Monday, December 13, 2010

Chronic Illness Survival Guide To The Silly Season

With Christmas and New Year celebrations fast approaching, there is much to do and attend. Making it to functions, gatherings and parties during the holiday season can be pretty tough for those of us living with a chronic illness. Especially when you're aching all over, are feeling less than festive and would much rather a quite night on the couch with your favourite tv soap and a block of chocolate in hand. So, how do you survive the "silly season" and still keep your sanity? I'm spending my fifth Christmas with chronic pain this year, so I thought I'd share my little gems of wisdom of how I cope with chronic pain and fatigue during the holidays with you. Here are my favourite tips...


Tip #1. Be cheerful

"There is no personal charm so great as the charm of a cheerful temperament."- Henry Van Dyke.

The demands of the festive season can be chaotic and overwhelming for anyone but when you're up against a chronic illness as well, and are feeling more achy and fatigued than usual, it's easy to let the chronic grinch steal your joy and avoid you attending celebrations. While your friends and family may understand the reasons for your lack of Christmas cheer, try to remain cheerful despite your circumstance. Believe me, I know, this is easier said than done. Make an effort to celebrate and participate in the festivities- chronic illness style of course! You may not be able to do the things that you really want to do but there is still plenty of activities that you can get involved in that are within the limitations of your health. For example, go along to Christmas carols that are held inside a church rather than attending carols which are hosted in a park. That way, you won't have to worry about being too hot or too cold and you can rest assured that there will be seats provided- much more comfortable than sitting on the ground in a park with sore and stiff muscles and joints. Why not get into the spirit of giving and make some Christmas cards! Nothing says cheerfulness like a handmade card. If you can't manage to make your own, buy a packet at your local discount store and send some to a couple of friends and spread the Christmas cheer! You'll more than likely discover that a cheerful disposition is the best pain killer around!

Tip #2. Plan and prioritise

You've been inundated with invites and are left in a total state of overwhelment, thinking how am I going to cope? Physically, I am not the person I used to be. There's just not enough energy, there's just not enough of me to share around. I've often found that careful planning and prioritising can help you overcome and completely avoid this feeling. Organise yourself by planning ahead. Know what events you are expected and required to attend and then prioritise them by making a list from most important to least. Make sure you place the events that you really wish to attend towards the top too, that way you can work your way through the list to make your cuts and start crossing off those events which need not require you to exhaust yourself. By doing this you ensure that you are managing the pain and fatigue whilst still participating in some of the festivities. Work out your limitations- what can you participate in that won't cost you a few weeks on the couch? If you are heading out for a night on the town; set yourself a curfew and stick to it, even if your energy and pain levels tell you that you can keep partying hard. You'll thank yourself later. Perhaps limit yourself to one activity per week so that you don't run yourself ragged. Maybe choose dinner with friends over a wild night out at some fancy function. Planning in advance can help you to structure your weeks around a particular event that you wish to attend and allow you to save and invest your limited energy wisely.

Tip #3. Go with the flow

It can be really frustrating when you would rather be out and about celebrating with friends and family and instead you find yourself house bound because of your illness. Learn to go with the flow- don't fight your illness and go and party yourself into bed for the next month. Take advantage of your situation and make the most out of it the best way you can- invite your friends over to watch the Christmas carols on tv with you, have friends around for a girls night in or a movie night and so on. It's the little things that create great memories.

Tip# 4. De-stress

There's shopping, there's cooking, there's gatherings and so on. Make sure you take time out for you. If you keep pushing yourself, you are not going to make it through the "silly season" sane. Listen to your body. More pain and fatigue than usual is your bodies way of telling you that you are doing too much and to warn you to slow down and take it easy. Look after yourself by doing what is necessary to help your body relax. Enjoy a homemade facial, take more hot baths, exercise, get more sleep- do whatever it takes to ensure that you can keep a steady pace and not cause yourself to burnout.

Tip#5. Say "No"

Don't be afraid to say "No" and turn down invites. True friends will understand your reasons for your lack of attendance. Never accept an invite on the basis of wanting to be a good friend or a people pleaser. In the end it's you who is going to suffer from the pain and fatigue- not them. Yes, your friends and family may be disappointed but you'll be more disappointed if you're spending the next few weeks or so on the couch. So, know your limitations and be kind to yourself- say "Thanks, but no thanks".

Tip#6. Be Thankful

Tis the season to be thankful! Instead of focusing on the things that you can't do, be thankful for the things that you are still able to do and enjoy. Start a 'things to be thankful for list' and write down everything you have to be thankful for in life. A thankful heart is sure to help you to survive the "silly season"



So, be cheerful. Plan and prioritise. Go with the flow. De-stress. Say "No". And be thankful.


(c) Chronically Creative 2010


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