The winter holidays can be a joyful time. Family comes from near and far, and there are plenty of opportunities to gather with friends. Food from many traditions graces the table, and games and gifts are plentiful. For many people, there is nothing quite like the beauty and fellowship of the holidays. For others, though, the holidays represent a special challenge. Chronic pain does not always understand that this is the supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. There are several things that can be challenging for chronic pain patients, but there are ways to deal with them. Here’s how.
Shopping, presents, elaborate dinners, holiday decorating: these are all a part of the holidays. When the temperatures drop, expectations rise. This can be challenging on the most painful days.
Keep in mind that holidays can be celebrated in different ways. You don’t have to have the most elaborate house, the most packed schedule, or the fanciest dinner. The only expectations you need to meet are yours, and they may change from day to day. Focus on the most important part of the holiday for you, whether that’s hosting an open house or going caroling, and enjoy it.
Parties and gatherings
There is a natural increase in family gatherings and parties. While these can be fun, there are times when a chronic pain patient has a flare-up and can’t face another party. On days where it’s too painful, it is okay to say no.
On other days, it’s important to spend time with loved ones and good friends. Keep in mind, though, that your friends and family will understand when you are not able to attend a party and do what works for you.
Pain can flare-up when the mercury heads south. Joints stiffen and muscles seize. Shorter winter days mean more time indoors, and exercise can fall by the wayside. Take care of yourself during the holidays by committing to regular, gentle exercise to combat stress and keep muscles and joints moving.
Combine family gatherings with exercise. Talk a walk to see the neighborhood lights, or take a long, leisurely bike ride. Get to know the youngest members of your family by playing fun video games that get you up and moving.
Depression and stress
Especially post-holiday when the wrapping paper is put away and the family goes back to its regular routine, it is entirely normal to feel a little down. For chronic pain patients, that blue feeling can evolve into depression. There is a strong link between chronic pain and depression, with one feeding off the other. Sometimes it helps to schedule a treat for the family, a special day or a special dinner, after the holidays.
You can also prepare for this possible low period by taking a moment every now and then during the holidays to stop, take a breath, and reflect. A quiet moment with a cup of tea can go a long way to reset during the holidays. It is important to stop and enjoy everything that comes with the holiday season, but it can be difficult to do that when overwhelmed by stress.
It is important to ask for what you need over the holidays. If you need a quiet moment, a different type of pain-friendly meal, or a walk around the block, it is okay to ask for these things.