You Better Watch Out: Holiday Tips!
The holiday season is a very busy and stressful time of year for everyone, but it can be extra-stressful when you live with the pain, fatigue, and disability of RA. There’s so much going on right now in everyone's lives with a seemingly never-ending list of things to do. People are rushing around shopping for presents, attending holiday events and parties, possibly traveling and doing lots of other things. Some might also be busy with religious and holiday traditions and family plans and obligations. It often feels like there just isn’t enough time to fit it all in—sostressful!
Two things that absolutely do not go well together are stress and RA. Stress is a definite trigger for me and often causes my RA to flare up; I think this is pretty common for others with RA, too. So, I came up with five tips to hopefully help lessen stress and pain during the holidays.
1: Shop online
If you have a bunch of Christmas or holiday presents to buy for loved ones, it’s a lot easier on your body (and mental health) to do your shopping online. My worst RA joints are my feet and ankles, and it’s very difficult and painful for me to spend hours (or any amount of time) walking around shopping at a mall or other places.
In addition to saving my feet from unnecessary pain, shopping online allows me to be much more comfortable all around. I can shop while wearing my pajamas if I want to, or with my feet propped up, and maybe most importantly--away from crowds of annoying, loud people. Shopping this way is relaxing and much less stressful than, say, fighting with obnoxious shoppers in the check-out line at Macy's.
2. Practice self-care
Practicing some self-care during this busy time of year can help a lot with decreasing stress and pain. There are many positive things you can do (if you don't do them already) such as: relaxation techniques (meditation, breathing exercises, guided imagery), rest, reading, listening to music, exercising if it feels good, or anything else that helps you to de-stress and stay calm. Remember, it's OK to take time for self-care!
3. Watch your diet
It's important to be conscious and careful about what you're eating and drinking during this festive time of year. There are lots of delicious, sugary treats and other holiday foods following us around seemingly everywhere (school, work, other people's houses, stores), and it's hard to not give in to their tempting tastiness. Although, I don't think you have to totally cut out treats, but it's good to just be aware of what you're consuming--especially if something in particular affects your RA.
For me, and many others with RA, sugar is a major inflammation trigger. Whenever I consume more sugar, my RA invariably flares up. I can't count anymore the number of times that I've had bad RA flares during Christmastime, and I don't think it's just a coincidence. I've noticed over the years that the harmful combination of stress, sugary foods and carbs, sparkling beverages (wink, wink), and just an increase of unhealthy food in general causes a much higher risk of getting struck by RA flare-ups.
4. Be kind to yourself
Try hard to not put unreasonable or too high of expectations on yourself about getting things done for the holidays, or attending events or accepting invitations. There's no perfect or right way to celebrate the season! Listen to your body and just do what you can. The world isn't going to end if you don't get those candy cane cookies baked or your Christmas cards mailed out in time.
5. Slow down
This tip kind of relates to Tip 4, but it's another reminder to not put too much pressure on yourself during the holidays. Instead, try to slow down a bit and actually enjoy this special, short period of time. I think we often get overwhelmed and lost in the chaos and busyness of the season, so it's good to try to remember what the holidays are truly about. Have fun celebrating with your family and friends and focus on whatever religious or holiday traditions are important to you.
So! These are my five tips for navigating and celebrating the holidays with RA. I'm sure there are many other good ones out there, too. I hope you like my tips and I wish you all a wonderful and pain-free holiday season!
When was your last flare?