Surviving The Holiday Season with Fibromyalgia

Counting down to the big day!!

24 tips for holidays

The countdown to Christmas is on and so is the pressure. What is, for most a wonderful time of the year can prove to be extremely stressful for those of us with Fibromyalgia. Without some support and planning, we can easily become overwhelmed and our symptoms will invariably flare.

Here are my 24 tips for surviving the season and for showing a little goodwill towards yourself.

1. Make a list and remember to check it twice. 

This is my top tip for anytime of the year, not just Christmas time. I prefer to use a good old pen & paper but if lists on your phone works for you, then go for it. Make one big list of what you need to get done before the big day and then you can break it down into easy, manageable tasks for each day. As you complete each task, remember to cross it out. Get ready for the feelings of accomplishment as you work your way through the list. Revisit it often and make adjustments as you go.

2. Gift Yourself Wellness.

This time of year is so busy, with so much to think about and get done in such a short space of time. Nobody wants to crash and burn at Christmas so it is really important that you take time for you. A bit of down time is essential for all, but especially so for those of us who suffer with chronic pain. Overdoing any thing, be it activity, drinking and eating can prove disastrous and spoil all our best laid plans. Some gentle down time such as meditation, gentle yoga or a walk in nature are all great ways to help recharge the batteries.

3. Ask for help.

Christmas and the holidays are not about you being all things to all people. Refer to your list and see where you can delegate some of the tasks. Be specific about what you need help with and chat it through with family before the big day. Don’t be a martyr, as the only thing that will happen is you will flare and then will be likely knocked off your feet. This means that invariably others will have to take over anyway, so best to ask for their help from the outset and make a plan.

4. Online Shopping.

Take the hassle out of the present shopping and shop from the comfort of your own home. You can pretty much find anything online these days and delivery times are usually prompt. Get your family and friends to make a wish list on Amazon. This will then hopefully cut down on the brain power needed to think up the ideal present. Gift vouchers are also a great stress free option and normally gratefully received by the recipient.

5. Secret Santa.

If your budget is a little tight or you really can’t face buying a sleigh full of presents, why not start a new tradition. Introduce the idea of a Secret Santa to your family. This is a great option if you still buy for all those nephews, nieces and cousins. You all agree on a set budget, pull one name from a hat and secretly buy that one gift to give to your nominated person. Remember the gifts come from Santa, so no names on the gift tag.

24 tips for holidays

6. Matinee Magic.

Christmas is usually a time of family outings to the theatre for pantomime or cinema. How about attending your performance in the afternoon when you are likely to feel less tired? Matinee performances are great, especially if you are planning on taking the little ones. It could be a win, win all around.

7. Spread the Load.

If like me you have enough Christmas decorations to adorn a small village, then take your time putting them up. Don’t aim to have them all up in one go. May be decorate a room at a time over a couple of days. Start a little earlier in the month and you will have your own grotto decked out without the pain and strain usually associated with all that climbing and bending.

8. Medication Matters.

Make sure that you have enough medication to get you through the holiday period. It is likely that pharmacists will close and emergency doctors will be busy. Plan ahead to ensure that you have everything you need and don’t run out.

9. Little and Often. 

Wrapping presents can invariably be a frenzy on Christmas Eve, so this year take it slowly. Little and often wins the day here. Rather than marathon wrap all those gifts in one go, spread it out over a few days. Enlist some little helpers and save the pain that comes with cutting paper and leaning over to wrap the gifts.

24 tips for holidays

10. Boxing Day.

Wrapping presents with paper and sticky tape can be time consuming and uncomfortable to say the least. You can never quite find the most comfortable position for packing up that awkward shaped present and reaching over to wrap large packages is no fun for your neck, back and shoulders. How about investing in some festive boxes and tissue paper? Gifts will look fab and it will all be relatively painless – plus the boxes can be reused next year. Bonus!

11. Dress to Impress.

Forget that!! Dress for comfort is order of the day here. We all love the opportunity to dress to the nines and Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to select a fantastic festive outfit for that party or lunch on the big day. However, don’t feel pressured to wear 6 inch heels if they are not your thing, you will be definitely asking for trouble. Use fabrics which are not going to irritate an already achy body. If you are heading for some outdoor fun, make sure you are warm and dry. You can still be the belle of the ball but just make sure you are dressing for you.

12. Remember to Eat Well.

Christmas is a time of over indulgence in all things – it only comes once a year, so why not? However, our Fibromyalgia bodies are temperamental at the best of times so it is important that we are mindful of what we eat and drink. Rich foods and excessive alcohol can play havoc with the digestion, so it is better to moderate your intake. Know what your triggers are and avoid them if possible. This time of year is hectic at the best of times, so make sure that in the lead up, you are not skipping meals. Eat as healthily as you can in the days prior to the festivities, this will then give your body the best chance of coping with the inevitable overload.

