It’s the holiday season, which often spells holiday stress. While there’s a lot to enjoy in the holidays, they can be difficult for people with chronic pain issues. The colder months, typical excesses, financial strain, and social expectations can make the holidays challenging, especially if you’re planning an elaborate get-together or a big traditional dinner. Here are a few things you might want to keep in mind when it comes to maintaining a chronic pain care plan during the holidays.
Sharing Is Caring
It’s the season of sharing, but not just in the sense that you should share the joy and presence of your company. Consider sharing your chores and tasks, as well. If your symptoms tend to get worse in the colder months, asking for a helping hand to keep the house clean, do meal prep, and get everything ready for the holidays can minimize the stress on your joints and body and help keep the pain at bay. You don’t have to do it all yourself.
Friends and family alike can play a significant role in preparing for the holidays, sharing the physical and mental workload of organizing a family gathering, cooking up a feast, and cleaning the cleanup. While compromising on tradition can be hard over the holidays, some compromises can lead to a much more pain-free holiday experience. Instead of a big meal this year, consider hosting a potluck where everyone brings their favorite dishes. Instead of leaving behind a mess to clean up, consider paper plates and paper cups.
Don’t Do the Shopping Alone
Online shopping has expanded massively in recent years to the point that you have relatively great chances of getting anything, anywhere. More than just an extra pair of hands to carry the groceries, having someone else around when you do the shopping can ensure that, if you need immediate help, someone is always around to call emergency services and get prompt medical care. Alternatively, consider online shopping.
While there are always going to be items close to your heart that you might not find online – such as local artisanal baked goods, handcrafted items, and that tub of homemade ice cream from the local mom-and-pop café – websites like Amazon and Etsy take a lot of legwork out of your holiday shopping. At the same time, other services help with getting the groceries delivered to your front door. These delivery services are especially valuable if your pain means getting around can be impossible.
If you live somewhere remote, online shopping alternatives and doorstep delivery might take more work. In that case, consider trying to enlist the help of a close friend or relative to order things for you and bring them to your home whenever they can during the winter months, especially if seasonal flare-ups make it harder for you to acquire the things you need over the holidays.
Always Prioritize Rest
While it might be tempting to try and keep up with everyone else, especially if you usually have no problem doing so, chronic pain flare-ups are hard to control and often impossible to resist. Don’t be embarrassed to take a nap or two, even in the middle of the day. A short rest can do you a lot of good and help you store some much-needed energy for holiday festivities. It’s essential to set physical and time-based boundaries for yourself. It’s okay to take a little extra time to get things done and to tackle tasks more slowly. Even on the holidays, try to get the rest you need, and don’t compromise your physical well-being.
Don’t Stop Moving
Depending on where you live, winter might get very cold and very uncomfortable. Your motivation to get up and move – especially if your pain tends to flare up in the cold – could very well be nonexistent. Nevertheless, research shows us that staying somewhat active, even in the winter, can significantly reduce pain symptoms, improve pain thresholds, and relieve worse pain. Adapt your chronic pain care plan and routine to the season. Instead of swimming in the lake, consider a short walk through the woods or into town. Pace yourself, keep warm, and explore – but don’t cross – your limits.
Staying active, even if it’s just for a few minutes each day, can help regulate blood pressure, improve mood, and reduce pain. If you cannot do any of your old routines during the winter, consider talking to a physical therapist for specific tips and realistic exercise plans. A good physical therapist can create a program that fits your circumstances and allows you to continue to reap the benefits of exercise without overdoing it or inviting new symptoms.
Don’t Overdo It
This tip applies to everything, from oversleeping to doing too many chores and tasks over the holidays to overeating, binge drinking, and staying up too late. Don’t let the holidays knock you off your routines; don’t let them change your eating or drinking habits. This is especially important if you have a health condition that reacts negatively to binge eating or alcohol, such as gout, heart disease, or arthritis. Don’t worry; you’re not a spoilsport by wanting to prioritize your physical well-being over a few extra indulgences during the holidays.
While it’s normal to cut loose a little and ignore dietary concerns or exercise plans when the end of the year rolls around, it’s essential to put things into perspective. The last month of the year still represents over 8 percent of its duration, over 4 of its 52 weeks. It’s a significant period, and while we owe it to ourselves to enjoy the good things, special considerations must be made for chronic health issues. You can still have a good time without overstepping your physical boundaries or risking a flare-up in symptoms. Talk to your doctor about what you can and shouldn’t do over the holidays and where your limits should be.
Bridging the Gap Between Your Chronic Pain Care Plan and the Holidays
A comprehensive chronic pain care plan, in addition to minimizing stressors and enlisting the help of family members and friends alike, can make your holiday season much more enjoyable and far less of an ordeal. Bring back your holiday joy through a personalized treatment plan that helps you better manage your physical pain symptoms and cope with your mental health concerns.