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Pennsic Psychological Health Tips [Jul. 24th, 2008|11:43 am]
[mood |relaxedrelaxed]

I've just begun to put these down in pixels...can anyone think of other points that need making in this list? Remember this is not a general health-related list, just psychological health. The health-related list would be mostly different.

Rule so important it is above numbers: THIS IS YOUR VACATION. Treat yourself well and don't put pressure on yourself to accomplish more than you realistically can.

1. ALL physical health caveats you've heard apply here. If your physical health goes downhill, your psychological health can't help but follow.
2. If you camp in the same tent as family/friends/sweetie, take plenty of time during the day to go off and do your own thing, but try to spend at least a little time together (alone together, in the case of a sweetie or your child) before you go to bed, to share what you've been up to. This is part of the joy of camping with someone.
3. Consider that your hardest day psychologically, that is, the day when you feel disorganized, irritable, unhappy, impatient, etc., is very likely to come immediately after your night with the least sleep. It is worth maintaining a semblance of a sleep schedule at Pennsic. Daytime naps do not necessarily make up for lost sleep.
4. Make absolutely sure you do (at least a little of) what YOU want to do. Don't let your family, friends, household, Kingdom, etc. hijack all your time, or conflict with your very favorite activity. You may have to arrange for this in advance by making it clear to those around you what you absolutely do not want to miss, getting babysitters, arranging for someone to handle something for you, etc. Don't leave it until the last minute--setting things up BEFORE you leave is best.
5. If camping with strangers/acquaintances, make sure you are not being too shy to express your preferences of what makes you comfortable and what you would like to do with your time.
6. If you have the means, choose your food based on what you know you will enjoy eating, even when you are hot, tired, stressed, etc., rather than based on cost, value, convenience, things you think you should be eating for nutritional or weight-loss purposes, things your family will like, etc. Splurging is called for here. Food that you like will not only provide sustenance, it will help you feel physically and psychologically comfortable. Now is not the time to start a new diet.
7. Now is also not the time to start or discontinue psychiatric medications of any kind, even herbal, even caffeine. Don't make your body/brain work any harder than they have to in adjusting to the unusual conditions at Pennsic.
8. If something happens (injury, money problems, etc.) and you won't be able to do the things you had your heart set on doing at Pennsic, try to focus on what you are able to do, the friends you're able to hang out with, and the fact that there will always be more Pennsics.
9. Allow yourself to feel what you feel: hate Pennsic, hate the heat, hate your noisy camp neighbors, look forward to going home, if that's how you feel. Even if you scrimped and saved to come to Pennsic. Even if your family/friends are having an absolute blast. If the hatred and irritation start to feel overwhelming, it might be time for a town trip to some air conditioning and maybe a movie (drop by Info Point for directions and a movie schedule). Don't let yourself feel guilty for what you're feeling, that's just piling discomfort upon discomfort.
10. If there are people you know you need to talk to in times of need, such as your mom, therapist, best friend, sweetie, etc., bring their phone numbers, and an extra battery pack for your cell phone. The absolute worst time to find out your cell phone is dead is when you are having a crying jag and know you need to talk to your sweetie in order to calm down.
11. Everything is magnified at Pennsic: fights are more quickly escalated, small slights seem worse, children are more irritating, a partner's jealous or irritable streak more likely to show. Drama sprouts readily. The "walk away, take a deep breath, count to ten" rule is even more important than it usually is, in keeping you from overreacting or saying things you don't mean.

What do you think, those of you who have been to Pennsic?

(For those who haven't, here's info about it: http://www.pennsicwar.org/penn37/)

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[User Picture]From: beckmumble
2008-07-24 05:45 pm (UTC)

possible addition

If you are on meds - know the side effects that you may not normally pay attention to. Especially things related to
- alcohol
- more easily overheating,
- more easily dehydrating,
- skin sensitivity & sun exposure leading to more rapid/intense sunburns,

