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Managing chronic pain and illness during the holidays can be tough. Most people look forward to a season, jam-packed with celebrations, spending time with their loved ones and yearly traditions. But for those of us with chronic pain and illness, it can be the time of year we look forward to the least.
As much as we try our best to enjoy ourselves, we ALWAYS have to consider our health.
No matter how much we try to put on a cheerful face, our pain is still there.
So here are some tips for managing chronic pain and chronic illness during the holiday season.
Of course, everyone’s experience with chronic pain and illness will differ, so not every tip will apply.
Hopefully, there will be a handful you can pick out to make managing chronic pain and illness during the festive period less stressful.
17 WAYS TO SURVIVE THE HOLIDAYS WHILST MANAGING CHRONIC PAIN & ILLNESS
1- SCHEDULE PLENTY OF REST
The holiday season can be very hectic. From work parties, dinners with friends and family functions.
The festive period can be a lot to deal with, particularly if you have chronic pain or a chronic illness.
Which is why scheduling rest and pacing yourself throughout the festive period is so important.
If you’ve got a lot going on, be sure to plan and place a rest period in and throughout your holiday schedule.
Schedule days in between events to recover and rest. Or if you have days, like Christmas day when it’s going to be hectic, schedule regular breaks throughout the day.
2- PLAN AHEAD
Planning on regular days with chronic pain and illness is key, but during the holiday season, it’s even more important.
Chronic pain, brain fog and all the other annoying symptoms we deal with day-to-day make things more difficult to tackle.
So don’t leave things to the last minute and stress yourself out more than you have to.
Give yourself enough time to get prepared, whether you’re going out of town for the holidays, hosting, or you have a lot of events to attend.
If you’re going out of town:
- Pack your suitcase in advance, gradually fill it up
- Make a list or pack all of your medications and mobility aids
- Wrap and pack all your gifts ahead of time
If you have a lot of events to attend:
- Plan how you’re going to get there and back
- Check if its wheelchair friendly
- How many stairs are at the venues, etc
If you’re hosting:
- Wrap gifts
- Plan out recipes
- Make a grocery list
3- MAKE A LIST
During the entire holiday season, there’s something to do every day until January.
Brain fog, pain and fatigue can make it hard to remember and keep up with everything.
From buying gifts, events, food shopping, travel plans and all the rest of it.
To prepare yourself, make a list ahead of time. I like to make separate lists, so I’m not stuck with one never ending to do list.
Here are a few examples.
- Events, with dates, times and locations
- List for groceries, dishes, cutlery, table decorations, etc
- A list of all the people I need to send invites and cards
- A list of recipes
4- BUY GIFTS IN ADVANCE & ONLINE
We all know how crazy shops are in the lead up to the holidays. There have been too many times where I’ve left buying gifts for the very last second.
Ending up in a blind panic, darting from store to store and picking from whatever’s left, because nearly everything has sold out.
That’s stressful for anyone, but it’s even worse when you have chronic pain or a chronic condition, so save yourself and get what you can in advance.
Buying in advance applies not only to gifts, you can also –
- Buy your decorations, Christmas invites and cards
- Book restaurant reservations before they get booked up
- Book cleaning and catering staff
- Buy your holiday outfits and ugly Christmas sweaters
5- SHOP ONLINE
If you’re anything like me, you might hate going to the stores to shop. I try my best to avoid the shops and buy everything online.
Not only because I hate shopping, but because walking around for hours in the mall plays havoc with my pelvic pain.
Nowadays you can get pretty much everything online, which suits us spoonies perfectly!
It allows us to save our energy and rest or do more of the things we actually enjoy, like spending time with friends and family.
So make a list of everything you need, from food and alcohol to gifts and cutlery.
You can also buy things well before the holidays, or during black Friday, so you can get all that you need and want.
Buying online is also a great way to stumble across good deals and offers that you may not have gotten if you went into the stores.
Who doesn’t want to save some coins without having to leave the sofa?
6- YOU DON’T HAVE TO ACCEPT EVERY INVITATION
Once October hits, our social calendars fill up rapidly in the lead up to Christmas.
You’ll have invites to everything from work parties, clubbing, brunches, lunches and dinners.
But you don’t have to accept every invitation. Evaluate each invite and rank them in order of importance.
Once you’ve done that, you can decide which you have to attend, such as family events, and which ones you can take a rain check on.
