By Barby Ingle, Columnist
Maintaining holiday traditions can be hectic and stressful -- even for healthy people. This should be an enjoyable time of year for everyone, but for people with chronic pain and physical limitations, they bring an extra element of challenges and stress.
How do you cope with the holidays? Do you approach them in a hectic manner or do you break down the tasks into manageable ones? How do you get through the holiday season and enjoy it?
Here are a few tips I’ve learned about planning ahead, gift giving, and setting the expectation.
Start by prioritizing activities and only worry about things that are important to you and your family. Organize your schedule to include a time for each item to be completed by time frame and importance. Begin early with more complicated tasks and expect a “bad” day or two so they don’t cause stressful situations at the last minute.
It is important to avoid the last minute rush of gift buying and other holiday activities. Either cut out the nonessential steps, get help setting them up, or start early giving yourself plenty of time.
It is also good to work on your preventative health: nutrition, posture, and positive mental attitude.
When it comes to attending parties, I would suggest you attend others instead of hosting them yourself. That way you can make an appearance and leave before all of your energy is spent. You can let the host know that you can only stay for a limited time due to other commitments, and if you decide to stay longer, all the better. Once you explain your limitations to the event host, you’ll find your stress level will be reduced. Setting the expectation early is very important in group settings.
When it comes to gift giving, my best tip is to buy gifts online -- no walking or waiting! The items will arrive at your house or theirs, and you’ll save your energy for other tasks. Take advantage of free shipping when possible and online coupon codes to save money.
When it comes to making your gifts presentable, use gift bags. They’re easier than traditional wrapping, and save time and energy. Although decorations are beautiful, downsizing can still be festive and keep everyone in the holiday mood.
Communication is key to a successful season. It helps to talk to guests or party hosts ahead of time and explain your limitations as a chronic pain patient. When you are hosting an event, delegate duties as much as possible. The same goes when it comes to decorating. It is okay to ask for help and accept your limitations without guilt or blame. It is not your fault that you live with chronic pain. Help others understand your limits by sharing with them ahead of time what they are and telling them what they can do to help make it easier for you and other guests.
For the guests that “will never understand,” realize that you are not there for them. You are there for yourself first and others at the holiday event who love and support you. You can have a great time no matter who else is there or if they understand your pain or not.
It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about your health and protecting your body and mind. It is okay to take care of yourself first, especially during the holidays.
Let go of the stress, guilt and excess. Trim down the excess and turn the hustle and bustle of the holidays into a fun enjoyable time to be thankful for, with great memories to hold onto for years to come.
Barby Ingle suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the Power of Pain Foundation. She is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics.
More information about Barby can be found at her website.
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.