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Facing The Holidays With Fibro

Updated on December 12, 2015
Nightcat profile image

Nightcat is a Jane of all trades and likes to pass on tips she’s found useful around the home.

The days ahead can be brightly lit if we understand our unique challenges.
The days ahead can be brightly lit if we understand our unique challenges.

Fibromyalgia is one of those topics I don't like to write or even think about. As if I tuck head under my little wing long enough, or just get one night's good sleep, it will poof dissappear. But as anyone with fibro knows, it doesn't disappear. So how do you handle the holidays when your energy is at an ebb and you have holiday tasks, however pleasant, piled on top of your regular chores?

Everyone with fibro picks a different option, and there is no one size fits all solution, but this year I'm strong enough to be out of bed for the holidays, so I figured I'd share what works for me and what doesn't. Keep in mind I'm no fibro expert. I haven't written a book and I am not a doctor or health care professional, but some of these ideas might just help you through the holidays and the rest of the year too.

For those without fibro, a few words of advice. Yes, fibromyalgia is a real disease. Secondly, while those you know with fibro would love to run around at warp speed decorating, baking, shopping and doing fun activities it simply isn't always possible. So you are invited as well to review these solutions.

As always, all writing and photography are my original work so if you borrow something for Internet use, a link back and credit are appreciated. All videos are used for informational and education purposes only. If you own the copyright and wish to have something removed or credit and a link, please contact me.

It Took Weeks, But I got There

My method is to go slow and do what I can when I can.
My method is to go slow and do what I can when I can.

Let It Go

I'm hurting the first person to sing that song, but seriously, first let got of your idea of making the perfect holiday. There isn't one. No matter how much energy we have, even if we could run around and decorate, bake and wrap presents all at once, we always get a grouchy Grinch who is mad that their wish list wasn't filled. You know where your energy levels are at, so please, let go of the idea you must drain your precious reserves to please people.

If you can't provide the holiday people are used to from before you got fibro, the people who love you the most will understand. Fibro is one of those annoying diseases after all with no visible markers. We don't all turn carrot orange for example, so let the 'but you don't look sick' whines of disappointment slide in one ear and out the other.

Do what you can at your own pace and it that means one string of lights and one decoration with a ready made holiday dinner, do it. You being so run down you are in bed for the big day is no one's idea of fun. Nor is you being Grumpy Cat incarnate from one too many obligations. So...

You Can Still Do Things

Like this star, you can still shine at the holidays, just in your own special way.
Like this star, you can still shine at the holidays, just in your own special way.

Pace Yourself

Taking on the extra load of holiday chores can seem daunting. Especially when an expert from each field seems to assume you have all the time in the world to cook, bake, decorate, shop, handcraft ornaments, well, you get the picture. Not even the healthiest people manage all that without some kind of aid so don't expect it of yourself.

I started freezing cookies and food here and there when I cooked and baked so I'll have to simply defrost my baked goods and warm up some vittles. Is it a turkey with all the trimmings? No, but I don't have the energy for that this year, and maybe you don't either. I also have no piles of cookie pans to wash either. But you say it is the week of and you didn't bake ahead? Store bought. No, seriously. Buy those cookies and support our economy.

The same goes for decorating. It took me about a week or two to get everything up in dribs and drabs. I got stuff up early, not knowing where my energy levels would be the month of December and I'm glad I did as I've been sleeping like crazy.

But whatever the chore, from shopping to decorating, baking and more, go at your own pace or omit it from this holiday season.

Practical Tips for Living with Fibromyalgia- Holiday Stress

Ask For Help As Needed

Just found out the kids need four dozen cupcakes for the holiday party at school? How about the family deciding they want the house decorated like a magazine spread? Or, guess what, the holidays are at your house this year, aren't you thrilled?

Well, it is OK to ask for help. You aren't being a burden or giving up if your fibro is making decorating too hard or you are honestly afraid of falling asleep and burning the house down while cooking. And if people expect you, like the little red hen to do it all yourself, they can keep on expecting until the holidays pass and those cupcakes never got baked and the holiday meal was pop tarts.

Remember, your fibro is real. Your symptoms are real too. And I am speaking from experience, when you can't you simply can't. Don't beat yourself up with thoughts of "If I'd only tried harder." Sometimes getting out of bed is a victory.

So please, don't be afraid to ask for help as needed. Your friends, family, coworkers and neighbors might be happy to lend a hand once they understand you truly need it, and the holidays are a time for doing things together as a family and community anyhow. Instead of seeing a negative and thinking 'can't', think 'can'. "I can do this much, with a little help."

Make Decorating Easy

This is honestly an old swag put on the table around an old planter.
This is honestly an old swag put on the table around an old planter.

Ready Made Is Your Friend

Budget permitting, ready made everything is ready for the holiday season. From eggnog to wreaths and decorations, you can have almost all of it delivered to your door, too. Now while it might be fun to fantasize about having done it all ourselves, those magazines vaunting such an idea are staffed with hundreds of people who give the illusion that one person can do it all.

One person would need serious therapy and spend a small fortune trying to do it from scratch as many humorist writers have proved. So store bought, or old and reliable decorations are just fine. The year you are up just long enough to see to eating and keeping yourself decent is not the year to hand make everyone every gift.

You can still put your own spin on things you buy. You can doctor the eggnog (not if your on certain medications, obviously) you can put a pretty bow you made on the wreath. Energy permitting you can put personal touches here and there. And soon you'll find it is the small extra touch that means more.

Those you love and who love you really want you as healthy as possible for the holidays. So feel free to invite them to help with these personal touches or ask if they wouldn't mind picking up a few items. You are giving them a chance to help make a merry holiday, and most people are actually happy to help during the season as that is what it is all about.

