The Holidays are coming and with them comes a whole lot of changes and feelings when you live with Chronic Pain. I’d like to share some tips and include some items that may help to make the season easier to manage this year.
First off, let’s acknowledge the fact that the holidays can be a difficult time for you. Living with Chronic Pain makes everything harder to manage and when you throw in all the extra stuff that happens during this time of year, it’s easy to see how you can become overwhelmed. Stress adds to your pain and before you know it, you’re in a full blown flare-up.
What causes all the extra stress? In many cases it’s dealing with family relationships. Trying to find the time to get together, who is going where for Christmas or Hannukah, shopping for gifts on a tight budget and cooking a big meal are all situations that come up that you wouldn’t normally have to deal with.
You may also be dealing with broken family relationships and the holidays may be the time of year when everyone tries to “repair” things. It’s hard to keep your cool when Uncle Ralph begins with the racist overtones or Aunt Martha starts gossiping. Hanging out with people you typically don’t see the rest of the year is a challenge, but if you find yourself in this situation, have plenty of conversation starters ready to change the subject when things start going off track. Enlist your spouse to help you steer clear of sensitive subjects and watch out for problems with alcohol at the same time.
It’s also hard to say no to people during this time of year. We want to make everyone happy but it’s impossible to do so and still maintain some degree of sanity. We have to make sure we put our own health front and foremost so we don’t end up even sicker, but it’s hard to find the right balance so everyone is satisfied.
My suggestion is to put a plan together and then stick to it. Let other people adjust to what YOU need to do for yourself for a change. If you have small children, it’s easier to stay at home and let others come to you. Plan a big meal if you’d like but make sure everyone brings a component of the dinner so you’re not the one doing all the cooking. If you do have to travel, pack plenty of activities for the kids both on the way and while at the venue you’ll be celebrating at.
Agree to pare down the gift giving to just the kids this year. If you decide to give to the adults as well, limit the amount spent, or draw names and give to one person only. Maybe this year, do your large family holiday the night before and spend the actual holiday with just your immediate family to make managing things easier. Set a budget and stick to it.
Decorate over a period of time instead of trying to do everything in one day. The same goes for baking or card writing…spread it out over a few days instead of trying to do everything on one particular day and you’ll save yourself energy. Host a cookie swap where you get together with friends to bake a certain amount of cookies, then swap so you get a variety of treats.
If you’re going to be traveling for the holidays, wrap presents, but leave off the bows and ribbon until you get to your destination – that will help avoid them being crushed when you pack. Just make sure you label the packages when you wrap them, or use a different paper for each family member.
When you’re writing your holiday cards, make sure you update your address book at the same time. Use pen for the person’s name, but pencil for the address and phone number. That way, it’s easier to erase and change the information.
Keep some gifts on hand for last minute giving – homemade jams and jellies, pretty soaps, bottles of wine, stationery, chocolates and candles, etc. are all good and don’t take up too much space.
If you expect to be having a lot of guests, try clearing out your front closet so you have room to store their coats. Use a basket to hold gloves and hats. Also, consider purchasing an umbrella holder if you live in an area that has rain and/or snow.
Try to have some games or activities for children who might be showing up at your house if you no longer have kids living at home. Colouring books, puzzle books and crayons are inexpensive and you can pick up used board games at any thrift shop.
Build in rest time each day leading up the holidays so you don’t become over taxed. If you can arrange for a nap each afternoon, that’s a great way to recharge your batteries. Even if all you can manage is to sit quietly for a few minutes, it’s better than nothing.
When the holidays are done, take a day or so and just relax. No tasks except to focus on you and rebuilding your energy. Get good sleep, eat well and drink lots of water. All the holiday work is draining on your body and you need to make time to recuperate properly, even if you don’t feel spent.
Here are some ideas to help pamper yourself during the busy season. Use as necessary!
Hopefully some of these tips and ideas will help you to enjoy this upcoming holiday season with less stress and body pain. Make sure to take time for yourself, rest when you need to and enjoy the celebrations!!
Pamela Jessen lives in Langford, BC Canada. She is a blogger who writes about Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illness at pamelajessen.com. She also writes for The Mighty, PainResource.com and various independent publications. Pamela is also a Patient Advocate with the Patient Voices Network in BC. She sits on 4 committees and one Provincial working group and has also been involved in advocacy work at the Canadian National level as well. Pamela is married to her amazing husband Ray and they have one cat named Dorie.