The holiday cheer might be all around you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s completely infectious. When managing your chronic pain, it can be very difficult to get genuinely excited about the holiday season.
A lot of the hustle and bustle surrounding the holidays can make it a difficult season to get through – from cold winter days and longer nights, to terrible traffic, a harder time scheduling doctor’s appointments, and more. However, there are also many things to look forward to – people are coming together for the holidays, spending time together feasting and recounting their experiences, and making plans for the new year. If you’re having trouble getting into a festive spirit, these tips can help.
Being in Pain Doesn’t Make You a Grinch
The first and most important tip is to not feel guilty about your condition. It’s easy to see yourself as the Grinch, believing that your condition is pulling others down and spoiling the holiday season. But more than anything else, the holidays are about family.
Ensuring everyone can come together and spend a little time over the final weeks of the year means putting in a little work – you can work on keeping yourself distracted with preparations, and healthy through medication, good food, and healthy habits, including a little stretching and exercise (yes, even over the holidays) and plenty of deep sleep.
Physical and Emotional Healing
Physical pain and emotional pain go hand in hand, and chronic stress can exacerbate chronic pain. To keep your inflammation under control and better managing your chronic pain, you have to also manage your emotional symptoms.
If the holidays are a tough time for you, consider scheduling some time with a therapist or working on CBT techniques over the days leading up to and during the holidays, to help calm down, slow down, and better manage your Christmas stress. There’s a lot to do and plan, and it often feels like there’s barely enough hours in the day to get everything done. However, it’s critical to continue to take time for yourself to ensure you don’t burn out over the holidays.
Managing Your Chronic Pain: Plan Ahead (for Bigger Holidays)
If you’re headed out on an overseas trip or a flight to another country for your holiday break, then planning ahead is critical. Comfort and convenience are paramount. Travel can be especially stressful and difficult when dealing with chronic pain. Long plane rides are conducive to neither good posture nor quality sleep. If you want to get through the ordeal largely unscathed, you need to prepare yourself in advance.
Some useful tips to consider aside from the usual toiletries and considerations include nasal saline gel to keep the sinus moisturized, avoiding a dry and painful throat and potential cold, as well as plenty of portable water bottles, a wheelchair, and an orthopedic neck pillow to avoid pain.
For most people, Christmas shopping is probably the least enjoyable part of the Christmas tedium. As well as the many hours spent laboring over stovetops and before ovens. The malls and main street tend to be stuffed, people tend to fight and push for the best deals, and the lines and traffic can be unbearably long.
All of this is made several times worse when dealing with chronic pain. Stress in general can exacerbate many different conditions, and it’s no different when it’s the Christmas shopping stress. One way to minimize your exposure to pushy crowds is by getting most of your shopping done online. While it used to be unthinkable to get the gifts you want for Christmas on time. Nowadays it’s very much possible to do nearly all your shopping for gifts and even groceries without ever having to leave your home. While that might not always be the case, it’s certainly something to consider during the hectic holiday season.
Hearty Meals and Less Junk
It’s normal to indulge a little more heavily over the holidays than on most days. For most people, gaining a few pounds over the winter months isn’t much of a big deal. But when you’re dealing with chronic pain, what you eat can have a serious effect on your pain. Gaining a little weight might not seem like such a big deal at first. But an excess of sugar, fat, nitrates, and calories can take its toll by triggering and worsening inflammation, negatively impacting hormone production, and affecting the way the brain processes pain signals.
No one says you need to be culinarily austere over the holidays because of your condition. It’s fine to take a little departure from your usual diet. Just as long as you’re largely still eating the way you should. If you have other dietary considerations or conditions that can be even more severely affected by a poor diet, it may be a good idea to speak to a doctor about what you should and shouldn’t consider eating over the holidays.
If you’re hosting a little meal with the family, consider options that are both festive and nutritious. For example, a baked fish, fresh vegetables quickly roasted in the oven, a nice salad made more interesting with a fresh tart and sweet fruit like orange or pineapple, bread with a simple tapenade (olive paste), or some smoked salmon. Vegetables and fish are filled to the brim with anti-inflammatory phytochemicals and fats and are a good source of fiber and protein.
Consider opting for non-alcoholic eggnog. Skip the wine and liquor, or if you insist on drinking, keep it to a minimum.
This is indeed the time to be jolly, but you and your family must adjust your expectations. Christmas doesn’t automatically make managing your chronic pain easier, and your family needs to know that. Similarly, you’re not obliged to fake or force your own happiness, and there’s no need to be guilty about it. It’s normal to feel like your own condition is dragging the celebration down, but with just a few simple accommodations and adjustments, you and your family can celebrate together, rather than making Christmas something you have to survive or endure.