13. No Sleigh, No Problem.

Sadly, we don’t all have access to Santa’s super sleigh and therefore, are responsible for delivering our own gifts to family and friends. Rather than run around like a demented Rudolph, how about using a courier to deliver the gifts. This is worth looking into as they are no longer as expensive as you might think. In some cases, their services can be cheaper than using the mail service.

14. Head out for Dinner.

Christmas lunch is always wonderful but getting it all out on time can be hugely stressful. There is all the prep before hand and then the huge clear up afterwards. How about making life a little easier this year and consider going to a restaurant or hotel for your Christmas lunch? Leave the worrying and washing up to somebody else.

24 tiips for holidays

15. Plan your Diary

This time of year for most can be very busy with social events and visiting family. In the weeks running up to big day itself, we often hear many people complaining that they are so busy. They have crammed diaries and not a minute to themselves. Before, we even go there, we know that as sufferers of a chronic condition, this will never work for us unless we want to crash and burn before we even jingle a bell. Therefore, it is really important that you pick your events and don’t feel obliged to say yes to every invitation. Overdoing it will be counter-productive and you will crash later.

16. Don’t Overstay your Welcome.

Even if you think you are the party animal of the season, it is important that you don’t attempt to burn the candle at both ends. You need to try and conserve that precious energy of yours if you are going to try and get through the season unscathed. It is better to head out for just a couple of hours, enjoy the quality time over quantity. You will feel better able to cope if you are not feeling out of sorts as a result of one too many late nights. It will only end one way, you know it.

17. After Hours.

We are getting closer to the big day and the shops will be crammed with Christmas shoppers. If you really need to venture out to the Mall, how about embracing late night shopping. In the weeks running up to the holidays, many stores stay open later and are often quieter than during the day. This is a good option for those people who nap during the day and stay up later in the evenings.

18. The Host with Most.

If you are hosting the festivities, consult with your guests and encourage them all to bring a dish. Decide ahead of time what each person will bring to ensure that you don’t end up with a lorry load of mince pies. This will take some of the pressure from you and allow your guests to get involved.

19. Getting Ahead of the Game.

Christmas dinner is a big deal. It comes with loads of pressure and anything that can make life a little easier is worth looking at. There is plenty of festive fayre that can be made a few days before. It goes without saying that Christmas pudding and cakes can be made weeks in advance but did you know that gravy, bread sauce and stuffing can be made ahead of time and popped in the freezer until needed. Veggies can be prepped the day before, par boil your potatoes, keep them in the fridge overnight and pop them in the oven for roasting on Christmas day. Encourage everybody to lend a hand, bonding over festive food is highly recommended.

20. Recharge.

Through all the business of the holidays, it is important to schedule in some recharge time. My favourite down time activity at this time of the year is Christmas movie afternoons snuggled on the couch. This is a lovely, cosy, feel good pastime that all of the family can take part in.

21. A Family Affair.

Christmas Day is a wonderful day but there is always so much to do.  Even little chores can take their toll and it is easy to be come quickly fatigued. Enlist the help of family to share the jobs. Delegate each family member a “Christmas “Chore”. The little ones can help pick up the wrapping paper, older children can help with the washing and drying up. Reinforce the message that “Many hands make light work”.

22. Christmas Card Perfect.

We often have great expectations for the holidays, all of us wanting to have that Christmas card perfect day. However, in reality this time of year can be exhausting and stressful. For all concerned, it can easily transform from the most wonderful time of the year to one of tiredness, tears and tantrums. So, the advice here is to take each day as it comes and manage your expectations. Be gentle with you and practice some self compassion.

23. Positive Vibes.

Christmas is a fab time of the year, and with a little bit of pre-planning and self care even those of us with Fibromyalgia can enjoy all the good things. It is too easy to look at this time and automatically assume that the festivities will leave us exhausted, frazzled and resigned to a flare of symptoms.Therefore, heading into the season with a positive mind-set will go a long way to managing expectations.  Think good thoughts, be prepared and enjoy!!

24. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

So, here we are at tip 24! If you have been checking in each day, it’s Christmas Eve!! Did you follow the tips? Are you feeling ready for the most wonderful time of the year? Hopefully, you are greeting the day ahead of the game and totally chilled. So, my final tip is may be the most important and that is to enjoy the holidays and make some fab memories.

So, my work here is done and I leave you with my very best wishes for your happiest, healthiest Christmas.