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14 'Hacks' That Can Make the Holidays Easier With Fibromyalgia

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Though it’s often said the holidays are meant to be a season of peace and tranquility, in reality, the hustle and bustle of gift-shopping, cookie-baking, home-decorating and party-going can get a bit stressful and overwhelming. And when you live with a chronic illness like fibromyalgia, pushing yourself and overdoing it can have major consequences on your health – leading to flare-ups or increased pain and fatigue.

To help others have the most enjoyable and restful holiday season possible, we asked our Mighty community to share a “hack” that makes it easier to navigate the holidays with fibromyalgia. Whether you’re planning to head to your neighborhood holiday party or spend a night in watching your favorite holiday movies, hopefully the following ideas can be of use – or, at the very least, remind you that you’re not alone in facing health challenges this season.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. “I pace myself. The holidays can mean a lot of get togethers and gatherings, so I schedule out my days in advance so I know when I need to give myself a break and allow my body to recover.” – Jocelyn L.

2.Keep a small, pre-decorated tree in storage. Setting up the tree took all of 10 seconds, and was a huge energy saver!” – Alexandria P.

3.Saying ‘no.’ It’s taken me years to not feel guilty for it, but I’ve learned to say no to parties and commitments. My husband will go without me if he wants, but I don’t push myself anymore.” – Sammi K.

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4.I don’t spread myself too thin. I only go to one get-together instead of many. I go to bed early the night before and go to bed early the night of the get-together.” – Brianna T.S.

5.I’ve had to accept doing less and being OK with that. Making choices about activities and stuff and choosing only the ones that are most exciting.” – Karen L.

6.Plan! Plan everything! Christmas gift lists (including if the item has been purchased and wrapped), day planner, grocery list… If I’m going out to buy gifts I bring my compression socks and gloves, really comfy clothing, light purse (with no heavy stuff like coins) and nausea relief. And of course the list.” – Guðbjörg G.

7.I make lists upon lists to be organized for the holiday rush, and I do this weeks in advance and slowly work towards completing the lists of to-do’s so as not to overwhelm and put myself in flares. I also ask for help when I need it and don’t sweat it when something doesn’t get done as planned, because as we know a lot doesn’t go as planned during the holidays. Go with the flow and no striving for perfection in an imperfect world!” – Adele M.

8. “I do ‘breaks’ – forgot something in the car, bathroom, and even phone calls fake or real to step away from the room. Also [people need] to know [my] ability to hang out is smaller than the past few holidays.” – Lizzie S.

9.Having a code word with one person! If I am starting to get overstimulated (this causes flare-ups) I will use the code word and the other person will find a way to sneakily help me remove myself until I am feeling better. This has made a huge difference in the enjoyment of holidays!” – Mackenzie P.

10. “I keep a pain kit with me at all times, filled with pain relief products and medication that might help me when I’m out or traveling.” – Jocelyn L.

11.My daughter helps wrap presents (I box hers and then she wraps them). Dinner is at my sister’s so I don’t have to cook or clean. And I pack meds and a heating pad. If things get overwhelming then it’s time to go.” – Sara B.

12.The hack is honesty. ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do that this year.’ ‘I’m sorry, I will not be able to make it.’” – Fero T.

13.Give yourself more time to do things. If you struggle to walk, online shop or spread it out by starting earlier so you have time to relax on bad days. Tell people ‘no’ if something is too much. The holidays should be a relaxing time, but we’re always stressing about every little thing. I’m learning to let that go and focus on me regardless of what others think.” – Barbara C.

14.My therapist says Christmas is a children’s holiday. That it can never be as fully magical as it was when you had that innocence. This sounds like an awful mindset to have, but hear me out. We, as adults, ruin the holidays for ourselves by trying to recreate that magic feeling we had when we were little. We make ourselves sick by worrying about attending Christmas parties or baking the perfect cookies or getting everyone the perfect gifts. We tend to be harder on ourselves if we have to rest instead of making a gingerbread house or if we can’t help decorate the tree as much as those around us. But the holidays change when you get older. You have to enjoy what you can have. I could only hang a few ornaments this year, but I still got to laugh and have fun with my family while resting on the couch. I can’t go to Christmas parties, but I can have a Christmas movie marathon or listen to Christmas music in the morning while I get ready. I may not be able to play in the snow but, personally, I get just as much enjoyment out of curling up under a heated blanket with some soup. You have to let go of what Christmas was when you were little and remake the experience to fit being an adult. Create a new magic. They’re not lying when they say it’s all about spending time with those you love.” – Jillian S.

Getty Image by petrunjela

Originally published: December 19, 2018
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