Just the tip
1I was asked recently to share some tips and tricks for possibly thriving during the holidays with chronic illnesses. While everyone’s journey through pain and disease management is different, we do share many of the same coping techniques. Even people who have yet to identify their conditions and pain as “chronic” practice ways of living which insulate their symptoms. Everyone is just trying to survive right now.
Be nice to yourself. We all know we should. Practice patience and kindness in the world, but also with you. Your own body and brain don’t need to be berated for not doing what you want them to do. Today is a day where I’m dropping everything? Okay then. It’s a fumbly kind of day. Today is a day where I have such intense fatigue that I can’t get out of bed? Okay then. It’s a horizontal day. Some of the forgiveness and kindness self talk can be reserved for the really big issues. Other quick moments of being nice can go towards things as small as being proud of yourself for drinking enough water. Yes, it’s waaaaayyyyy easier to say than to do. I’m mean to myself quite often. The fact is that we feel better mentally if we make the effort to correct that negative chatter.
For instance, bed rotting isn’t a thing for you. There often isn’t enough physical energy or mental capacity to even make the choice between so-called productivity or laziness. Don’t hold yourself to the standards of a society which only applauds wearing a healthy person out to the nth degree. When they take a few hours to lay in bed or even just to do their typical standing activities while in a bed, they get to call it rotting. As though the act of comfort or the need to lay down is the absolute worst. It’s the most decadently evil thing they can think of doing with their bodies. Laying down during the day?! Heavens no! It’s so indulgent that it falls in the category of bad. Terrible. An ultimate wasting of time and potential.
You don’t rot in bed. You survive. You gain strength from the time you let yourself rest and reset. Your body decides when you can’t get up. It tells you, very loudly, that if you don’t get horizontal you will be in more pain. Sometimes we work from bed. We use the small peace that comes from reclining to keep our brains functioning. We need to close our eyes and be quiet. Resting, praying, meditating, sleeping… however you catch those breaks… take them. Please don’t equate needing days in bed for not moving. As with all things, balance and momentum keep people from getting stuck. We can find room to accept our fatigue and still fight every day to feel even better.
Don’t be afraid to slow down around other people. I’ve written incessantly about my love for the outdoors and how I can’t stop adventuring. My adventures just look a little different than they did years ago. I’m the straggler on the hiking trail. I will often turn around or end a walk while others are keen to continue. The most important thing is to truly be okay with your adventure buddies, shopping friends, chaotic events with family, party companions, etc continuing on without you. No FOMO here. I want them to keep going. Tell me all about the top of the mountain! I’m slowly walking down the hill. I’m sitting quietly in a corner. I am taking an hour to lay down on the guest bed alone. I’m people watching on a bench. I am sitting in my car listening to music. All with a real smile on my face when the people or person comes to join me later. It took me awhile to be okay with this way of handling my body being done. I’m naturally eager to see and do everything. I still get upset when my partners in those situations say they will stop with me. After all, I don’t want to be anyone’s ball and chain. But guess what, I’m hanging out with other grown adults and it is their responsibility to be honest about their needs and wants. If they berate you or continually put their bad experience on you, you both need to take some time to figure out if they should be a around when you might reach your limits.
Do for others. Another tried and true way of living that means a little extra in the holiday season. This one is wonderful because of how simple it is to do things which result in so much positivity. Watch your loved one’s favorite movie without complaining. Make that meal your aunt loves that no one else eats. Call the friend you only talk to once a year because you are both have a million excuses. Make or buy a card for the elderly people in your life. Take silly pictures with goofy captions and send them to your parental figures. Say “happy holidays” to the strangers you meet during your day. My favorite extra effort step is to bake a few treats for my friendly neighbors. It does take some energy and planning, but if you make some things ahead and use a reasonable timeline, it is a very low cost and loving yearly gesture for the people who surround your home.
Buy what you can online and don’t underestimate a homemade gift. Your time, thoughtfulness and attention goes so much further than you think. Thankfully, most gifts can be bought online from both small and large businesses. Either delivered straight to your door or picked up quickly in-store, it takes away the physical and mental pain of browsing, excessive amounts of people, standing in line, and transportation. When it comes to homemade options, there are so many choices! Food, preserves, paintings, sculptures, coupon books, cards, pictures, family heirlooms, etc. Don’t let consumerism get you down if your checkbook is tight. The people in your life who deserve gifts will appreciate anything you create. Those who don’t can kick rocks next year.
You can do this. You will get through the chaos and/or pain of this season. Whether you spend it low key and alone with just a cup of deliciousness and a great book or you have more obligations than you can handle, pick where you want to expend your energy and be nice to yourself about saying no. Happy winter and happy holidays!
Pleasures of a Country Holiday (Les Plaisirs de la Villégiature), pl. 5: Honoré Daumier: May 24, 1858