This is an article I wrote about the holidays. Always a good idea to post it early since part of the holidays is shopping other social obligations like work parties and other events.
The holidays can be a stressful time of year there is no doubt about that. They are busy and hectic. A lot of your time and energy seems to be given out that you simply do not have. It is a joyful time of year but if we are not careful it can be overwhelming as well.
With fibromyalgia there is often a struggle with guilt. Guilt that we can no longer be a great employee or provider. Guilt that we let down our family. Guilt that we simply cannot be what we would have been. For some reason this can rear its ugly head during the holidays because again we have these expectations of ourselves that we simply cannot live up to. Unfortunately we all also have this wonderful idea of what the perfect holiday should be like; there should be family, friends, food and parties along with holiday joy. Yet the fact is on the best of days fibromyalgia limits what we can accomplish. This discord between reality and our ideal image of what should be causes this guilt. Instead we should be focusing on what we really want to achieve and how to achieve it. The holidays are about expressing how much we care for our loved ones and our friends. We are still capable of that without running ourselves into the ground in the process.
What makes your holiday memorable?
Essentially you need to decide what parts of the holidays make it memorable and important to you and your family. Take those important things and eliminate the rest so you are free to focus on the essentials. You can discuss with our family which traditions they find to be most important and defining to them. Some of which can then be delegated to them. Some people have a tradition of a big family meal that is home cooked but maybe going out for dinner, or having take-in where everyone is free to just relax and visit might be fine as well. Some people have decorations all over the house but maybe just less with a tree might suffice. There might be a tradition of baking lots of home baked goods and appetizers but if these were bought instead would that not be a willing compromise? What traditions does your family have that make the holidays special to the family as a whole? Keep the ones that are important and let yourself compromise on the small ones.
Remember the mighty list
Fibrofog hits at the worst times and planning is your friend as are lists. Gift lists are very helpful because you can cross off as you go along. If you are doing a lot of planning for an event yourself then a to-do list or even a menu list might help as well. Remember not every item has to be completed by you
A large portion of holiday stress comes from the last-minute rush to get everything done. Begin to plan your holiday season at least two months in advance. Put your plans on paper so that they are not lost in an unexpected attack of "fibro-fog." Make a gift list, write out menus and formulate a "to do" agenda. The next step is to simplify and delegate. Look at each item on your list and ask yourself, "Is this really important to me and/or my family?" If not, take it off the list. If it meets the importance criteria, ask, "Can someone else do this for me?" If so, delegate it. If not, your final question should be, "What is the easiest way to accomplish this?" Sometimes we make things harder on ourselves than they have to be simply because we don't take time to figure out whether there is an easier way.
Once you have fine-tuned your list, look at the remaining items and try to accomplish at least a portion of your plan each week. Accept the fact that you will have some bad days. Allow yourself extra time in your schedule so that one or two bad days will not ruin your entire holiday season. By not waiting until the last minute to do everything, you might just have enough energy left over to actually enjoy the holidays.
Budget your time: Shopping can be done online and if you have done so then you are a step ahead of the game. If not then decide what you are getting, choose low peak times to go get it and go for the quick in and out. Not everything has to be bought in one day. Shopping all day in a mall can be quite taxing. Plan your own day with what baking you plan to do, what family obligations you plan to fill as well as regular obligations and ensure there is plenty of down time and these are spread out enough. Not everything has to be done immediately. Allow for time for anything last minute so you are not rushing to get something done in a hurry.
Remember to say No: We have limited energy and pain flares for stress and strain can occur if we exceed our limitations. Therefore do not feel obligated to attend every event or gathering you are invited to. Choose which ones you can attend and stick with those ones.
Plan ahead: Prior to going anywhere whether it is to a work party or family events ensure you have everything you might need to assist you. Have any medications you might need to have on hand. Anything that might help makes you more comfortable as well.
Consider your budget: In these times when money can be more strained it is important to stick to a firm budget and avoid any additional financial stress.
Maintain your schedule: just because it is the holiday season does not mean you should change your routines. Keeping your regular eating habits and sleeping habits are important to maintaining energy and low stress.
Having company over: In regards to housekeeping we often feel the need to clean the entire house for company, which is an exhausting feat. However, people do not trek through the entire house on a visit so clean the areas people will be in such as the living room, dining room, bathroom and maybe the kitchen. Appetizers do not have to be made they can be bought and appetizer trays are a fine compromise. For the meal it-self other compromises can be made such as having someone in the family cook with you or having parts of the meal be bought cooked already. Or alternatively you can ask the gusts to each bring a dish and you can do the main course. Anything that can ease the overall stress of the preparation of the event.
Wrapping presents- If you have problems wrapping presents then remember you can do this task as soon as you have the gift and no need to wait until later. Or use gift bags which are a nice easy alternative.