Fibromyalgia - Two Minutes to Holiday Stress Relief

Sleep (Or Rest) When You Can

Ah, coffee, that double-edged sword. Many of us need enough that we don't literally sleep sixteen hours a day (despite experts saying it is the worst thing for us), but not so much that we sleep a mere four. And during the holidays the excitement, stress and anticipation can make it even harder to get the rest you need. My personal quirk is feeling if I don't stay up long enough each day from before Thanksgiving to after New Year's I'll somehow disappoint someone and maybe you feel that way too.

So it is more coffee and less sleep, it is letting people drag you out of bed when you are grumbly, short-tempered and only want to lay down somewhere. And while it is healthy for us to keep active, sending our bodies into overdrive isn't. So, plan accordingly. It can be hard, and trust me, I know. We all have work, family, friends and other obligations.

But a nap, even for fifteen minutes can work just enough energy back into you, and if you can schedule a longer one of two hours go for it. You aren't being greedy, lazy or slothful. And healthy people shouldn't get jealous as one woman did who told me that we fibro folks 'get to spend all day in bed eating bonbons'. Say what, now?

You need to keep your body rested so that you can enjoy the extra activities the holiday has to offer and if that means discussing with your doctor alterate exercise, such as decorating or cleaning your house for the holidays instead of your normal routine do that as well.

Avoid Stressors

No, I'm not crazy. As far as you can avoid stressors, especially when you are already tired enough and burnt out enough to cry. This is not the time to hit the mall, my friend, nor is it the time to deal with difficult people. Give the shopping a pass and ignore or avoid the Grinches for the time being.

I hear you, I do. Sometimes you can't avoid those who love pushing your buttons the most, but treat them like a toxin. If you can't avoid contact, minimize it. If you do have a nasty encounter remind yourself that they don't deserve to live in your head rent free. They will likely never change so let go and let God/dess.

You may find as you let go of some events, like going to the mall and opting to buy online or closer to home you enjoy your free time more. The gifts we buy will be lost to the mists of time, but the time together won't be. Remember that gifts are only one way to show love, being up and active for the holidays is what your family truly wants most, even if they don't know it yet.

I know because although my mother was never diagnosed, she too would get run down during the holidays and some years it was good that she could get up and be with us for Christmas Day. But we still loved her and were happy to have her there, even if dad was just an OK replacement cook and my present wrapping and his were a sight to behold.

Keep A Bright Outlook

Focus on the things you can enjoy, not those you can't.
Focus on the things you can enjoy, not those you can't.

Keep (Mildly) Active

Doctors now recommend keeping active to keep fibro pain at bay, but how much you can do depends on you. You know your energy levels. If you can't do both your daily walk and decorate that tree think of talking to your doctor about subbing out holiday activities for some of your walks or other workouts.

The important thing, after all, is to keep active. And at a time when much of the world is frozen holiday tasks can keep us moving. At our own pace, naturally, and only we as individuals know what that is. Here is where I interrupt myself to explain to readers who don't have fibro and give a gentle reminder to those of us who do. Having fibro is a lot like having a car where you can't ever fuel up and the gas gauge is broken.

Some days you can go forever, some days just a little distance some days not at all, but good day or bad, there is only so much gas in the tank. And with that gauge being broken you just never know until you try and start the car. So expect some slow days during the holidays and swap out activities as needed. That exercise program will be waiting after the holidays, speaking of which, we are what we eat.

Watch Your Waistline

I don't mean every calorie, nor do I expect you to nibble celery sticks while everyone else is having fun. But weight management also seems linked to fibro, though doctors can only tell us right now that it might be that extra weight puts more stress on our joints. I have personally tried every lifestyle out there and although they all worked for a while, fibro made short work of most of them.

So my plan is a mostly healthy diet and light exercise. Not something so lean and clean I'll fall over from lack of energy, but also not something so heavy and loaded with fat and sugar that I feel sick afterwards. A balance, some indulgent meals, some more healthy ones, seems to work best for me.

Now I will admit to be entering the holidays with a little bit of a pudgy look. Yes, I know. I was walking and lifting weights and darn if my fibro didn't nip that in the bud. I'm just getting back into housework and walking as I'm able but for now the weights are gathering dust.

I can always start over when my body is ready and I am mindful not to eat everything in sight even though the walks and cold weather seem to be a hunger creating combo. Mmm, Combos. Where was I? Right, feel free to have fun, and don't stress if you do put on a pound or two, but remember weight management does help with fibro symptoms in many cases.

So if you can't hit the out of doors or get to the gym consider pleasant holiday chores as your energy permits such as decorating to keep active.

Fibromyalgia and chronic Illness Holiday Coping Strategies

In Closing

Those of us with fibro can still take part in many of the activities we used to take for granted. It might take us longer, and some old traditions nay meed to be replaced, but we can still have full and exciting holidays seasons. And it is totally OK to make changes as needed, so the first thing you need to do is let go of the guilt you may feel for needing time off to rest and recuperate.

It's wonderful to want to give those we love the perfect holiday season, but the real perfection comes in time spent with you. Allowing others to lighten the load can form bonding memories and it is how the holidays should actually be. Decorating, cooking and baking, or simply adding special touches to store bought as a family, workplace or community are what really matter.

Come January first most folks will blissfully forget who did what for the holidays anyhow, so don't feel pressured to do it all and do it all alone. Taking your time, savoring those things you can do, and being with those you love will give you the holiday of your dreams.

Comments or Questions?

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    • Nightcat profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago

      Thank you, MsDora! And the same to you as well. Thanks for commenting and Happy Holidays!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Nightcat, you have a great attitude toward life in general, and toward your situation specifically. Thank you for sharing from your own experience. You tell how to take care of yourself and still celebrate the Christmas season. Very helpful article.


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