Christmas with Chronic Health Issues

The holiday season is supposed to be the hap-happiest time, the most wonderful time of the year!
Unfortunately, it comes with a lot of stress and expectations. Many healthy or ‘normal’ people can find it difficult. Those dealing with chronic illnesses like fibro, CFS/ME, lupus, etc have it worse.. Unfortunately, for someit is the worst time of the year.

Here are some strategies that can help when things get hectic:

• Pace yourself. Conserve your energy and taking it slow.
• Say “No”: You can only do so much. If you overextend yourself, that can & usually does instigate a flare in symptoms.
• Ask for help. Again, you can only do so much. Ask someone else to help out with what you can’t do like stringing up the lights
• Stop the crash by stopping before it happens. . If you go until you’re too tired or too sore or too stressed to do more then you most definitely will crash. “Just do one or two more things, or visit one or two more shops, or go down one or two more aisles'” – this thought process only leads to decreased health..
• Keep it simple. —Decorate but not as much, celebrate—but not as much, cook if you can—but not as much.”
• Put some extra thought in any travel plans (well, not a an issue this year, but in the future) traveling during the holidays. A busy travel schedule can be hell. Give yourself the time you need .. To recover from a travel day.. To rest between flights& have sufficient layover.. & Bring what you need to travel. Be it snacks, water, ear plugs, eye mask, medications . Plan ahead and pace yourself.
• Prep food ahead of time. Get the veggies ready to throw in the pot, make the potatoes the day before, roll & fill the pies a week or two before & freeze.. If you do breakfast, mix up your eggs, or pancake mix or French toast egg dip prior.. the night before so it ready on Christmas morning.
• Organuze. Set the dinning room table the week before, or the kitchen the night or two prior to whatever extent you can.
• Leave guilt behind! Take a reality check. You have a chronic pain illness which limits what and how much you can do. Do not blaming yourself because you can’t provide the same elaborate holiday festivities you once did. Don’t even try to do everything you think your family expects from you. Don’t put those expectations on yourself – they are not realistic aspirations.
• Set priorities. You can no longer do every single holiday traditions you used to. You now have to determine what means the most to you & consider the energy levels required. Some can be modified like I stead of going walking to check out Christmas, you take a drive to check out the lights. So, again, be realistic.
• Avoid overnight visitors if you can.. If you can’t, set the expectations like ‘I’m not making you breakfast, but help yourself’ or ‘I don’t get up until 10am so they know not to knock off n my door unless it’s an emergency.’ or ‘Can you please strip the bed before you go – just toss them into a pile on the floor for me to wash.’
• If you are hosting, you can (again, not this year) ask each one to bring one or two dishes, So my sister brings the turkey, my be CES do the stuffing & gravy, my brother brings the vegetables, Mom brings the desserts.. This leaves yourself only one or two simple items to prepare. In this case bun’s & potatoes. OR just go somewhere for dinner or even a family vacation together over Christmas .
• Organize your gift giving. Keep a list of who is getting gifts & what, so you won’t have the foggy moment of ‘Did I get this for Uncle John, Cousin Sue, or my brother?’ I even make note on where to get things so I’m not heading the same time 3 times. Plus My cookie list: I make 3 different sized bundles of cookies every year. A small ½dozen to the little guys or extended family, 2 doz to the nieces, nephews, godchildren (no, Kaden, my Godson and my nephew does not get two no matter how much he’d like that), & 3 doz to bff’s, my pain doc, & the bf’s…
• While it may be more expensive, the extra cost may be worth it to shop online. You avoid the stress and exhaustion of holiday shopping in crowds of people & lots on scencury impact. Gifts can sometimes be sent directly to the recipients, saving you the hassle of finding a box, packaging the gifts and waiting in line at the post office.
• Use gift bags instead of traditional wrapping or there are decorative boxes that you can just drop something in, tape it, add ribbon & done. It is physically stressful on the body to wrap gift after gift.. My back always gives out.
• What your diet!.. Do not over eat. Take home leftovers for later instead. If you eat too much, especially too fast, you just know your body will retaliate in some manner. And avoid all the extra sugar available at this time of year, cookies, cakes, candies, pastries…
• Change your schedule as little as possible. The changes on Christmas Holiday & especially Christmas day frequently send our bodies out of whack,. Try & keep your normal activities going.. Keep up with an exercise regime. Stick, to a relative amount, with your regular diet. Keep your sleep schedule as close to normal, if you have your book club meeting stops for 2 weeks, schedule a chat with on of your friends at the same time so that you are still doing something in lieu..
• While I keep seeing the recommendation of avoiding Eggnog, I can’t agree with this, but you do need to be careful. Egg Nog has both milk/cream & eggs in it so those sensitivities need to be confirmed. If you are buying your eggnog, be aware there a ton of preservatings, thickeners & other chemicals in it. If you make it from scratch – eggs, milk, sugar & vanilla, and while it tastes better, you can not keep it around forever, even in the fridge.
• Take time for yourself.Even if it’s just two slow deep breath’s, or an hour meditation, or ordering dinner in or doing your nails.. Self care at this time if year is just as important, especially with the limitations & upcoming 1 month lockdown here where I am.

With everything going on at Christmas time, it’s inevitable that while you may not X ash, you’re not going to feel great on Boxing Day. . If possible, just stay home and rest. The more time you can take, the better.

It’s also pertainent that these tips you need not only be aware of during the holidays, be the rest of the year throughb as well.

Merry Christmas

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