When people say “summer,” they often call it the “convention season.” In con space, we can see friends, connect with long distance colleagues. We game, run games, and talk long into the night. None of that isn’t awesome. But conventions can be hard, even for the most happy and grounded of extroverts. Forgetting or putting off self-care isn’t awesome, and it’s really easy to do at a con. So grab a pen and make a few post-it notes. Or calendar reminders. Whatever floats your boat.
Eat, Sleep, Shower, Medicate
The most basic of all convention survival, plus one. You need to eat, sleep, and shower.
Going too long without food can significantly impair anyone’s ability to function. That goes double for anyone who needs to track their blood sugar and/or eat at regular intervals due to medical conditions. If you’re on medication, for whatever reason, stay on top of your doses. If you’re forgetful, like me? I get by with cellphone alarms, numerous post-it notes in my hotel room, and a bottle with extra meds in my purse. If an evening medication alarm starts buzzing while I’m at dinner, that extra bottle saves me from having to walk back to my hotel to not miss my dose.
When it comes to tracking meds, it may be an old hat to you at home, but harder when traveling. If there’s anything you can do to duplicate meds you take with you (main+spare), or otherwise make your medication more ‘mobile,’ it can be a huge help to staying on top of things without having to take a lot of time out from con. If you have someone with you who knows about your condition, they could help with extra—polite— reminders to get your dose in.
When you do have to go back to your room, multi-tasking the trip can help alleviate a lot of general stress. I use a nebulizer at least once a day when I’m at Gen Con, so I really make that room trip count. I drop off anything I don’t need for the rest of the day, grab a shower, and often nap while I do my breathing treatment. Because it’s a medical necessity, it alleviates the weird guilt I feel about not doing everything every second of the day when I’m at con. The time out also helps me recharge from the sheer mass of people there.
Mental Health Break
At any moment that you can step away, do it! Even if it’s just to go outside for a second and take a noise break from the main hall. Sometimes if I do those little premptive breaks, before I’m really desperate for one, I can reduce how long my “big” break will be later. It’s also led me to catch friends for meals when I didn’t think I’d even see them that day.
It can be really hard to recognize or let yourself take time to breathe. But those breaks can help you make the most of your time in con spaces. If you have a social anxiety or panic attack, or get over-stimulated, do what you know works for you. Hide in a bathroom, take a smoke break, go back to your room, text a friend you know you can talk to. If you have folks at con who know what’s up, and they’re around, it is okay to ask friends to take a fifteen minute break with you while you get back to your baseline. If you need to bug out mid-game, it may make you feel terrible. But taking care of yourself, in that case, is also a help to the table as well. If everyone else can pick up on you being not-okay, they want you to feel better. So tapping out isn’t a bad thing if it comes to that.
Know Your Triggers
When people talk about their allergies, and what triggers them, there’s lots of common ones people recognize. Tree nuts, pollen, dust, smoke, animals. If you have allergies, you can probably recite them and the care they require in your sleep. If you have anxiety triggers, PTSD issues, or neurological differences that can be triggered painfully, knowing your triggers can help you avoid them to an extent while at con. If flashing lights give you searing migraines, which is one of my migraine triggers, the extremely loud bar your friends might want to decamp to could be a subpar choice for a pain-free future.
If there are topics that can cause you to become very emotional, sitting down to a game with strangers may feel very fraught. If no one else asks if there is content people don’t want to see during the game, it is okay to bring it up. I was terrified the first time I did, but it was fine. Even though I was the only person who voiced a particular, severe trigger I wanted to avoid, everyone else was cool about it. That killed 50% of my anxiety. The rest was about gaming with perfect strangers, which I had to deal with by playing a game with perfect strangers. If you are super anxious when you sit down at a table this con filled summer, helping set up that comfort zone of no-go topics could create the safe space for others to voice their needs about content to avoid. It can be scary, but you’ll only level up in awesome by taking care of yourself. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to see some of you on the floor at a con this year, when I’m not taking a nap.
Do you have any tips for forgetful folks like me who need outside reminders to keep track of meals and medication? Have any methods you cope with triggers in con spaces that might work for others? Leave all advice and commiseration in the comments.