Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
The Holidays with the Dragon

The Holidays with the Dragon

The Holiday Season: that fine part of the year that starts with autumn’s sweet, sharp nip in the air. Outdoors, it’s beautiful! Clear blue skies, scudding clouds, the occasional thunderstorm to keep you on your toes. Fall snaps our cheeks and noses (making them run), and there’s the scent of frost and wood smoke in the air. The trees break out in bright colors as the season deepens. Breezes pick up, sending autumn leaves—red, orange, yellow, brown! —skittering across streets and sidewalks. We break out the cardigan sweaters, then our pullovers, then coats and finally, as winter creeps ever nearer, our parkas.

By the end of November, we’ve almost recovered from Thanksgiving. So, the TV cheerfully yells that it’s time to gear up for Christmas.

Here comes the traveling, the out-of-town company, the housecleaning, the shopping and entertaining and … and … and the Big Day is closing in like a shark on chub. Now you must shop. Your knee is killing you and that left shoulder is stiff and sore, but you’ve got to do it, somehow. You pull your coat on and hit the mall, limping and grimacing, braving the grumpy masses of humanity who are just as delighted to be out here doing this as you are.

And as you do, you think about having to buy that evergreen tree to tie onto the car, getting it into the house somehow, dragging the Christmas decorations out of storage, and decorating that tree while it drops needles everywhere and your feet feel like someones beating them with baseball bats and oh my dog, when are you going to wrap all those gifts?

Reluctantly, we consider the second round of the Holiday Home Cooking Marathon. First, there’s the grocery shopping. You imagine your local market packed to the gills with snarling shoppers. The lines that stretch all the way back to Toilet Paper. Many of the people in them have two loaded carts. The Christmas music blaring over the loudspeakers as your RD knees and elbows throb in three-part harmony. Just kill me now, you think.

And of course, the Big Day traditionally starts before dawn with the ritual slide of the humongous raw turkey into the oven, where it will reside (with frequent basting visits) for most of the day. Then starts the Preparation of the Side-Dishes: the stuffing/dressing; the mashed potatoes and gravy; the cranberry sauce; the candied sweet potatoes; the French-onioned green beans slathered in mushroom soup; the Second Vegetable; the humongous salad that no one will eat; the veggie trays; the bowls of chips and dips; and the pumpkin pie. And an apple pie. Both with whipped cream. Or maybe ice cream—homemade and churned, if your sadistic Uncle Tommy has his evil way.

Oh, no. No, no, no! Even thinking about The Holidays is exhausting.

Because you know that all of it happens as you stand for hours on feet that feel like they’ve got nails in them; when you work with hands that gripe and snipe and bite with each stir of the spoon, cut of the knife, or push of the vacuum. Because you know it’s all up to you. You make The Holidays happen for your family every year, year in and year out.

So, OK. Back up. Whoa! You do know it doesn’t have to be this way, right? Because I’m here to tell you, there are a bunch of things you can do to make The Holidays less stressful and—dare I say it—even fun.

  • Repeat after me: I do not have to do all of this alone. Seriously—ask for help. You have rheumatoid disease. It makes you hurt. It drains your energy away. The drugs you take to treat it make you feel like warmed over … well, you know what they make you feel like. So instead of taking The Holidays on as your own personal Moby Dick, ask your family to help you out. In fact, demand it. Send that sulky teenager to the grocery store multiple times. Tell your significant other to get that giant turkey into the oven as dawn breaks. It’s not rocket science. Let the kids mash the potatoes. All of them can pitch in on the housework, hunting down the Christmas tree, and decorating it. You can—gasp—shop online and have all those presents delivered right to your door. You can even—gasp—have your family members wrap them, if you didn’t order them pre-wrapped online. While they’re doing all that, enjoy a nice egg nog. Non-alcoholic, of course, if you’re taking certain drugs for your RD. You know which ones those are.
  • Rest at every opportunity. Find yourself with 15 minutes free? Do like soldiers do: catnap. Close your eyes and let your mind drift for a few minutes. If you start to worry, think of your Happy Place. Or, if you can, lay down and take a proper nap for 20-30 minutes. Have a little snooze. It’s surprising how refreshing even these short rests can be. Another option is to meditate for a couple of minutes whenever you get a chance. Again, clear your mind. If thoughts about everything you must do drift in, acknowledge them gently and push them away. Think Happy Place. Rest. Just rest.
  • Eat the good stuff. Beginning with Halloween, for many of us a healthy, nutritious diet goes right out the window during The Holidays. But you can take control of that. Have a piece of candy—but keep it there. Just a piece. Eat clean foods whenever you can: fresh, lean chicken or fish, eggs, beans and legumes, and whole grain breads and pastas. Eat all the vegetables you can find—leafy greens, tomatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, etc. Gorge yourself on veggies. Enjoy a little dairy, not too much, and use plant based fats and oils for cooking and eating. Your body will thank you by feeling lighter and more energetic, just when you need it the most. And you won’t hate yourself in January.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. The Holidays are the most stressful, overwrought time of the year for many people. So, don’t let them get to you. Remember that they’re largely made up–you don’t have to do everything just so. There’s no law!
  • So break those rules! We can change traditions, have veggie lasagna instead of turkey and dressing, exchange hugs instead of presents, and even give money to charities instead of to gigantic junk companies and corporations for useless stuff we can’t afford, don’t want, and don’t really need. It sounds hokey, I know, but love—given freely, no price tags, renewed frequently—is the very best gift we can give or receive. Really.
  • Slow down and enjoy the world around you. The fall of the year and early winter truly are beautiful seasons. Instead of stressing—and aggravating your RD and its symptomsslow down. Now is the time; autumn is when the world quiets, and winter when it goes to sleep in preparation for the wild buzz of spring and fecundity of summer. Go with the season. Let yourself just be. Enjoy the autumn colors, the shapes and infinite variety of the leaves, that fresh, cold snap in the air, the flights of geese across a sky so clear and blue it hurts. The world can take care of itself. It may be The Holidays, but it’s time for you to do the same.

