Holiday Survival Guide for Fibromyalgia & CFS

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The holiday season is supposed to be a happy time, but it comes with a lot of stress and expectations. It can be a trying time even for healthy people, and for those of us with fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), it can turn into the worst time of the year.

It doesn’t take long for most of us to learn that negative events (i.e., stressful incidents, confrontations) make you feel a lot worse. But have you also connected happy events to a downturn in your health? A 2008 study shows that positive events as well as negative ones can rev up FMS symptoms for a couple of days.

It doesn’t go into why these events have this impact on us. (And we’re not alone people with arthritis and osteoarthritis get it, too.) The simple process here can really help you focus on what’s important so you can keep some of the joy in the season.

Make a list and remember to check it twice. 

This is my top tip for anytime of the year, not just Christmas time. I prefer to use a good old pen & paper but if a list on your phone works for you, then go for it. Make one big list of what you need to get done before the big day and then you can break it down into easy, manageable tasks for each day. As you complete each task, remember to cross it out. Get ready for the feelings of accomplishment as you work your way through the list. Revisit it often and make adjustments as you go.

Prioritizing: What Do You Want Most?

Now, take your list and prioritize it. What things are most important to you? What absolutely has to happen for your holidays to be happy? A temptation here is to think about what everyone wants. If you’re having trouble prioritizing because you know your mother-in-law wants pecan pie, your brother’s on a diet, and Great-Aunt Suzie still puts lights on her house so why can’t you,


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STOP! While you may want to take care of everyone, you need to be realistic and take care of YOU first! You may have to work on saying “no.” As you prioritize, think not only about what’s important, but what you truly love to do. If wrapping presents with lots of elaborate ribbon and bows makes you happy, don’t short change your own enjoyment by going with gift bags or delegating it to someone else.

Gift Yourself Wellness.

This time of year is so busy, with so much to think about and get done in such a short space of time. Nobody wants to crash and burn at Christmas so it is really important that you take time for you. A bit of down time is essential for all, but especially so for those of us who suffer with chronic pain.

Overdoing anything, be it activity, drinking and eating can prove disastrous and spoil all our best laid plans. Some gentle down time such as meditation, gentle yoga or a walk in nature are all great ways to help recharge the batteries.

Pacing: Cut, Simplify, Delegate

Pacing yourself is the key to surviving every day with FMS and ME/CFS, so don’t forget it during the busy times! Now is when you need it most. Several steps go into pacing, and the first is cutting down your list. Count up your items, and then delete the bottom half. Don’t worry about those things anymore you’ve already determined that they’re non-essential and don’t bring you joy.

Now, simplify. What can you make easier? Gift bags instead of wrapping, online shopping instead of going to a dozen stores, If you have some labor-intensive things on the list, have a simpler back-up plan. For example, if you like to make pie crust from scratch but you just don’t have the energy when you need it, accept that store-bought crust is the right option this time.

Now look at your list again and see what you can delegate. Turn Thanksgiving dinner into a potluck. Who can come over to help you decorate or set the table? Who can help you clean up? You might be surprised at how much people are willing to do to help you. If no one’s willing to help, then what, If it’s a family dinner or gathering, perhaps their unwillingness to help shows that it’s not a priority for them, which means it doesn’t need to be a priority for you.

Online shopping

Take the hassle out of the present shopping and shop from the comfort of your own home. You can pretty much find anything online these days and delivery times are usually prompt. Get your family and friends to make a wish list on Amazon. This will then hopefully cut down on the brain power needed to think up the ideal present. Gift vouchers are also a great stress free option and normally gratefully received by the recipient.

Importance Rules

>>Do not let the holiday season descend upon you like a heavy weight. Decide which aspects of the holidays are most important to you and your immediate family. Focus on accomplishing the most important things and let everything else go. 

>>Once you have decided what is most important to you for the holidays, share this with your immediate family. Then ask each family member what is most important to them (an elaborately decorated house, lots of baked goodies on hand, a big home-cooked dinner, visiting with other relatives, etc.). Family traditions are important but, just as families grow and change, some traditions may have to change as well. Hold on to the traditions and rituals that are most important to your family, but understand that it may be time for some traditions to change. 


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