By: Dr Alex Robber
The holiday season will be a fun time but with a lot of pressures and aspirations. It can be an arduous time even for healthy people and it can turn into the toughest time of the year for those of us with fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME / CFS).
For most of us it doesn’t take long to know that traumatic experiences (i.e., unpleasant accidents, confrontations) make you feel much worse. But have you linked happy events to a health decline, too? A 2008 study shows that both positive and negative events can rekindle symptoms of FMS for a few days.
It does not go into why we get this impact from these events. (And we’re not alone with arthritis and osteoarthritis, too.) The simple process here can really help you focus on what’s important to keep some of the season’s happiness.
Make a list and remember to check it twice.
This is my favorite tip for any time of year, not just for Christmas. I prefer to use a good old pen & paper but if it works for you with a list on your phone, then go for it. Create a big list of what to do before the big day and then you can break it down into simple, convenient tasks for every day. Only remember to cross it out when you complete every mission. Get ready for the satisfaction feelings as you are working your way through the list. Revise periodically and make changes as you go.
Prioritizing: What Do You Want Most?
Take your list now and give it priority. What means the most to you? What really must happen in order to be happy with your holidays? There’s a temptation here to ponder what everyone wants. If you have trouble prioritizing because you know that your mother-in-law needs pecan pastry, your brother is on a diet and Great-Aunt Suzie always lights up her house so why can’t you,
STAND! Although you may want to look after others, you need to be rational and take care of YOU first! You can have to focus on saying “no.” When you decide, not only think about what’s important, but also what you really enjoy doing. If wrapping presents with lots of elaborate ribbons and bows make you happy, don’t shorten your own enjoyment by going with gift bags or delegating it to another.
Gift Yourself Wellness.
This time of year, is so crazy, in such a small period of time, with so much to think about and get done. Nobody wants to crash and burn at Christmas so it’s very important for you to take your time. A bit of down time is essential for everyone, but especially for those of us who are suffering from chronic pain.
Overdoing something will prove catastrophic and ruin all our best laid plans, be it exercise, drinking and eating. Some gentle relaxation such as meditation, gentle yoga or a nature walk are all perfect ways to help the batteries recharge.
Pacing: Cut, Simplify, Delegate
Pacing yourself is the secret to managing FMS and ME / CFS every day, so don’t think about it during the busy times! Now is when it’s most important. There are several measures going into pacing and the first is cutting the list down. Count your things, then delete the lower half. No longer think about those things you’ve already decided they’re non-essential and don’t bring you joy.
Now, just simplify. How would you make it easier? Gift bags instead of wrapping, online shopping instead of going to a dozen stores, have a simpler backup plan if you have some labor-intensive things on the list. For example, if you want to make pie crust from scratch but just don’t have the energy when you need it, then this time accept that store-bought crust is the right option.
Check back at your list now, to see what you should assign. Turn the dinner in Thanksgiving to a potluck. Who will come over to help you set the table or decorate it? Who can help you with the cleaning? You may be shocked at the amount of people willing to support you. When no one is willing to help, so what, if it’s a family meal or party, maybe their inability to help indicates that this isn’t a concern for them, which means they don’t need to be a concern for you.
Take the trouble out of your current shopping and shop from the comfort of your house. These days you can find pretty much anything online and delivery times are usually prompt. Get your family and friends out on Amazon to make a wish list. Hopefully this would then diminish the brain capacity required to think of the present ideal. Gift vouchers are also a wonderful stress-free choice and usually obtained with appreciation from the receiver.
Don’t like a heavy weight let the holiday season descend on you. You and your immediate family decide which aspects of the holidays are most important to you. Emphasis on accomplishing crucial tasks and letting go of everything else.
Share this with your immediate family after you’ve decided what’s most important to you for the holidays. Then ask each member of the family what’s most important to them (an elaborately decorated house, lots of baked goodies on hand, a big home-cooked dinner, visits with other relatives, etc.) Family traditions are important but just as families are growing and evolving, some traditions may also have to change. Hold on to the practices and rituals that are most important to your family but recognize that it may be time to change some practices.