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Managing the Holidays With Fibromyalgia
I am in pain. On any given day, more so in winter, fibromyalgia is a tremendous physical and emotional challenge for me to endure and simply keep going as the world expects me to do. It never really gives me a break and it is often hard to keep pushing through each day and my list of “to-dos.” Like many who suffer with fibro, my list never seems to end — and neither does the relentlessness attack my body is under.
Now, the holiday season is upon us, and that means a season of expectations placed on me — all of which increase my daily challenges.
I have not even begun shopping for Christmas gifts yet. The pain of everyday tasks have been too much for me lately, and it is all I can do to simply get through what I must, never mind take on extra shopping excursions.
And some people love shopping, me — not so much. The mall exhausts me to a level I cannot adequately describe. So now, in this moment, I sit and count the number of days left to find those perfect gifts and decorate my house. Honestly, dread is washing over me, not holiday cheer. That is not the emotion I want to feel this time of year, but that is my reality.
I used to love the holidays, decorating, shopping for the kids, baking special treats, and even all the extra hustle and bustle all the festivities required. Now, I am left feeling like an empty shell of who I once was, and I don’t particularly like this person very much.
She complains a lot. She sighs when yet another party invitation arrives or a family gathering is announced. She wishes she could just hide or sleep until it is all over.
Tackling Holiday Challenges
Holiday shopping is more difficult when you have fibromyalgia. The cold weather can cause increased pain, yet the weight of extra layers when you bundling up can also trigger more aches and pain. Then there are the memory issues and brain fog.
In years past, I found that I had no clue what I have bought from one store to the next. Yes, I have in the past bought two of the same toy for my child. Remembering everybody on my list is also a challenge. I feel lost in the pain and fog.
So this year, I have decided to set limits for myself and stick to them without guilt. I will find the easiest way to get the shopping done and I will have courage to choose which festivities I can attend and which I must turn down. Again, no guilt trip allowed.
The action plan includes:
- Making a list and checking it twice (or three times, because fibro fog is real and something or someone is probably missing from the first list). Create an easy-to-follow list of who you must shop for and keep it with you when you leave the house — this allows you to tackle shopping whenever a moment presents itself. Out for a quick errand and have a bit of energy? Swing into the department store and buy gifts for one person on your list.
- Shop online. A few clicks and you can accomplish so much and it is delivered to your door.
- Keep a log of what you bought and for whom. This will keep things straight in your memory about checking everyone off your list and knowing whose name to put on which tag when you start wrapping each item. So many times I have looked at my pile of gifts to wrap and have no memory of who get which present.
- Watch what you put into your body. Eat healthy, even if you are way too busy to do so. Make the time. If you eat a specific diet to help with your fibro, stick to it. If you take medication for pain or for treatment, remember to take it. Have it out where you can see it or in a daily pill dispenser. Don’t allow a busy season to affect how you treat fibromyalgia.
- Wrap a present or two every week or every day. I am very bad at wrapping presents as I buy them, or at least not waiting until the last minute. I always wait until wrapping requires endless hours on Christmas Eve, which only adds to my fatigue and gives me horrible body pain. Being hunched over presents wrapping for hours, is SO bad for fibromyalgia. Spread out all your wrapping duties over several weeks or at least several days.
- Shop when you can – in small increments. This is why having a solid list will help you. If you have a bit of energy after dropping off the kids at school, head to one store and cross a couple of people off your list. Basically, pace yourself.
- Remember that the gifts are not what the holiday is all about. We all forget that at times. Keep a healthy perspective and remember what really matters.
- Learn to say no. It sounds simple enough, but for some of us it is so hard to do. But, if you find that your to-do list is long and the festivities out number your moments of rest, you need to pick the ones you can manage to do and say no to the others. Some people will not understand, but you must give yourself the gift of choice for the holidays and that might mean saying no.
Above all else, do not push yourself into being completely engulfed in pain. This serves nobody and ruins your entire holiday. Be good to yourself.
I send to you a gentle hug and beg you to take your time and do not stress over the holidays, all the expected activities you are in charge of, or the seemingly endless shopping that must be done. Value everything that is truly important and take care of yourself as well as others for the holidays.