Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Dealing With Stress (Holiday & Otherwise)

Dealing With Stress (Holiday & Otherwise)

With the Holidays coming up, many of us are going to have more to do than usual.  It’s the inevitable consequence of family dinners, Christmas/Hanukah shopping, and Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and God Please Kill Me Wednesday (my personal favorite).  What this ultimately leads to is the one thing all RA patients dread – that six-letter word that means flares, days in bed, and fevers.  No, not in-laws, I’m talking about stress.

Stress is the Old Man, the Big Kahuna, the main squeeze, and other references from the 50s as well. It affects normal, healthy people by making them more susceptible to illness, but it really takes a bat to the knee-caps of rheumatoid arthritis – or a drill, depending on your taste in movies.  It’s a direct trigger for almost anyone with RA, and there isn’t much you can do about it once it hits.  The only way out is through, as the saying goes.

So, how do we deal with stress?

Well after thirty years of RA, almost dying at least twice, heart attacks, cancers, divorce, and just about every other thing that can happen to a person, I have figured out some techniques for how to deal with stress.  They really work, too, I mean, you know they have to! Otherwise, I’d be a fREakINg BALL Of AnGER and I’d want to KiLL EVERYONE aLL THE TIME!!! ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES DAN A DULL BOY  ALL WORK    REDRUM REDR…

Ahem.  What I mean to say is, the methods are battle-tested under real-world conditions.  They work for those who are chronically as well as those who aren’t, so tell your friends.  Now, let’s dive right in.

What’s the worst that can happen?

The first technique I like to call “what’s the worst.”  Most of people’s stress doesn’t come from what has already happened.  Where stress really multiplies exponentially is the fear of what is yet to come and potential consequences.  The “what if’s.”  It’s in our nature to want to do our best, and when we start to feel like that might not be possible, the stress-o-meter hits the red.  So how do we get the power back?  Give your fear a real face.  Take a deep breath and say, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

So, you don’t get the turkey cooked in time for 5pm dinner.  Ok, your family will wait to eat.

So, some of your relatives will talk smack about you for it.  So what?  Those people were going to find something to talk about anyway, whether it’s the late turkey or the fact you bought honey roasted peanuts instead of regular.  Bring your own nuts Aunt Betty.

What if I can’t get out of bed that morning?  So, you’ll explain to your guests who know you have an illness, and order Chinese food or go out to eat.

What if I can’t get the kids presents wrapped in time?  So, you tell them that Santa made the mistake of shipping the presents via USPS and they couldn’t deliver a baby.  Or you tell them Christmas is actually at dinner time this year.  They are kids, they eat crayons, trust me, they’ll believe anything.

Get it?  If you ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen it will help to give your fears a face that you can face.  Not just the phantom “fear of the unknown” and “what if’s” which can’t be tamed because they are formless.  Of course, right about now, one of you is saying “What if I die?  Huh, smart guy?  What if that’s the worst?”  To that, I say, well, if you’re dead, then you literally couldn’t care less about what happens to the turkey.  I personally have never heard of a ghost coming back from the dead just to nitpick the dressing at Thanksgiving, and believe you me, in my family, if that were remotely possible it would have been freakin’ Miracle at the Malito house every year.  “Yes, Nana, I used your recipe, now will you please stop rattling those chains, you’re scaring the kids.”  Whatever bad stuff happens, you will deal with it, and if you die, well, then, not your problem anymore.  Put a face to your stress-laden fears, and then play it out.  It’s never as bad as you think, and as a bonus, you’ve just created a contingency plan which should put your mind at ease even more.

Get some pre-holiday sleep.

Another great way to mitigate stress is to get some sleep.  Yes, eight hours a night is great, but if you spend the entire time with a sore neck cursing the MyPillow guy’s existence and feel like Frankenstein’s monster after the mob chased you, then you’re not getting real sleep.  Our bodies are designed to recharge when sleeping, and it’s not just a metaphor.  The chemicals that build up and ultimately cause stress are cleaned out during sleep, and that happens most when you are really, truly, asleep – something called R.E.M. sleep.  No, not the band.  R.E.M. stands for rapid eye movement, and it’s what happens when you are dreaming and deep asleep.  Forget the science, though, you just need to sleep well, sleep hard, and sleep long.  What that means is don’t stay up until 4 am the night before a holiday re-watching The Wizard of Oz on TNT because you want to check if you can really see a munchkin hang himself in the background (spoiler alert: you can).  I know some of you have kids and jobs and all that but do yourself a favor and put the rug rats to bed early for any reason (again – kids dumb, eating crayons, covered above), curl up with a good book, and drift off to a decent sleep.  You’d be shocked at how many people go through the day like the Walking Dead.  Don’t stay up watching that either!  Especially this season.  Ugh.

Prepare, prepare, prepare.

My last tip today is to prepare everything you can ahead of time.  For Thanksgiving, I make the sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and vegetables the day before.  Stick the stuff in the microwave to reheat.  A little nuking never hurt anyone.  Probably.  If anyone complains, ask to borrow their cell phone and nuke that as well.  It seems like common sense but having to wake up and do nothing but prepare the turkey makes Thanksgiving amazing.  Wrap two or three presents a night starting December 1st.  Split up the Christmas lights and do a little bit every few days, who cares if your house looks like colorblind Picasso decorated it.  Tell ‘em “It’s the season of giving you jerk.  Feel it.”  The point is anything that’s coming up that can be stressful, parcel it out over time, or at the very least, come up with a plan on how to tackle it.  Plans always make me feel better, not only because I’m mildly OCD, but also because plans are cool and, and, well, mainly the OCD thing, but it works!  Planning is the enemy of stress.