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


  • MNwithRA
    3 years ago

    Good suggestions. I have had severe RA for 26 years. 4 years ago I had my grown children take home the Christmas decorations and I just don’t worry about any of this. We visit, we eat whatever and enjoy being thankful for each other. Don’t be afraid to give up commercially driven expectations. Your body will appreciate the self consideration. Your family will appreciate you being able to be there rather than exhausted you. At least mine has. Just my thoughts and what works for me. Hope all have a wonderful season no matter how enjoyed!

  • Wren moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi, MNwithRA,
    You’re so right. We don’t really need all the decorations, trimming, gifts, and elaborate meals that we associate with Christmas–just the opportunity to spend some special time with the people we love. Thanks so much for taking a moment to comment, and may your holiday be full of many ho-ho-hos. 😀

  • thegallopinggrandma
    3 years ago

    Loved your Blog anded helpful suggestions ! My son is cooking Xmas dinner for us (I taught him to cook at an early age!!) and I got all my presents on line, though I had several wrestling bouts with the sellotape !!
    Looks like we are getting a storm for Xmas – just rain, no snow but what else should we expect in Ireland !!?
    Have a happy holiday and ENJOY !

  • Wren moderator author
    3 years ago

    Well, hi, thegallopinggrandma!
    I love your handle–it says so much about your joyful approach to life! I’m glad you enjoyed this post and found the tips helpful, but it sounds like you’ve got everything covered for the holiday. It’s fabulous that your son cooks and will take care of that big task for you! Smart lady!
    Thanks for your kind wishes. And please accept mine in turn: have a very happy holiday and enjoy every minute. 😀

  • Carla Kienast
    3 years ago

    Dear Wren: I’m not sure whether it’s RA or perhaps a bit of wisdom that comes with age that teaches us moderation … 🙂 Whichever, these are certainly words of wisdom. Wishing you and yours a wonderful, stressless holiday.

  • Wren moderator author
    3 years ago

    Dear Carla: I believe it might be RD and age that teach wisdom after a while. Thank you for your kind words! May your holiday be soft and easy, as well. 🙂

  • Karen
    3 years ago

    My sister and I both have RA and fibro and lung stuff. Go figure :~) She lives a little over and hour to the north, my mom lives 30 mins to the south. I hate to drive into the city so they come here. I would rather cook than drive into Denver. And my sisters husband would rather drive than have to cook. so it works out. And we know we won’t get my mom to drive/ride all the way to my sister’s.
    We have tried it the other way around and this is what works for us. I also had a crew of boys that were around to help me out. I am running low on boys but over the years have figured things out. Sorta.
    Use gift bags – way easier than wrapping gifts.
    Brine your turkey, you should not have to baste – I do not. And I use a roaster for my bird.
    Crock pots work wonders too.
    My sister does desserts. Mom brings beer and wine and sometimes and appetizer.
    All my prep work is done the day before.
    Mom stirs the gravy!

    I think we all figure our own little tricks as the years go on. If you have a handicap tag, use it. My mom has fussed at me for not using mine. And I would rather shop at o-dark thirty in the morning than to venture out after 1000. I hate shopping anytime of the year.

    Breathe deeply in HIM.
    Merry Christmas

  • Wren moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi, Karen!
    I love how you and your family have The Holidays all figured out so each of you get to feel as well as possible with as little stress as possible. Bravo! I am inspired! 😀
    And thank you for all the great tips! I always forget the crock pot and how it makes cooking something delicious so easy. And I do use my handicap tag when I feel I need to. Thanks for bringing this up–many of us have them but are reluctant to use them.
    I’m so glad you stopped by and took the time to comment. Merry Christmas to you, too! 🙂

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips moderator
    3 years ago

    I will do this all al,,, oops I got that wrong. ok. I will do this all,, darn, I messed it up again. Ok, I will not do this at all. LOL

    I enjoy the holidays but I also like it to be over. I can not wait for summer. Now summer,, that I can buy into.

  • Wren moderator author
    3 years ago

    Hi, Lawrence ‘rick’ Phillips!
    Given the deep cold and layers of snow you’re dealing with there in your part of the midwest, I can certainly understand how you’d be yearning for summer right about now!
    Here on the Left Coast, we finally have some cool weather–it even dipped down to freezing last night. Had to move the potted plants on my patio under cover!
    I love the holidays–love getting out our old ornaments and gewgaws and putting up the tree. It’s nostalgic and, if I’m not rushed, fun. But it’s sure nice to get some help doing it all these days.
    Thanks for stopping by, Rick. Stay warm! 😀

  • Poll