Banish Holiday Stress With These 10 Self-Care Tips

Holiday displays and shopping opportunities have been up since before Halloween. The continuous holiday carols, light displays, and commercials are enough to drive anyone to distraction. All of the constant stimulation revolving around the winter holidays can cause stress. People are worried about work and family commitments, attending events, and buying the perfect gifts. And, that can be even doubly so for those who battle chronic pain. From talking to your relatives about your pain condition beforehand to creating new traditions, here’s ten ways to banish holiday stress this season.

What causes holiday stress?

According to Prevention.com there are a number of things that cause people in the U.S. to become stressed over the holidays.

These include:

  • Big crowds and lines
  • Weight gain
  • Debt from holiday spending
  • Shopping
  • Traveling
  • Not getting along with family
  • Holiday music
  • Attending parties and events

Holiday stress tends to disproportionately affect women who are struggling to do it all. Often faced with a delicate balancing act between work and family, even during the rest of the year, the added burdens of ensuring a perfect holiday can be overwhelming. Plus, many pain conditions disproportionately affect women, especially those like fibromyalgia and lupus.

But the holidays don’t need to be mired in stress, anger, or anxiety. By shifting the focus and mindset, the holidays can become a time to relax with friends and family and recharge during the long nights of winter.

1. Find a better way to talk about your pain to relatives

Despite the large number of people who live with chronic pain, those who don’t endure the struggle have little idea of what daily life is like with pain. Even close relatives may not understand why you’re not feeling well or why you can’t fully participate in holiday preparation activities.

Around the holidays, when you may be hosting or visiting far-off relatives who don’t see you very often and who aren’t exposed to the day-to-day realities of living with chronic pain, explaining how you feel may be difficult. Just like medical conditions vary from person to person, people respond to the idea of chronic pain differently.

Some people may be extraordinarily compassionate and understanding. Others may recommend this cure or that remedy and make you feel like you’re not doing enough to heal your condition, even though they know little about your body and all the trials and tribulations you’ve gone through trying to feel better.

And for others, the idea of living with a chronic condition may be so far beyond their grasp, that no matter how you try to explain, they will not understand.

Nevertheless, trying to explain chronic pain to relatives is important. Sharing your experience of life with loved ones, the good times and the bad, is essential for strengthening bonds and feeling known. Even if relatives aren’t close, there are some things they should know, especially in preparation for the holidays.

Here are a few ways of explaining pain to others and tips for simplifying holiday preparations to make them more fun for everyone.

Explain your condition from a scientific perspective

If you have fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, or some other definable, primary condition, consider giving relatives information about this disease. Explain how it affects the body, what the common side effects are, and how it impacts your daily life.

If you have a more vague cause of pain, perhaps from old injuries or surgeries, explain how you came to be in pain and what you believe the causes are. Try to describe how the sensations manifest in your body, and how those sensations limit activity.

Ironically, people with limited information about conditions sometimes have very firm, definite opinions about what it’s like to live with pain and how it might be managed. Dealing with well-intentioned but uninformed people can be frustrating, but try to stay calm and educate them.

Don’t feel like you need to justify yourself; you don’t. However, it can be helpful if your relatives understand what it’s like to live with pain.

Describe the treatments you’ve tried or currently incorporate into your life

Treatments may involve medicine or lifestyle modifications, such as diet or meditation. This description isn’t because you need to justify yourself. However, explaining to people all the things you’ve been through in an effort to find relief can begin to help people understand your condition and just how severe and difficult to manage it is.

You may talk about medications you’ve taken and the unwelcome side effects they brought. Or, you may mention how you’ve tried to start an exercise program but were derailed by an extreme bout of pain. You may talk about how you had a fun weekend planned, but a flare-up sidelined you and left you on the couch instead of out enjoying your life.

Describing the steps you’ve taken and tangible effects of pain on your life can help relatives understand the condition and what it’s like to live with chronic pain.

Understand there are some people who won’t understand

No matter how fully you try to explain the reality of living with pain, some people will inevitably not understand. Know that it’s not your job to convert their thinking. Or your emotional burden to take on. It can be difficult dealing with people who aren’t empathetic, but try to remember their inability to comprehend is their problem, not yours.

Above all, be kind to yourself and don’t blame yourself for having a medical condition. It’s not your fault. You do the best you can, even during the holidays.

Banish Holiday Stress With These 10 Self-Care Tips | PainDoctor.com

2. Be in the moment

People who feel stressed around the holidays are also more likely to experience stress other times of the year. It is important to separate the actual holiday from the feelings you have. Rather than focusing on the past or fretting about the future, try to spend more time in the present.

3. Take ownership

Often the reason for added holiday stress is the incessant need to please everyone. You have obligations to parents and grandparents on both sides of the family. You want to make sure your kids get everything they’ve asked for. Friends throw parties and even your office will have holiday events, and you’ll feel the need to attend all of these even on your worst pain days.

Rather than saying yes to everything, take some time to figure out the things you really want to do and focus only on those. Feel free to say no and create a holiday that you and your immediate family can enjoy.

4. Involve the whole household

You want to get everything right but you simply can’t do it all. Instead, make sure everyone in your home has their own list of jobs to do to help with the planning and execution of a stress-free holiday event. Kids love to help and even little ones are capable of a number of small tasks. Husbands and wives or partners should be willing to help each other out with anything that is necessary.

Asking for help can be difficult for some people. You may feel guilty for always asking, or you may be the type who enjoys being independent and not needing assistance. When it comes time for the holidays, all the cooking, baking, and other preparations can leave you feeling exhausted and stressed though. Stress and exhaustion can easily exacerbate chronic pain, so it’s important to manage these situations before they get out of hand by asking for help.

If you have relatives visiting, start the conversation before they arrive. Explain your condition, its symptoms, and then gently asking for help going grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning up after people once they arrive—which can become a lot of work with a full house!

Opening up conversations ahead of time is helpful because it allows things to get started on the right foot. It gives people time to think and absorb information while still in the comfort zones of their own homes. Then, when people come together, the spirit of collaboration and compassion is more likely to be present.

With your own family who sees your struggle every day, it will hopefully be easier to ask for help cleaning the house in preparation for relatives. Let family know that you’re excited to spend time with everyone, but that you need help to make the experience enjoyable.

5. Take focus away from gifts

People who spend more time worrying about getting the right gift or spending enough money are less likely to report feelings of being in the holiday spirit. Gift giving is great if it is something that makes you feel good but as soon as it becomes too stressful it should take a back seat.