The holidays are upon us again, so it must be time for those handy Holiday Hacks! Having rheumatoid disease (arthritis) isn’t for sissies, and the rush, hassle, and emotional stress of the holidays can cause our joint pain, fatigue, and other symptoms to worsen dramatically.
For me, the first, most important Holiday Hack is to stay out of holiday traffic gridlock and away from crowded retail stores with their endless lines and grouchy shoppers. What a stressful way to spend what can be a lovely time of year! Instead, I order and buy my Christmas gifts online and have them delivered right to my doorstep. I absolutely adore this hack! I’ve taken advantage of it for years, and I don’t miss the old way at all. If I feel a need for a little Christmas spirit, I can always go out for a nice meal and a little light shopping, go to a Christmas concert or play, or take a leisurely evening amble around the neighborhood to enjoy the pretty lights and decorations.
Use Your Tools
I keep a few everyday tools on hand during the holidays—and for the rest of the year, too. These include my trusty fingerless compression gloves. My hands hurt nearly all the time, so I practically live in these puppies. I’m not sure why they help, but I know for sure that they’re warm. Somehow the gentle compression soothes my achy wrists and knuckles, which means I’ll enjoy my day a whole lot more. That the gloves leave my fingertips free means I can do almost everything in them, too. Search “compression gloves for arthritis” online and you’ll find a full range of brands. My faves are the gray ones in the photo.
I don’t need it as often as my gloves, but I also keep my cane handy for those days when my rheuma-dragon decides he hasn’t spent enough of my life gnawing on my hips, knees, ankles, or feet. I have a pretty, pink-and-dark-blue-flowered folding cane (it’ll fit into a large handbag), and a less expensive, more utilitarian one I keep in my car. You can find both types on the Internet, at a local drugstore, or in a medical supply shop. RD can strike suddenly; we can go from doing just fine to limping badly in a matter of minutes. My cane is one of my most useful, and necessary, tools. I can’t count the number of times it’s kept me moving despite my RD.
Take Care of Yourself
It’s an important truth: we can’t take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves. While it applies all year ‘round, I believe it’s especially easy forget about during the holiday season. Women often fall victim to the “I can do it all” myth; it’s practically expected of us despite women’s liberation and the new feminism. Taking care is also especially important for those of us with RD. We’re already compromised. So, be careful:
- Don’t try to do it all. it’s perfectly OK to ask for help. There’s no reason at all that boyfriends, husbands, and older children and teens can’t help with grocery shopping, running errands, and picking up around the house.
- Rest whenever you can. Like the new mother who naps when her baby naps, take advantage of those random slow-down moments. Instead of filling them with chores or errands that can wait, rest. Take a catnap if you can. If not, close your eyes and listen to your own breathing for five minutes. You’ll be surprised how much it can help.
- Get some sleep. Set a reasonable bed-time in stone—then stick to it. Don’t let stress keep you up all hours doing stuff that can wait until tomorrow. Sleep is all-important for people with RD. Allowing your body and mind to have those good, sustained, consistent hours of gentle rest helps your body fight off inflammation. It’s rejuvenating and helps keep your stress levels under control, which in turns fights off extra pain and fatigue.
- Relax! You may have had a busy day, but indulge yourself in a hot bath or shower in the evening to help yourself decompress. Make yourself a cup of cocoa or pour a glass of wine and just soak until you’re limp as a cooked noodle. Maybe light a candle and listen to your favorite playlist while you’re at it. Not only will the wet heat help soothe aching joints, it can serve to de-stress your mind and loosen your muscles. Then keep that reasonable bed-time, like we discussed above—you may be so relaxed you’ll drop right off to dreamland.
- Eat mindfully. It’s so easy to overeat during the holidays! Who doesn’t love homemade cookies, cakes, pies, and candies? Allow yourself a tasty treat, of course, but at the same time stick to healthy eating. That includes lots of vegetables; whole grain breads, pasta, and brown rice; healthy fats like olive and canola oil; beans and legumes; eggs and lean meats such as chicken and fish; and dairy products in small portions–and not every day.
- Stay hydrated. Drink at least six, eight-ounce cups of water per day, and more if you can manage it. Your joints, your brain, your muscles and all your organs need that water. And good hydration helps to counter fatigue, especially in those of us over 50. Also for the older set: staying hydrated may save you from lightheadedness and those dreaded falls.
If you have other good Holiday Hack ideas, share them with me and with everyone in the comments below.