How to Survive the Holidays Without Burning Out

By Elizabeth Katherine, Guest Columnist

My husband and I are very social and we love just about any reason to get the people we love together in a room, and the holiday season is great for that. But it can also be really hectic.

The thing I hear more than anything else this time of year is “I have so much to do.” As a chronic pain sufferer, I know daily life can be overwhelming, and when you throw in all the extras of the holiday season it can get real sticky real quick.

As a mom of three kids and an exceptionally busy husband, I often take on the household responsibilities as well as the additional tasks of holiday prep.

When my pain got to be an all-day everyday thing, I was heartbroken at the thought that these kinds of events wouldn’t be able to happen anymore, or that I wouldn’t be able to produce the kind of holiday that my kids were used to and I was used to.

Pelvic Congestion Syndrome causes me to have constant pain in my pelvis as well as my low back that gets worse the longer I am upright. As I have gotten to know my body and my limitations, I have been able to tailor the way I navigate the holiday season without burning myself out too much. I’d like to share some of my ideas with you all.  

The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to start with lists. Lists are the best thing that ever happened to those of us with brain fog and fatigue. Make a list of all the things you’d like to have done in order to prepare for the holidays. Create gift lists that layout who you’re buying for, and what’d you like to get them.

You can also avoid having to run out for that extra carton of eggs by making a list of the things you’d like to make for holiday meals and the ingredients you will need to make them.

Once you’ve laid out the what, it’s time to plan out the when. This is huge for us Spoonies because we have limited resources when it comes to getting things done. Sit down with your calendar and look at when you have free time. Schedule time to do your baking, household decorating, any parties you’d like to attend, and of course, time for gifts.

Make sure to schedule your rest time too. If you schedule in a 1-2 hour shopping trip, be sure that you also schedule yourself for some time on the couch or a movie afterwards.

Gifts are one of the biggest time sucks this time of year for anyone, but for those of us in the pain community it’s even worse because it involves so much shopping. If you haven’t yet, become familiar with online shopping, consider a membership to websites that offer discounts and free shipping such as Amazon Prime or Utilizing this will cut down on the amount of time you need to spend out, plus, it’s a nice way to feel productive when you’re stuck on the couch.

If you enjoy the activity of shopping like I do, make sure you schedule a few different trips for that as well. Instead of running from one store to the next, map your plan out ahead of time. Make a list of the things you know you can get at each store you want to go to so you don’t waste your energy bouncing all around for one or two items. Consider pre-shopping online to see what colors and sizes the stores you are going to have in stock so you’re not disappointed when you get there.

Once you’ve got your gifts, you can use some of your resting time to wrap them. If you need help with this project, make it a social activity and invite a friend over to help with tape or scissors. This is also a good way to get any holiday crafting or homemade gifts done. Just don’t invite the person you’re making the gifts for!

Another way to get your to-do list done for the holidays is to delegate like a champ. Ask your spouse to move the decorations out from storage, and put the kids to work decorating the tree. You can curl up on your couch and watch it all while sipping hot cocoa and still feel involved. Or, if you prefer to do it all yourself, break it up into small bursts so that you don’t get too drained doing it all in one sitting.

My last piece of advice is to remember the reason for the season. It’s easy to get caught up in the craziness of it all, and even more so to look at all the things you can no longer do and feel frustrated.

At the core of it all, the holidays are about spending time with loved ones, and the intentions behind your choices are what matter the most. The people who love you aren’t going to care if you didn’t bring fruit cake to the party, even though it was your turn. The people you spend your time with during the holidays are the people who love you, chronic illness and all.

Elizabeth Katherine lives in Minnesota with her family. She writes about Pelvic Pain Syndrome and other topics on her blog, These Next 6 Months.

Elizabeth also enjoys the Facebook support group Spoonies for Life.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.