, your water bottle is not going to match your cosplay, but your body needs to hydrate. Seriously. Even mild dehydration can have a significant impact on your mood, energy levels and mental acuity. Not sure you believe that? Experiment: the next time you start to notice that your energy level is dipping, you’re cranky, or you can’t think straight, ask yourself when the last time was that you had some water.
2. Pack a Snack
Yeah, all that stuff I said about water? Ditto for food. There can be a temptation to restrict our caloric intake when we have a big event coming up (more on that in #5), but the only outcomes I foresee with that plan are crankiness, low energy, fuzzy thinking, and oh yeah, feeling hungry. So save yourself this grief and allow yourself to eat! Toss a couple of protein bars in your utility belt, and then remember to eat them—you’re more likely to eat if you have food readily available and don’t have to walk to get it. Not into protein bars? No problem; pick something else portable. I truly believe that there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” foods, since food has no moral value. Pack along something you like and know you will eat, or prepare for a one-way ticket to crankytown.
3. Moderate Your Alcohol Intake
I know, I know, who let the teetotaler in? But really, all that imbibing has a serious impact on your physical and emotional well-being. Alcohol affects the body in a variety of ways, but I think that one tidbit in particular might interest you as a con-goer: did you know that drinking in excess can weaken your immune system? Yes, that night of drunken debauchery actually makes you more susceptible to con crud! So if you’re going to drink, drink moderately or only on one night of the con—perhaps the last night you’re attending so you don’t miss a bunch of programming because you’re hungover. Bonus!
4. Give Yourself Permission to Take Breaks
There are so many activities going on at the con, and you don’t want to miss a thing! But you aren’t going to enjoy anything if you’re exhausted, irritable, and emotionally depleted. Go home or back to your hotel room and sleep at night, and take some sitting breaks during the day. On top of the physical fatigue, if you’re an introvert like me (I’m looking at most of you), all of the people-ing can be emotionally taxing as well. Take some alone time each day, even if it’s just a few minutes in the quietest corner you can find. Even a few moments of calm can help to replenish your emotional reserves, so make time for yourself.
5. Be Kind to Yourself
We get a lot of messages from the media telling us we need to look a certain way. This time of year, we hear a lot about getting a “bikini body,” or in our case a “cosplay body.” We get messages that it’s time to diet and work out to attain a certain size or shape. Consider this post a reminder that you do not need to change your body, or anything about yourself, before convention season. So instead of taking in the negative messages this year, try to relax, wear what you want, and be who you are.
Remember: you can’t possibly see every panel or participate in every activity. There are simply too many to choose from. Prioritize a few absolute must-see panels and events, make a loose plan, and then be okay when you stray from it. This is supposed to be fun—not a job. I never would have had a dodgeball fight with the Witch-king of Angmar if I’d been chained to a strict schedule. Allow yourself time to just experience the atmosphere, meet people, and enjoy yourself!
I would love to hear in the comments what changes you made to your self-care at conventions this year and how it worked out. And for more convention tips, check out Hertzey’s Geek Convention Survival Guide and The Dos and Don’ts of Drinks to Bring to Cons.