It's a little late at this point, but take time (weeks!) to condition yourself to the amount of heat, humidity and walking that you will surely experience while camping.
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[User Picture]From: caoilfhionn
2008-07-24 05:52 pm (UTC)
An addition, perhaps, but it might be good to explain in #6 that you should adjust your eating expectations/plans for what might be a far more active week than usual. Pennsic involves a lot more walking, in much warmer conditions, than any day at a desk job and even more than I endured at my warehouse job. Be prepared to eat more and, if you're trying to maintain a diet, bring things that won't ruin your day with guilt.
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[User Picture]From: gflower
2008-07-24 05:56 pm (UTC)
The two above would be more health-related than psychological-health-related, but you're absolutely right about their importance!
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[User Picture]From: beckmumble
2008-07-24 06:06 pm (UTC)
Psych meds have their own special set of weird metabolism side effects. Although for general health relatedness, it's worth checking up on any meds you take. I'm not sure how to check on some of them - Example: Zyrtec gives me and several other people I know a deeper sunburn than normal even with liberal sunscreen usage - BUT sun sensitivity was taken off the side effects list a decade ago. YMMV.
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[User Picture]From: rakamuffin
2008-07-24 06:00 pm (UTC)
-if camping @ N19, take earplugs for quiet rest and relief from the semi-trailer air brakes. pretend they're just really big geese. (the trucks, not the earplugs)
remember those brakes are less for your irritation and more for not crushing the small vehicle-driving gawpers in front of the trucks slowing down to look.

-remember you're on vacation and don't have to do anything you don't want to.

-if planning to shop, make a list and use a budget so you don't overspend needlessly or get something you don't really want.
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[User Picture]From: gflower
2008-07-24 06:58 pm (UTC)
Geese in my ears!!!


Good points!
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[User Picture]From: gflower
2008-07-24 07:10 pm (UTC)
Maslow's Hierarchy: brilliant!

For chocolates, I would like to think that individuals would consider their health in terms of comfort. I know I don't feel too well after having eaten just chocolates for dinner. Maybe not immediately, but I am going to be dizzy and tired by bardic circle time. This is a know-thyself issue. Someone who doesn't know their own nutritional needs well enough to gauge how such-and-such a meal is going to affect their comfort over the next few hours is going to have trouble at Pennsic in any case; I can't help them with a simple checklist...!

I do want to point out that there are people who lower their stress by cooking. Not too many, but some. Betcha relativelylucid would agree! So the "avoid cooking" idea may not be generalizeable. But the idea of spending extra money if needed to reduce your stress level and get food into you, is a good plan, if at all possible.

Edited at 2008-07-24 07:26 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: kathysmurf
2008-07-24 06:08 pm (UTC)
Good list! I totally agree. Maybe to add to #2...if you have an issue with the person/people you're camping with (be it family or a sweetie), don't stew on it! Make sure to always talk things through before you go to sleep. Otherwise it can ruin several days of war for the both of you (not necessarily speaking from experience here...my boy and I have always been pretty good at talking things out). I believe this is actually advice I got from a good friend before my first Pennsic...if she's reading this. :)

Oh, and always drink lots of water and keep hydrated! Pennsic can be uber hot, and for many people can involve more walking than they're used to.
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[User Picture]From: beckmumble
2008-07-24 06:16 pm (UTC)
I'll add to this a conflict avoidance tip
- Talk about plans and commitments for the next day (or upcoming chunk of the day) with the people you camp with!

Yours, theirs, whatever. It's really annoying to expect someone for dinner only to find they knew they would be somewhere else but you didn't.
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[User Picture]From: ingusmoen
2008-07-24 06:13 pm (UTC)
I would add to #3-- Sleep deprivation can be cumulative. If you are missing a little sleep day after day, it WILL catch up with you and can escalate your emotions and thought processes from rational to irrational.
I call it "the Pennsic freak-out" and I've had it BAD a couple times. Once I figured out that this was caused by sleep deprivation, I learned how better to control it.
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[User Picture]From: gflower
2008-07-24 07:17 pm (UTC)
Ooo, excellent point. It is cumulative for me, I know. I've found ways to manage this (usually by missing morning activities...*sigh*) but I know other late-night people who don't, or can't (because they can't sleep in for one reason or another).
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[User Picture]From: peregrinning
2008-07-24 06:14 pm (UTC)
I was reading along, preparing my "give yourself permission to walk away from bad situations" point to add to the end, and there it is at #11! Yay!

This is a very good list.

I would add:
Be aware of transitions, especially home-to-Pennsic and Pennsic-to-home. I find that dismantling the encampment has been one of the most psychologically challenging experiences for me and my colleagues at multiple Pennsics. Perceived lack of work equity between those who come early to set up, and those who come late and benefit, is the second most challenging. Prepare yourself for these transitions, so they don't surprise you when tempers flare and feelings get hurt.

