The holidays can be a stressful time of year. They are busy and hectic. A lot of your time and energy seems to be given out that you simply do not have. It is a joyful time of year but if we are not careful it can be overwhelming as well. All this combined can increase our pain levels and fatigue and generally decrease our enjoyment of the activities we spend with our family. We want to be able to enjoy ourselves, enjoy the time with our family and friends and still partake in holiday events.
Here are some things to consider over the holidays.
Ditch the guilt
With fibromyalgia there is often a struggle with guilt. Guilt that we can no longer be a great employee or provider. Guilt that we let down our family. Guilt that we simply cannot be what we would have been. For some reason this can rear its ugly head during the holidays because again we have these expectations of ourselves that we simply cannot live up to. Unfortunately we all also have this wonderful idea of what the perfect holiday should be like; there should be family, friends, food and parties along with holiday joy. Yet the fact is on the best of days fibromyalgia limits what we can accomplish. This discord between reality and our ideal image of what should be causes this guilt. Instead we should be focusing on what we really want to achieve and how to achieve it realistically. The holidays are about expressing how much we care for our loved ones and our friends. We are still capable of that without running ourselves into the ground in the process.
What makes your holiday memorable?
Essentially you need to decide what parts of the holiday season make it memorable and important to you and your family. Take those important things and eliminate the rest so you are free to focus on the essentials. You can discuss with our family which traditions they find to be most important and defining to them. Some of which can then be delegated to them. Some people have a tradition of a big family meal that is home cooked but maybe going out for dinner, or having take-in where everyone is free to just relax and visit might be fine as well. Some people have decorations all over the house but maybe just less extensive decorating with a tree might suffice. There might be a tradition of baking lots of home baked goods and appetizers but if these were bought instead would that not be a willing compromise? What traditions does your family have that make the holidays special to the family as a whole? Keep the ones that are important and let yourself compromise on the small ones.
Remember the mighty list
Fibrofog hits at the worst times and planning is your friend as are lists. Gift lists are very helpful because you can cross off as you go along. If you are doing a lot of planning for an event yourself then a to-do list or even a menu list might help as well. Remember not every item has to be completed by you. You can delegate parts of the list to others. This way you can prioritize what is important to you and your family and ensure you are able to get things done without being rushed. Try to keep it simple. If something on that list is not that important to you or your family just get rid of it. If it is something that does not need to be done by you consider delegating it. And finally, of the things you want to accomplish consider the easiest way to accomplish the task, if there are ways to make it simpler or compromises that can be made. Once you have your goals laid out spread them over your timeline so that you only need to accomplish a fraction each week allowing for bad pain days in the mix.
Budget your time
Shopping can be done online and if you have done so then you are a step ahead of the game. If not then decide what you are getting, choose low peak times to go get it and go for the quick in and out. Not everything has to be bought in one day. Shopping all day in a mall can be quite taxing. If you do hit the mall for an all-out shopping adventure consider switching the heavy winter gear in the car for comfortable shoes, a lighter sweater and a light purse to help with the fatigue and strain of the walk-a-thon.
Plan your own day with what baking you plan to do, what family obligations you plan to fill as well as regular obligations and ensure there is plenty of down time and these are spread out enough. Not everything has to be done immediately. Allow for time for anything last minute so you are not rushing to get something done in a hurry. Never over extend yourself in one day and always ensure that any day you do plan anything major you have some down time. Try not to fill every day of the week as well since this will make you feel obliged to accomplish everything, gives you no leeway for a bad day and no recovery day if you tired yourself out on a previous day.
Remember to say No
We have limited energy and pain flares from stress and strain can occur if we exceed our limitations. Therefore do not feel obligated to attend every event or gathering you are invited to. Choose which ones you can attend and stick with those ones. You can always plan an event with people you decline after the holidays when things settle down.
Consider your budget
In these times when money can be more strained it is important to stick to a firm budget and avoid any additional financial stress. Financial stress over a time when money is spent more easily at the end of the year and the beginning of the new year is an extra burden no one needs.
Maintain your schedule
Just because it is the holiday season does not mean you should change your routines. Keeping your regular eating habits and sleeping habits are important to maintaining energy and low stress. It is easy to get into the holiday spirit and want to partake in too many tempting treats or have a few extra glasses of wine but sometimes moderation is better on both counts when both can be triggers that can flare up symptoms.
Having company over
In regards to housekeeping we often feel the need to clean the entire house for company, which is an exhausting feat. However, people do not trek through the entire house on a visit so clean the areas people will be in such as the living room, bathroom and maybe the kitchen. Appetizers do not have to be made they can be bought and appetizer trays are a fine compromise. For the meal it-self other compromises can be made such as having someone in the family cook with you or having parts of the meal be bought cooked already. Or alternatively you can ask the guests to each bring a dish and you can do the main course. Choosing to do a more casual lunch instead of an extensive diner is also an option. Anything ideas that can ease the overall stress of the preparation of the event should be considered if this is something that is stressful.
If you have problems wrapping presents then remember you can do this task as soon as you have the gift and no need to wait until later. Or use gift bags which are a nice easy alternative. We all like to be thoughtful with our gifts but if you have many gifts to purchase or simply do not have the energy this year to go and buy a lot of specific gifts remember that coupons and gift cards are a simple alternative which do not require wrapping and some places supply a whole selection of them in one location.
If you find the holidays to be particularly stressful or even at times depressing then this is all the more important for you to avoid stress. At times people want to just isolate themselves during the holidays because they feel too sick to socialize but it is better to do even a little bit of casual socializing than none at all. Retreating during this part of the year can be depressing and therefore letting yourself get into the spirit of things even in small ways can lift your spirits. Simply going out for small shopping trips and listening to Christmas music, going to a Christmas work party or having lunch with a friend. Permit yourself to enjoy the small pleasures that come with the season and give yourself a break from any negative self-talk. There are plenty of people who find the holidays difficult but when dealing with a chronic illness it can be isolating and depressing in a different way.
The best gift you can give yourself is to enjoy the holiday season with your loved ones. To not take on extra stress and to relax. Some of us have too many obligations over the holidays and elaborate celebrations and some of us dread the holidays and avoid it altogether. We should all aim for somewhere in the middle where we are not spread too thin but are able to be involved with the holiday season with whomever we choose to celebrate it with.