For as long as I have had RA I have been hearing about the need to slow down during the holidays to avoid that nasty F word – FLARE! It has become so commonplace now that I think I may not be hearing it anymore and so I am here to once again SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS!
It is not only crucial to avoid flares but beyond that I truly find I enjoy the the holiday season (Thanksgiving through the New Year) a whole lot more when I remember to slow down and pace myself. Pacing – really important – difficult to do! We need to try to pace our activities so that we are not doing everything all at once. One tip is to get out your calendar and schedule carefully so that you do not load up any one time period. With calendars at our fingertips these days it is much easier to plan ahead. We will enjoy our social gatherings a whole lot more if we spread them out.
Lists have always been an integral part of my life and it is even more true since RA. As the saying goes, make a list and check it twice – or three times or more if necessary. Whatever it takes to ensure you are on track with what you need to accomplish. When I have a list it serves a couple of purposes. First it is a great reminder and means I can put it out of my head since it is written down! Secondly by looking it over I can see if the list needs amended to accommodate my RA or adjusted to include other tasks I need to get done.
Calendars are crucial to this busy time. Not only because you can plan your life but also because careful calendar management will help us avoid overcrowding on a particular day. If you find there is simply too many things going on far to close together you can contact the people involved and make changes or send your regrets. The value of this is you can often persuade people to spread out the holiday cheer if you plan and notify far enough in advance.
You have to resolve to not try to make every single event you are asked to attend, professional or personal unless they are reasonably distanced. To do otherwise invites the discomfort we associate with overdoing it anytime. This may mean having to prioritize what you do. I think about who I want to spend time with the most and let that be my guide.
Of course the biggest challenge for most of us is fulfilling all of the holiday obligations like shopping, decorating, cooking, gift wrapping, etc. and still being able to move when the season comes to a close. It can be done! But it takes real resolve and determination. It has taken me years to even come close to accomplishing this and frankly, some years are better than others.
Here are some tips.
Ask for help. I no longer insist that I do every aspect of every task. I not only allow but actually solicit help from my family and friends. Tough one for sure but I cannot emphasize how much this helps. And to be honest it is fun doing holiday tasks with others. Makes the job fun and festive.
Work ahead. Since my kids have moved out we have an artificial tree and I decorate it before we go away for our Thanksgiving holiday every year. I also do my interior and exterior decorating during early November when the weather here in Vermont is still moderate. Then I come back from Thanksgiving and it is all done, fresh and lovely. I shop throughout the year and I keep a running list of items so that I can take advantage of sales. I also shop for staples that I will need when the family heads home for a week at Christmas in the weeks prior, before the stores are crazy busy.
Do a little at a time. You need not wrap every gift in one session. Spread out the task, keeping a spot ready to go so when you feel the urge or have the energy you can pop in and wrap a few. Speaking of wrapping my best friend is the GIFT BAG. I use them almost exclusively and my hands love me for it! I do not do much cooking anymore but at the holidays I tend to indulge. To deal with that, I try to cook and freeze as much as I can so it is ready to go.
Rest and take breaks. The holidays are not a sprint….they are a marathon and should be treated accordingly. That means get lots of rest, good sound sleep and take breaks. The more rested you are the less likely you will have those annoying and painful flares to contend with!
What do all of these tips have in common? They are stressbusters. If we can move through this fun and festive time with as little stress as possible the entire season will be the joyful, lovely time it is meant to be! So remember to read this over and add your own tips to making these next few weeks as wonderful as they possibly can be!