The holidays can be stressful for anyone – but throw a chronic illness into the mix and, well, instead of that yummy sugar-cookie recipe, you could easily have a recipe for disaster.
However, it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. Turn your holidays “nice” instead of “naughty” by following these easy, stress-reducing, arthritis-friendly tips this holiday season!
1) Pace Yourself! Don’t let the fatigue get the best of you. Don’t do all of your holiday cooking or shopping in one day – or you’ll run yourself ragged and deplete what energy you may have. Remember to rest – lack of sleep can leave us on edge, causing stress, which can lead to insomnia and which can worsen our aches and pains …. don’t fall into that vicious cycle! “Pain can be exacerbated by an overload of so much to do around the holidays,” says Nisha Manek, MD, a rheumatologist at the Mayo Clinic.
2) Travel Mindfully! When traveling, be mindful of your condition(s) and any special needs or accommodations that may be made. Consider this ahead of time to make appropriate travel arrangements whether traveling by air, car, train, or bus. Do you need special seating? Make sure you have it! Bring cushions or pillows to make it a smooth ride. Additionally, if you are staying with family, make sure that you will be able to make yourself comfortable: will you need a special pillow? Will you be climbing a lot of steps? Should you bring a heating pad, or do they have one? What kind of bed will you be sleeping in? Be mindful of your needs, in spite of all the holiday commotion!
3) Ask For Help! Don’t do all of the holiday decorating, shopping, or baking all on your own. In fact, the holidays are the perfect time to spend with loved ones, making the chores seem like less of a challenge by doing it together! Ask a family member, spouse, friend, or neighbor to assist you, and don’t take on any projects that are just too big for you to handle – and handle safely, at that. When cooking, use ergonomic kitchen tools, appliances, and accessories, and keep a chair or stool nearby in case you need to rest for a bit. Shop with a partner – they can help you reach things on shelves or carry bags. If you are alone, make sure to ask the store employees for assistance. If need be, consider using one of the scooters that you can rent at most malls to avoid all of the walking.
4) Don’t Wrap! Gift wrapping can be brutal on those arthritic wrists and hands. Why not pay a neighborhood teenager to do the wrapping for you, have the presents professionally gift-wrapped at the store, or use pretty gift bags to conceal those gifts and goodies until the big day?
5) Consider Printed Cards! Writing out holiday greeting cards can make ANYONE’S hands ache ~ especially if you have arthritis! Consider using an online service to send personalized cards that look handwritten but are printed for you, and avoid those aches and pains!
6) Don’t Neglect Yourself! In the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle, sometimes we forget to look out for number one. Do not neglect your exercise regime or skip on sleep. Make sure to take care of your mental and physical health to ensure a top-notch, memorable holiday this year!
7) Reflect! Use the end of the year to meditate and reflect on what you are grateful for, what you could have done differently, and what you want to accomplish in the coming year. Don’t make New Year’s resolutions that are unattainable – setting the bar too high can lead to disappointment and unrealistic expectations. However, do consider setting a goal that you can meet – one that will challenge you, but one that can be done. If you stick to it, you’ll boost your self-esteem and feel better heading into the new year. Consider it a fresh start! Out with the old, and in with the new!
8) Make Your Own Traditions! If you are sticking with certain holiday traditions simply for the fact that they are traditions, consider starting your OWN tradition – one that is easier on you physically and mentally. There’s no use stressing out about setting up a Christmas Village that the kids don’t even notice let alone appreciate, or draining your body making a city of gingerbread houses just because you “do it every year.” Midnight mass? Only if you want to. Why deprive yourself of sleep when you can go to an earlier mass that day, or, go to church the next morning? Likewise, don’t beat yourself up over hosting an over-the-top holiday party if your body isn’t feeling up to it. Maybe just meet up with some friends at a restaurant this year to catch up before the holidays, and have the cooking done and ambiance set for you? Just as some rules are made to be broken, some traditions are, too.
You can still have a meaningful, memorable, and joy-filled holiday even if you make a few tweaks and get rid of unrealistic expectations. Decide what is practical, what REALLY matters to you and your family, and what is healthiest for you and your loved ones. During the holidays and always, remember to sit back and look at it with perspective and focus. Be mindful of what is truly important, and let go of the things that are not, creating a less-stressful and more simplified and significant life for yourself.
Arthritis Today Magazines suggests starting small when making holiday adaptations. “Identify subtle changes that will help preserve the things you value the most while reducing your workload and stress. Those subtle changes can mean big relief.”
We’d love to hear from you – so please leave a comment and let us know ~ how do you make your holidays comfortable and less stressful for yourself?
Don’t forget! If you want to warm up your heart during these chilly winter months and do some good for the holiday season, simply text the word ACTION to 27722 to donate $10 to the Arthritis Foundation, Mid Atlantic Region’s Million Dollar Campaign for Arthritis!
good advice for anyone… thanks for sharing.
having lots of trouble with this right now. guess family doesn’t really realise just how limited is my energy – ‘spoons’ are all used up already. Only 4 of us for Christmas dinner, but hubby wants the usual spread. When I try to leave something out, he says ‘but what about?’ Same with cards, I have always written them, this year sent emails, and no cards. He is worried about people with no emails, but hasn’t offered to write cards himself.
Great tips! You reminded me to ask SIL if we need to bring a heating pad to her house. Thanks!