And so another holiday season is upon us. For ‘norms’ this season can be stressful and exhausting, and for people struggling with chronic pain, fibromyalgia, CFS and other auto immune conditions, it can throw us into days, (read weeks) of recovering. Here are 8 holiday survival tips to help you sail through the holiday season and make things a bit easier this year for you.
1. Prioritize Your Social Calendar
It’s awesome to be invited out to parties, dinners and get togethers, however, it’s important to look at the whole picture in regards to what you have going on and what you can do that allows you to still enjoy the season, without being flat out in bed.
Firstly, if you are planning on hosting a get together, then that’s a priority in regards to you needing to be well enough to do what is needed of you. (More on this below). It’s one thing to have to cancel going out (which sucks, of course), but it’s a whole new level when you have to cancel your own party/get together because you simply can’t do it. (Been there, done that and felt absolutely horrible in having to do this.).
2. Just Say NO
If there are several different events going on on the same weekend/week, you need to make some decisions. Saying ‘No’ doesn’t make you any less of an amazing person, it says that you’re taking care of yourself. (Of course, you wouldn’t just say ‘No’, but more like, ‘Thank you SO much for the invitation, this means a lot to me. Unfortunately, I already committed myself to xyz and I’m trying to take better care of me these days, meaning I can’t do everything I really would love to do. Perhaps you’d like to come to our home for our get together though? Or perhaps in the new year we can do something together, once the crazy season is over?
3. Admit it – You’re NOT Superwoman/Superman
Hard to believe, but it’s true! We can’t be all things to all people all of the time. (One of the main underlying features of fibromyalgia is that we have Type A personalities – we demand perfection from ourselves and others. Always).
There is a wonderful analogy about being in an airplane and the oxygen masks drop down…and you are told to put yours on first, because that way, by taking care of yourself, you are inevitably in a position to help others around you.
Well, life is no different to this analogy. You need to take care of yourself. Only you can do this. Nobody else is going to do it for you (and if they do, then you will most likely resent them for stepping on your toes!).
You are NOT superwoman/superman. FACT.
4. Ask For Help
Following along the whole superperson theme – I have learned that unless you ask for help, then you’re not always going to automatically get it!
When you have an invisible illness and know the tricks of make-up to make you go from looking haggard and dragged from a pit, to sparkling (on the outside), people have no concept of what is really going on for you.
Bottom line. Ask for help and that way you can spread the workload and have an opportunity to enjoy the season even more.
5. Go For Potluck
For those of you in North America, you are most likely familiar with this term. In the UK it seems to be a rarity, albeit more people are indeed asking those attending their get togethers to bring a dish to share.
Not only does it take a huge amount of stress, time (and possible pain) off your hands, it also reduces your costs, too. Plus it’s nice to try different things that people bring. And if you are asked to bring something for a potluck, opt for something easy – humous and pre-cut veggies anyone?
Hint: Organize who is bringing what…I had a potluck years ago where it wasn’t organized and everyone brought…BREAD. Even if you just say you’d be grateful if they brought a sweet or a savoury, or a veg or a starter etc. and leave it up to them to decide. But do take a moment to do a bit of co-ordination. (And write it down so you don’t lose track!)
6. Your Freezer is Your Friend
A few years ago, my mother (who is an amazing cook and always had lovely dinner parties -something I strived to live up to in the past) said to me, ‘I realized that it shouldn’t be about my food in regards to people coming to visit, but to get together. The food shouldn’t really matter. It should be about seeing each other and enjoying each other’s company’. And you know what? She was right!
Oh, how I have slaved in the kitchen in the past, trying to make everything ‘just so’. Not only did it cost us a lot of money for food (which, there was always way too much of), but it cost me the enjoyment of the get together in itself – as I was in too much pain by then.
I then discovered that there’s a plethora of wonderful frozen (and prepared fresh) foods, particularly this time of the year. They are cheap, tasty and all I have to do is store them in the freezer, pop them in the oven and toss them onto a serving plate. (Although I know that isn’t an option for everyone, of course…see Tip 5 if that’s the case!).
Also, if you are making a big dinner, look into getting frozen veg – there’s zero preparation, the veg are still highly nutritious and there’s no waste. Tweaking some frozen carrots with a glaze of brown sugar and orange juice, throwing some tarragon into frozen corn with butter and garlic, toasting some almonds to top off your frozen green beans…can all take boring frozen veg to ZING veg easily.
7. Be Ahead of the Game
If you are having people over and you want to actually make your own food, look at what can be prepared now and do a little bit at a time and freeze it. A little bit adds up to a lot when the time comes.
8. Shop Smart
Ok. Hands up. Amazon is my dear, dear friend. And why wouldn’t it be? I don’t have to shlep out in all sorts of weather in the attempts to find something when I can find it on Amazon without leaving my home (or bed). And, because their deal with the sellers are that the seller cannot charge a lower price on their own website. This ultimately means that in many cases Amazon is the cheapest price going. Plus there is a no quibble return policy. Not to mention the fact that it’s delivered to your door. (We get even get our cat litter from Amazon!
Hint: Before pressing the buy now button, have a look at the delivery times. Sometimes products are being shipped from places like China and can take several weeks (and sometimes months) to arrive.
9. Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza – Unwrapped
I think one of the most painful, stressful, frustrating and time consuming things is wrapping up the presents. It can take DAYS to recover in regards to the pain of being in awkward positions that can really hurt when wrapping up all the prezzies. So, here are a few ideas:
- Get gift bags and tissue paper – although it’s nice to ‘extend’ the day by unwrapping each item, but other than that, there’s nothing stopping you from putting several presents into one bag.
- Invest in a few reusable shopping bags that can be used by the ‘giftee’ way into the future and they’re much more environmentally friendly, too!
Or, you can do what I did a few years ago…(did I mention I am a really crappy wrapper?). I took the presents and put them into plastic grocery store bags and tied a ribbon on each handle. Hey, i was upcycling!
Bottom line is, that you shouldn’t be judged on the gift inside the wrapping paper, let alone the actual, wrapping, right? Don’t stress…go unwrapped!
On top of all of the tips above, be vigilant in regards to washing your hands/using antibacterial gel. This time of year is rife with colds and bugs. When you are already struggling with an auto immune condition, we are more susceptible to this kind of thing to begin with. And when we are run down in our attempts to keep up with the busyness of the season, we are wide open for what’s going around.
Equally, if you are feeling unwell, please…don’t spread the germs!
Be kind to yourself. Don’t let the guilt of not being able to keep up get on top of you. Set yourself priorities – and boundaries. Ask for help when you need it (and even when you don’t think you do). Ultimately, only you know your body and your limits (although for many of us, we continue to push until breaking point). The people who love and care about you have knowledge that you are doing your best, but that you do have fibromyalgia, CFS or other chronic pain and auto immune conditions. Relax. At the end of the day, it is only one day out of 364. Hopefully these 8 holiday survival tips will help see you through! Happy holidays, everyone!