Chronic Illness and the Holidays

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As we move into December and the start of the Festive season, it can be a time of great stress for those of us who live with Chronic Illness. I wanted to share some strategies for getting through this time of year without increasing your pain or stress levels.

Here are some of my top suggestions:

Plan In Advance

As Christmas, Hannukah and New Years get closer, it’s a good idea to start thinking about what you’ll do and where you’ll go. Are there family traditions that can be changed in regards to who hosts events? If it’s been you in the past that hosted a large group, perhaps someone else could do it this year and you could be the guest. Start to prioritize the things you most want to do (attend a Santa Claus parade, a Festival of Lights, Religious Services, visiting certain friends, etc.) and then build your schedule around that.

Keep Managing Your Chronic Illness

Once you have a schedule in place, you can start building in rest days before and after events. Don’t forget about the day of the events themselves and how you need to ration your energy to have the greatest chance of being able to participate.

Go to your scheduled doctor’s appointments and take care of yourself. It’s so tempting to cancel these things at this time of the year, but don’t. Make sure you are taking your medications as prescribed. If you have special dietary needs, keep them in mind when eating out and preparing meals. Now is not the time to go off a medically necessary diet.

Make Lists

Make lists of things you need or want to do. Prioritize those lists. Delegate and let some things go. Take advantage of online shopping to save your energy.  And don’t be a perfectionist. There’s no room for perfectionism in a chronically ill person’s life.

Pace Yourself

If you know you have a party to go to in the evening, that morning is not the time to scrub out your tub. This is another area in which I struggle. Pace yourself throughout the day and over a period of several days. If you are planning on going shopping with friends on Saturday, plan on Friday and even Thursday being light activity days.

Be Honest

If you’re going somewhere else to celebrate and you have energy limitations, let your host know that you may not be able to participate fully in the activities. If you aren’t able to host at your house like usual, ask others to chip in and host instead. Being honest with people in your life about your limitations can be helpful for avoiding hurt feelings later. Think through what you need to explain to others ahead of time to allow the events to go smoothly.

Enlist The Help Of Your Spouse Or A Friend

Enlist the help of your spouse or a good friend to be part of your team during the holiday festivities. This should be someone who knows you well and will be able to read your responses to situations. This person will help you feel safe in the situations you’re entering and will watch for any indication that you aren’t feeling well.

My husband Ray, serves in this role for me. Another friend or family member could also do this. Basically, Ray notices when I’m getting worn down and my health is going downhill. He’s particularly aware of my flagging energy, and will often ask me how I’m doing to gauge whether it’s time to leave. I also know I can tell him I’m ready to go and he’ll take me home immediately if I need to leave.

Be Okay With Your Plans Changing

This one is a big part of normal life with chronic illness. Flexibility is important because things can change on a moments notice when health issues are a concern.  Even if you have everything planned and scheduled, do yourself a favor and release expectations. If you are religious, prayerfully plan your schedule but then hold those plans loosely. Ask God to cover you with perfect peace in whatever situations you may encounter with your health over the holidays.

Ask For Help

Ask for specific things. I don’t like to depend on anyone for help, but if it means making the holidays more manageable, I think it’s worth it. Sometimes, people will offer to help, but they don’t say what they are willing to do. Having a list ready with ideas of what others can do for you will come in handy when people make those kinds of offers. Do you need help with laundry? Running errands? Housework? How about help with wrapping gifts? Think about all of your regular and holiday tasks and delegate some of them to family members and willing friends.

Connect With Others

Try to make time with friends you might not otherwise get to see, even if it’s just for a short while. Have a quick get together at a coffee shop, chat with a girlfriend about a sappy Christmas movie you’ve both watched. Make an effort each day to reach out to someone. Text, Facebook, instant message, make a phone call. You don’t have to carry on an hour-long conversation, just a brief connection can be enough.

Find “Me” Time

Build in some time just for yourself during the holidays to read, craft, rest or do whatever else will help to give you some “me” time. It’s important to recharge your batteries. If being surrounded by people is what energizes you, then do that…it’s all about what makes you feel good.

Make Time For Your Spouse Or Significant Other

It’s so important to carve out time for the two of you. With all the busyness going on around you,  communicating can sometimes take a backseat, especially if you aren’t feeling so well. Be honest about how you are feeling and ask for help when you need it. Try to sneak in a few inexpensive “dates.” Drive around and look at the Christmas lights, stop for some hot chocolate, attend a Christmas program together. Just enjoy each others company.

Laugh As Much As You Can

This one is one of my favorite pieces of advice. Laugh. Just do it. I’ve found that no matter how horrible I feel, laughter can be a source of medicine for me. Laughing helps lift my spirit and makes me feel more alive. Try to enjoy yourself while you celebrate the holidays, and be sure to include laughter in your days!

Remember The Reason For The Season

It’s so easy to get caught up in the baking, partying, shopping, decorating, etc., but that’s not really what it’s all about. If you are a religious person, keep attending church services and go to the special holiday programs. Listen to religious Christmas songs along with the pop tunes. If you aren’t particularly religious or are a nonbeliever, meditate, attend holiday community events, and enjoy finding ways to nurture your own spiritual side.

Remember….There Is Always Hope

SoCS – The Chronic Pain Advent Calendar

I am taking part once again in the Stream of Consciousness Saturday posting and our word today is “ma” – either the word itself or a word containing it. I’ve chosen the word “marks” (in bold) as you will see below. Thanks to Linda G. Hill for her weekly SoSC postings

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December 1st marks the day that many people bring out the Advent calendars. Filled with a chocolate or some type of goodie, children and adults alike enjoy opening these calendars to find the treat and mark down the days before Christmas.

If you are living with Chronic Pain, I’d like to give you your own Advent calendar. Instead of little treats, here are some ideas for Christmas or Hannukah presents that People with Chronic Pain would really enjoy receiving this year. Without further ado, here are 24 gifts, one for each day leading up to December 25th with links to suggested products on Amazon, to make the buying even easier:

December 1

December 2

December 3

December 4

Heated Car Seat Covers or Steering Wheel Covers

 

Microwavable Wraps

Essential Oils

Warm Slippers

December 5

December 6

December 7

December 8

Far Infrared Heating Pad – this penetrates deep into the muscles.

 

Beverage Containers (tea, thermos, etc.)

Meditation or Relaxation CD’s

Gift Cards to a favourite shop, or to Amazon online

December 9

December 10

December 11

December 12

Coupons for an Act of Service, such a Lawn Cutting, Housecleaning, Driving, etc.

 

Comfortable Pyjamas

A Weighted Blanket

Heatable stuffed animals

December 13

December 14

December 15

December 16

Uber or Lyft Gift Cards for transportation

The gift of your company for a visit

Kitchen tools that simplify making meals

A manicure, pedicure, massage…some personal pampering is always nice.

 

December 17

December 18

December 19

December 20

Money to help pay bills

Favourite Snack Foods and Drinks

A soft fluffy Bathrobe

Fun Socks!

 

 

December 21

December 22

December 23

December 24

Gift Card for a Food Delivery Service

Bath Soaks, Bubbles, Salts and Bombs

 

Paraffin Wax Hand or Foot Spa

A Roomba for easier vacuuming

If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comments below, for other Santas who are doing their shopping!

Thank you and remember…

There is always hope