If you find yourself with loads of events that you actually want to attend, you still can.
Just be sure to plan your rest periods in between and not push yourself too far.
Check out the next tip, which will help you manage chronic pain and illness whilst enjoying the holiday season.
7- PLAN YOUR ESCAPE
Managing chronic pain goes hand in hand with managing your time and activity levels.
If you have several events to go to throughout the holiday period, plan ahead so you can leave whenever you need to.
We all know how those holiday parties can get. They can go on to the early hours of the morning.
If you need to leave or don’t plan to stay as long as everyone one else, drive your own car, get someone to pick you up or book a taxi.
Another thing I like to do, for any event, is to arrive early before the place fills up with people.
That way you can find somewhere comfortable to sit, not stay until the end and to avoid being around lots of people which can be overwhelming if you’re in pain or not feeling well.
If you’re the opposite of me and like to arrive when the event is jumping, you can get there a little later instead.
Enjoy yourself for a couple of hours and leave once your body sends you the signal.
8- TELL YOUR LOVED ONES WHAT YOU NEED
It’s hard enough dealing with chronic pain and illness as it is, but the holiday season can make things a lot more difficult.
Whether you need help, time to rest or have to say no to certain things, communicating those things with loved ones is important.
Make your friends and family aware of your needs and boundaries.
Not only will it help them understand what they can do to support you, but it will also help you feel less stressed.
Here are a few things you can communicate with your loved ones to make the holidays easier to get through:
- The time you’re able to dedicate to events
- Things you’ll need help with e.g. – cooking, cleaning, buying gifts
- What you can’t do e.g. – hang decorations or stand for long periods of time
- When you need to rest or take a break
- You may not attend every event because you need to look after your health
If you’re a little anxious about having conversations with your loved ones about your needs, check out this amazing guide by Adar Cohen at Psyche.com. He gives some really amazing tips on having difficult conversations.
MANAGING CHRONIC PAIN WHEN SPENDING THE HOLIDAYS AWAY FROM HOME
9- PACK AHEAD OF TIME
As I mentioned earlier, being well prepared when you have a chronic illness is key, particularly if you’re traveling.
I know that stress is a major trigger for my pain, so I try to do whatever I can to keep my stress levels low.
So instead of leaving packing to the last minute and stressing myself out, I like to pack at least a few days in advance.
That way I have time to think about what I need to pack and not forget anything important.
You can make a list of everything and check things off as you put them in your bag or suitcase.
10- PACK YOUR COMFORTS
If you’re spending the holidays away from home, be sure to bring all that you need to manage your pain/illness and make yourself comfortable.
If I’m spending time away from home, I bring my chronic pain survival kit with me. It includes my medication, a hot water bottle, coccyx pillow and Tens machine.
Of course, what you bring will differ depending on your condition, but you get my point.
11- HAVE A DEDICATED AREA TO REST
The holidays can be exhausting.
You may find yourself on your feet or moving around more than usual, so it’s important to have somewhere that you can retreat to for rest.
As well as pelvic pain, I also suffer from migraines, which are usually triggered by smell and light.
If I feel a migraine coming on, it’s important for me to go somewhere dark where there aren’t too many strong fragrances lingering.
If you’re staying with friends or family for the holidays, try to have a dedicated area for rest.
Whether it’s a bedroom, a chair or in the garden, do whatever works for the surrounding area.
Let those you’re staying with know ahead of time that you might need to take yourself away from time to time to rest.
MANAGING CHRONIC PAIN WHEN YOU’RE THE HOST
12- KEEP THINGS SIMPLE
If you’re the hostess with the mostest, of course you’ll want everything to be perfect. But that doesn’t mean that things have to be complicated.
Keep it simple.
I am a firm believer in working smarter, not harder, and that definitely applies if you’re a host.
Nowadays convenience is everything, so why not use that to your advantage.
Here are some ways you can simplify your holiday events:
- Use disposable dishes and cutlery – Avoid all that washing up and get some disposable cutlery and dishes. That doesn’t mean you have to have cheap paper plates and cups either. There are some really fancy disposable plates, cutlery, and cups, like these gold marble plates from Amazon.
- Get a pre-decorated Christmas tree – Like I said, nowadays convenience is everything. So instead of getting tangled up in tinsel and Christmas lights, buy a pre-decorated pop-up tree like this one. All you have to do is take it out of the box, slot it together, plug it in and turn on the lights.
