As November rolls on, how many of us dealing with chronic illness begin to feel the dread of the approaching holiday season? As anyone with fatigue will know it’s enough of a struggle keeping on top of everything on an average day. At Christmas there is so much to do and deal with. How can we get through the holidays without increasing our fatigue? I seem to fail every year, but I am always ready the following year to begin the challenge again and see if I can improve on last years efforts.
There is so much pressure on us to make Christmas Day perfect. Why!? It is only one day out of 365 in the year. And how will those of us with chronic illness have a perfect day? We will have more pain and fatigue from attempting to do all we can to create the perfect day. If anything else makes us feel like that through the year we would stop doing it, to enable our recovery. So why do we always try each year because it’s Christmas? I have compiled a list of the things I do to minimise an increase in fatigue. A lot of this is common sense and second nature to those who have been dealing with chronic illness for a long time.
1. Only give cards to immediate family. People should not expect cards from anyone. As well as the energy used to write and post them, there is also the financial cost to consider and the environmental cost too.
2. Send eCards. There are a variety of websites where these are available.
3. Make your own eCard. You can do this on sites such as befunky and picmonkey. Once you have created a background add recent family photos- then you have a personalised card. You can make these as simple or fancy as you want.
Free Cards: I have created some card bases which you are welcome to use. Here is an example of one. There is a link below to a post with card bases for you to save to your computer.
Here is a link to the cards you can use: http://bemindfulofendo.co.uk/index.php/2017/11/24/free-christmas-ecards/
1. Consider giving money.
2. Start buying early.
3. Buy a gift each week in the run up to Christmas. This can be done with the weekly shopping. Supermarkets are good for gifts.
4. Try and get gifts to friends and relatives before Christmas week.
1. Depending on the severity of your illness and pain you may wish to consider not decorating.
2. Consider decorating early. This is great if you have older children. My daughter is a young teen. She was keen to have the tree up and decorated so that was done in the second week of November. I don’t mind as it’s one thing less to do closer to Christmas.
3. Just decorate one room.
4. Only decorate one area in one room. This is what we have done this year. It still allows you to feel festive. Although it isn’t so busy with decorations that you get fatigued just by looking at them! Also, it isn’t much to take down after the New Year.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY:
This is the most challenging. How do you share your time amongst loved ones when you don’t have any spare energy as you used it all up preparing for Christmas? Whichever decision you make you are probably going to end up feeling guilty. However, I think this is also a challenge for those who don’t have a chronic illness. But, why do we feel guilty for making ourselves worse in order to please others!? Also, it is very unhelpful and shows a great lack of understanding if people say ‘I’m tired too’.
1. Do what feels right for you. If anyone has a problem with this, remember that it is their problem. Not yours.
2. Pace meeting up with people. (you may need to alternate between years with who you meet up with). Every year I make the same mistake of planning to meet family Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I have always ended up cancelling Boxing Day as I just can’t do it.
3. Choose a time to meet which suits your needs. If you can only manage an hour or two you need to be very strict and stick to this. It’s easy to get carried away in the moment when you’re enjoying company. This is also why I have always had to cancel meeting with people on Boxing Day. Sometimes it’s worth going over your energy limit, but other times you need to be more careful. Remember that Christmas and New Year are a bit of an energetic marathon, especially when you have children (or children in the family). You really do have to pull back to get through the other end still on your feet – or even just being upright in a chair! Usually just the Christmas preparations and the busy-ness of Christmas Day push me to my fatigue limit. I then need to pull back in order to quickly get back to my base level of activity.
4. It is okay to stay at home if you need to. Again, if this is what you need to do to minimise a relapse then do this. As with the suggestions above, if people have a problem with this, it is their problem.
1. Allow yourself to go through your emotions. This time of year can trigger many emotions, memories and remind us of our previous ambitions and goals. Let all this pass as they drift through your awareness. Cry if you need to and remember it is okay to cry. Most of the time I feel better for having a cry. Then I am able to become grounded and move on.
2. Tell those you live with how you feel. This is very helpful with dealing with the frustration of wanting to have a ‘normal’ life by joining in the celebrations. It may also help deal with the pressure from others about meeting up when you are unable to.
3. Accept the life you have now. Probably the most difficult challenge on this list. It may take years. But each year we go through this, little by little, it gradually becomes easier to deal with. I remember one New Years Eve when I heard the fireworks in town. I cried because I couldn’t go down there and see them. I cried because I spent so much of my time resting and everything I did made the fatigue so much worse. Now when I hear the fireworks I am grateful that I once was able to see them. I appreciate all I have achieved in the year and look forward to another year of spending time with my family.
How do you manage your fatigue over the holidays?