Despite this being a wonderful, joy filled time of year it often brings with it demands that can overwhelm those of us with RA or other chronic conditions.
My personal mantra during this time has been PACE YOURSELF NAN! I find that the more I remind myself of this simple but difficult practice the more likely it will become part of my daily course of action.
In addition, this is the time of year when all the tasks that lay before us can seem so overwhelming that we forget to be “in the moment”, enjoying and finding pleasure in this special time of year. One of the lessons I have learned after many years (and many craze filled holidays!) is the following; as we move through life what we do and how much we do it can be refined and adjusted depending on our life circumstances and IT IS OK! Everyone will still have a wonderful holiday season even if you don’t make “grandma’s famous sage turkey stuffing” this year. It took time and sadly, painful joints, for me to realize that I needed to step back from some of the tasks that really, in the end, did not make or break the joy of family time spent together. In fact, as my family pointed out (over and over I might add until I was finally able to shed the guilt I seemed to wear like a second skin) they would rather I take stock and do less and/or do it differently than overdo and end up spending far less quality time with them.
And if you really stop to think about the true purpose of family time it is quite simple…making memories that will be fondly stored in your mind to be “taken out” and reflected on for years to come – that is what makes these holidays truly special!
So try to focus on what you absolutely have to do and beyond that – really take a moment to examine if it HAS TO BE DONE or – is it just that you are having trouble letting go of it because it is something you have always done….big difference and one that bears some reflection. Because you will find that your holidays are a lot more enjoyable and less stressful when you can learn to let go and pace yourself to accomplish those tasks you simply cannot dismiss.
For instance I do an annual family calendar each year filled with photos from the previous year. This is a big job for sure but one that I refuse to abandon, regardless of the time and effort as it is one that we all cherish and so it rises to the top of my priorities….and there is the key…PRIORITIZE!
Learning this one lesson can be the single best strategy for having, not only, more pleasant and less painful holidays, but also will give you peace of mind you never knew was possible! I tend to like doing this in my work life anyway so it was not a stretch to carry it over more often to my personal life. Frankly, once RA became a constant companion I knew that I needed to make room for that in my life by determining what needed to be done and when (or at all!).
That meant taking stock of who I am NOW (in all its glory) and how does that translate into how I function during busy and stressful times in such a way that I, #1 – don’t flare, and #2 – enjoy those times and #3 don’t have guilt over it! That is the perennial challenge for anyone with a chronic disease that has periods of flaring and remitting.
After years (18+) of RA I do know a lot more about this whole concept than I often think I do…it’s all about trusting your instincts and knowing your body. As we all know, RA has a mind of its own which it is not always easy to “read” but if you really learn from the past you can at least make some judgment calls that will likely be successful!
By adopting the suggestions we have gone over here, you are, in fact, becoming the master of your own destiny…as much as you can with chronic disease…and that means you can create your own future if you choose to be deliberate and thoughtful in how you approach life. Something as simple as waking up with a positive outlook can influence the nature of your day from start to finish!
So, during this highly stressful but fun and joy filled holiday season take a moment to review the strategies discussed and I guarantee you will enjoy yourself this season!