Be aware of those around you, and how they change your psychological well-being. Seek the company of those who make you feel better, and work so your company makes them feel better too. Be aware of situations where you may need to interact with someone who makes you feel worse, and how you prefer to handle such interactions. Sometimes, a frustrating companion just needs a small bit of understanding and help to become a wonderful companion. Sometimes, there's nothing you can do but distance yourself. Whether your preferred way of dealing with troublesome people is helping, or avoiding, or something else, being aware helps you handle whatever situations arise.
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[User Picture]From: gflower
2008-07-24 07:19 pm (UTC)
How did I know you would have good things to add to a list like this?! ; ) Transitions have gotten easier for me over time, but I'll never forget the otherworldly feeling of waiting in a line of cars to leave the campground at the end of my first Pennsic. Very weird.

Will you be there this year?
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[User Picture]From: sionnach_sidhe
2008-07-24 06:46 pm (UTC)
I think that tied in with #4 & #9 is the age-old "know thyself" -- if you've been to Pennsic before, think back on it and try to identify your patterns.

For me, I will invariably have a meltdown on Day 8 -- this isn't actually a bad thing, but it was enough of a pattern to make me realize that after 1 week at War all the build-up (both the fun and not-so) I need to take some down time, or my body/mind will *make* me. This also means that if I'm going for 7 days or less, I should be ok, but also that I may experience that meltdown on my first day home if I'm not cautious...

Hand-in hand with this is that looking back you can see both the things you always enjoy (so try to do that again!) and that each War has been, and will be, different from the last. You can save a lot of stress by not *expecting* this year's Pennsic to go the same as your favourite one.

Addendum: I will be at Pennsic this year again! Yay! I can't wait to see you again :)
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[User Picture]From: gflower
2008-07-24 07:23 pm (UTC)
YAY! Can't wait to see you, too.

"Know thyself"--absolutely. Seeing patterns can take awhile though. I am embarrassed to say it took me 6 years to discover #3, and I discovered it lying on my bed in the early evening weeping over practically nothing, and realizing, "Wow, I only got 2 1/2 hours' sleep last night, didn't I?"

I also realize that a lot of these aren't going to make a whole lot of sense to someone who has never been to Pennsic. They might get them in theory, but it's hard to conceptualize how everything works in practice if you haven't been there. So, there's also an element of "know Pennsic"!
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[User Picture]From: nearlyvalkyrie
2008-07-24 07:08 pm (UTC)
I like it!! Great list, and good things to remember. To jump in on the chorus, I'd only add two main thoughts:

The opposite side of #4 (and one of my biggest challenges) is to recognize there's no way to do EVERYthing you want. There's just not enough time in the day/week to fit in all the amazing good stuff, and even if I *had* the energy to get to all of them, there will be overlaps. Set priorities, and make choices.

And an addition to # 10, ask for help/comfort/reassurance/a break BEFORE it hits a critical point or meltdown. I could talk for hours as to why, but let's just leave it as Wise Use Of Resources.

May you have an uneventful drive, fair weather, and good travelling companions :-)
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[User Picture]From: whymc
2008-07-24 07:33 pm (UTC)
One thing that's been crucial for me over the years: if you need to take some time off site, and away from everyone, then take it. I love war, but the refugee-camp feel of the place can get to me sometimes. This, together with the fact that I need a bit of real solitude - which is nigh impossible to find on site, means that I should take at leas two solo trips to town each war, for downtime, air conditioning, and so forth.
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[User Picture]From: peregrinning
2008-07-24 08:45 pm (UTC)
May I point to this from my LJ? I have friends for whom this sort of thinking would resonate.
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[User Picture]From: gflower
2008-07-24 08:50 pm (UTC)
Go for it, it's a public post. I am happy to unscreen comments from them too, if they have things to add.
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[User Picture]From: mightyjesse
2008-07-24 09:15 pm (UTC)
How do I put this delicately?

If you have any reason to expect that you might break up with your sweetie (or they might break up with you) before Pennsic, I highly recommend getting these issues resolved BEFORE YOU LEAVE.

Lets face it. We are an odd group of people with a highly specialized "shopping list" of items that we look for in a significant other, and Pennsic can represent a veritable smorgasbord of opportunities that will be perceived as either the "breaking point" if you found yourself unable to resist their lure or an epic loss of opportunity if you DID resist and then failed to save your relationship upon returning home. I've seen DOZENS of tacky relationship issues related to Pennsic, and they DEFINITELY effect the psychological health of those involved and the drama can spread to entire camps to the point where salt-petering the well seems like maybe it might be a really good idea- if only people actually DRANK the Pennsic water...
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[User Picture]From: hugh_mannity
2008-07-25 12:12 am (UTC)
Oh gods! My second Pennsic the camp land agent broke up with his gf over the phone (he verbally bullied her into telling him it was over at a volume that all of us could not help but hear). Then he sold every bit of camp infrastructure he could so he could scrounge the money to get to his parents' place.