I hope you were able to pick up a few useful tips for dealing with killer in-laws this season.  Stress!  Stress.  I mean stress.  It will make the Holidays easier, I promise.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • RF37849
    5 months ago

    Thanks for the article. I use several of the suggestions already and I can always use a laugh and you gave me that. RA and my crazy work schedule combined with my crazy life have taught me that planning is extremely important. Husband and I have Christmas with the teenage grandchildren and their adoptive parents (part of the crazy life.) This allows us to all visit and no one stresses about how to fit another Christmas into their schedule. I’m celiac so I’ve learned to adapt all recipes to me. I have all kinds of appetizers so many things can be made ahead of time. It also gives my daughter-in-love a break since she doesn’t have to bring anything, she’s a teacher as well as the mother of teenagers who have had some tough breaks with parents who got addicted to drugs. The biggest thing I have learned to do in the past 2 or 3 years goes to helping my stress from my RA brain. My planning includes have a list of my menu that I save. I may add a few new things. They will be on the list within the week before and after it is done, I update my menu. It’s saved on my phone. If something went over great, it becomes a fixture, if it wasn’t very liked, it gets removed. I also have a list for gifts. I buy throughout the year. It helps me keep up with what I have, when it’s wrapped and for the next year, it’s less likely to be a rerun. This also helps me feel like I’m accomplishing something even when RA keeps me at baby steps. My progress may resemble a turtle marching in mud but forward is still forward. Happy Holidays.

  • lanikai13
    5 months ago

    I use some of these, but for me it’s meditation and yoga that does the trick.

    I can’t believe I’m saying this as a year ago I woukd have said, weirdo!! Hahaha

    I am hooked, and it mostly works for me.

  • Daniel Malito moderator author
    5 months ago

    @lanikai13 I get it. I always thought it was hippie dippie until I started doing it. I remember my first session with the lady who taught me. The only thing I kept thinking was “what’s next are we gonna get naked and sit in a field and have mother wind talk to us?” Then I realized just being in a quiet space and breathing can help. Even if it’s just because you close off the outside world who knows, it still works. Thanks for reading. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Monica Y. Sengupta moderator
    5 months ago

    Hey @lanikai13!

    I recently got into meditation, especially! I do it before I go to bed and it really helps me sleep a little easier.

    Thanks for sharing! ~Monica

  • Richard Faust moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi Ianikai. Glad you have found something that is making such a difference for you. Yoga certainly works for several of our contributors and many in the community, so much so that, rather than direct you to a particular article or two, here is the link to the search of our archive on the topic to give the whole variety of articles on the subject: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/?s=yoga. Wishing you the best and hope the yoga continues to do the trick. Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    5 months ago

    Daniel, I have a wonderful stress value. Sheryl handles most of our social calendar (like we have one) and makes the preparations. I feel inept in this regard. but there in again I have never done it. Hey, maybe I am genius at doing it? .. Not,,

    Everyone needs a Sheryl.

  • Daniel Malito moderator author
    5 months ago

    @lawrphil I used to have a Sheryl! In the end, though, she ended up giving me more stress, not less, so it was good it didn’t last. Now I’m much less stressed. Coincidence? You decide. Thanks for reading, keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips
    5 months ago

    Oh we have been hanging together for 43 years and married up for 41. The stress if any is mutual and the delight is all mine (and some Sheryl).

  • B.Hughes
    5 months ago

    Daniel loved his artical on stess and the holidays. It made me laugh.( I needed that). I’m slowly learning to accept that I can’t do all the things I used to and learning when to say no . That’s always been a challenge for me.My family is also having to learn that I’m not always going to be at my best. Its been hard but it helps keep the stress down.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    5 months ago

    Hi B.Hughes. Glad Daniel’s article resonated with you (and made you laugh). Learning to say no is one of the more difficult things for many in the community. It is such an issue that not one, but two of our contributors have written on the topic: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/acceptance-may-mean-saying-no/ and https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/saying-no/. Best, Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Daniel Malito moderator author
    5 months ago

    @b-hughes Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you got a laugh! After all, that’s the second most important thing about my writing! It takes a while but people around you eventually learn when you are at your best and aren’t without asking. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Jo J
    5 months ago

    ACCEPT HELP! I’ve always been a perfectionist (OCD) about my menu, food and drinks served. Sometimes turning down genuine offers of help so I could have it my way. I learned I was hurting myself, and some family members feelings who wanted to share their speciality and holiday joy. This was especially true of my nieces who had moved into adulthood and were excited to contribute! It also helps immensely with all those food intolerances!

  • Richard Faust moderator
    5 months ago

    Ho Jo J. You bring up an excellent point about the benefit to others by sometimes being willing to accept help. It is certainly not an easy thing to learn. One of our contributors thought learning to ask for help important enough to include it in a series on things she would tell her newly diagnosed self: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/no-6-ask-for-help/. Best, Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Daniel Malito moderator author
    5 months ago

    @j0dspace I took me a very long time to accept help, and I still don’t love it. Although I’m getting better. I can ask other dudes to help me put on my jacket and stuff without feeling weird. Progress in only 20 years, look at that. LOL. Thanks for reading. Keep on keepin’ on, DPM

  • Poll