- Create a simple menu – How many years running have you slaved in the kitchen with ten different options of meat, sides and desserts, only for half of it to go to waste? Instead, create a simple menu, perhaps with only two meat options, a couple of sides and one dessert.
- Secret santa – If you have a big family, or are hosting a large gathering, secret santa is a great idea. Everyone can pick one name out of a hat and that’s the person they’ll buy a gift for. It will not only save everyone’s money, but a lot of time and energy on your part.
- Use a gift wrapping service – During the holiday season, a lot of shops offer gift wrapping. Instead of sitting around wrapping loads of gifts, ask them to wrap it for you. If you suffer with conditions such as arthritis or carpal tunnel, it will spare you a lot of pain.
- Use gift bags and boxes – If the stores you get your gifts from don’t have a gift wrapping service, gift bags and boxes are a great shout. Save the hassle, cover the gifts in some tissue paper and put them in a nice bag or gift box, no wrapping necessary.
13- HOST WITH BOUNDARIES
How many times have you hosted a party or event and counted down the minutes until everyone would finally go home?
That may sound harsh, but it’s really not.
Aside from physical activity, having to entertain a group of people can really affect chronic pain or illness.
As much as you try to rest, you still want to make sure everyone is having a good time and try your best to enjoy yourself, too. It’s exhausting.
So try to set some boundaries to help you out. Here are some things you can do:
- Don’t invite too many people – Fewer guests means less stress and work, so limit the amount of people you invite. Evaluate how much energy you have and base your guest list around that.
- Have a timed event – Set how much time you want your event to go on for. Include that in your invites so everyone knows what time they’re expected to get the hell out. For example, Christmas brunch 11am – 2pm.
- Each person has to bring something – If, for example, you’re hosting Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner, you can do a potluck. Each guest can contribute a dish to share.
- No overnight guests – Hosting overnight guests can be too much for those with chronic illnesses, particularly through an already stressful holiday season. Which is why it’s okay to ask your loved ones to stay somewhere else.
14- GET OTHERS TO HELP
Being the host doesn’t mean you can’t ask others for help.
If you’re hosting an event, you’ll more than likely have invited those nearest and dearest to you, those who will be more than happy to help.
- Share responsibilities – Ask your guests to share the workload with you. Assign each person a task, such as washing up, setting the table, or reminding you to take a break.
- Hire a caterer and or cleaning team – If you have some money to spare, hire a caterer and cleaning team to do all the hard work for you. Asking for help isn’t exclusive to friends and family.
15- MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
I know the holidays are all about friends and family, but it’s still important to take time out for yourself.
Being around people back to back can be exhausting, particularly if you have a chronic illness or chronic pain.
16- IT’S OKAY TO PARTY HARD OR NOT AT ALL
Managing chronic pain and illness means that we often have to make sacrifices or compromises.
You may have to sacrifice time with your family to tend to your health. Or maybe you partied hard knowing that your pain or symptoms would flare up the following morning.
Both are totally fine. Don’t punish yourself for doing either.
You’re only human, you’re going to make both sensible and not so sensible choices.
17- DON’T PUT TOO MUCH PRESSURE ON YOURSELF!
I know it’s supposed to be the ‘most wonderful time of the year’, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be Mrs Claus every day.
If you’re in pain or having a flare-up, all of that festive cheer can disappear quickly.
If you’re not feeling well, don’t pressure yourself to be cheerful just because it’s the holiday season.
Chronic pain and illness won’t take a break because it’s Christmas or new Year’s eve, you don’t have to force yourself to be festive to not look like a party pooper.
Allow yourself to accept exactly how you feel, whether good or bad.
MANAGING CHRONIC PAIN & ILLNESS DURING THE HOLIDAYS CAN BE DONE!
Managing chronic pain and illness during the holidays can be hard. Your holiday season may not be all that you had hoped for, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.
All the extra planning and preparation will pay off, so you can enjoy the festive period in your own way.
Remember to have fun without putting too much pressure on yourself!
I hope you found these tips helpful and you’re able to make the most of the holiday season.
I’d love to know what you do to prepare for the holiday period?
Disclaimer: The information provided in my blog posts is strictly from my own experiences and is not intended to replace medical or professional advice. Do not disregard any medical advice you have received after reading any of my posts. For more, please read my disclosure page.
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