It was ugly.

(Here via Peregrinning, BTW)

So yes. Definitely! Break it or fix it before Pennsic.
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[User Picture]From: splott
2008-07-24 10:37 pm (UTC)

I haven't been to Pennsic but I've camped a lot...

My thought is more physical than psychological, but...
Plan for minor-bad things so they don't ruin your day.
i.e. Even if you pack 3 bottles of spf75 sunscreen, don't skip the Aloe. Consider a sleeping mask and earplugs even if you PLAN to skip the parties and sleep every night. Even if you plan to eat meals with a group, think about packaged meal-bars for when you have no appetite and/or are too busy running around.

See what i mean?
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[User Picture]From: gflower
2008-07-25 01:09 pm (UTC)
Very very good point! It's amazing to me the difference my immediate surroundings can make in my mood. I especially hate things being so messy that I suspect there are ants and other crawlies feasting on the parts of my mess that I can't see.
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[User Picture]From: siderea
2008-07-25 04:09 am (UTC)
Here from peregrinning's journal. Great list! I have several additions to propose:

1) As mentioned in comments above -- and I think this is important enough to bump to the top -- introverts, get enough solitude! Note that what constitutes "solitude" is subjectively defined, and can be quite challenged by the exigencies of Pennsic. For instance, if you're a person who can't feel alone so long as he can hear other people, you need to take steps to get out of earshot of the camp. If you're like that, merely telling yourself that it should be "solitude" to hide in your tent doesn't actually work. Not everyone is like that; some people just need to keep their own company for a while, regardless of what is going on around them; reading a book can be the break that works for them. The important thing is to know what works for you, and/or being willing to experiment to find out.

2) Have realistic expectations of yourself and of logistics. Most people don't deal with their expectations being violated terribly well under the best of circumstances, and Pennsic isn't the best of circumstances.

I've most often seen this one screwed up in the area of food preparation/acquisition. "Oh, we'll just drop into the Bowl and Boar to grab dinner before court"; well, so did everyone else and there's a half-hour long line, so you're not going to make both court and dinner. "Oh, we'll just cook a spaghetti dinner for the camp over a camp fire tonight"; well, it's 5pm and you haven't even dug a fire pit, much less built a fire and burned it down to cooking coals, much less boiled water -- you'll be eating around 9pm. Similarly, people ask more of their bodies than their bodies are quite up to. As Moonwulf put it: some of us Can't Party As Hardy As We Partied At 21. This may be the year you are among that number. Maybe you can't have one of everything at the scotch-tasting party and make a 7am muster on the battlefield without having a really lousy day.

You'll face less disappointment if you set your expectations realistically.

3) Speaking of Fun with Psych (or any!) Meds: many people's daily schedule shifts at Pennsic, whether that means now waking with the sun, or staying up way later than normal. If you're supposed to take your meds at a certain time of day, you may want to think about what your Pennsic schedule will do to that. Discuss with your prescribing physician. Some stuff will be happier if you take it at the same time of day regardless of when you get up; other stuff is meant to interact with your circadian rhythms, and you'll need to adjust when you take them.

Also, helpful hint: if you take medications right before bed, and you need water to take them with, keep a filled bota in your tent. There's nothing quite so miserable as crawling all soggy and cold into your tent during a rain storm, getting out of your wet clothes, drying off, and then realizing you can't go to sleep until you take meds, and your cup and the potable water is across your camp in the kitchen tent. There is a strong temptation under such circumstances to say, "screw it!" and go off your meds; try to prevent that situation.

4) In a similar vein, having some well-sealed emergency snacks in your tent, against low blood sugar during rain storms can make for a big difference in mood. I'm partial to some crackers in a ziploc and tinned smoked mussels. Beef jerky also works.

5) Something else not to discontinue: if you have some daily spiritual or wellness practice, such as meditation or prayer, keep it up if you can. You'll miss it if you don't have it. My boss claimed today that brief meditation often is more restorative than napping.

Standard disclaimer: Nothing in this comment establishes a clinician/patient relationship between us; any psychological information in this message is strictly for educational or entertainment purposes.
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