For someone living with chronic pain, it’s important to maintain a daily balance in order to manage symptoms and prevent pain flare-ups. The holidays, with their travel, food, and activities, can throw this balance off. In this post, we’ll look at tips to prevent holiday pain both before and after the season.
Prepping for the holidays with pain
If you suffer from chronic pain, here are some ways that you start prepping for the holidays while also reducing flare-ups.
Make healthy food choices, when possible
If you or a family member suffer from chronic pain, a celebratory feast can be enough to send you to bed for several days. Many family traditions center on foods that are filled with sugar, fat, and salt, all of which can trigger inflammation. While it may be okay to indulge every now and then, the onslaught of feast days in December can mean more pain.
Do yourself (and your family) a big favor, and say no. Where possible, stick to the diet that makes you feel best, whether that is gluten-free, low sugar, or vegan. There are plenty of portable snacks that fit most dietary choices. Stock up and keep some handy for those times when you need a quick snack but are surrounded by pain-inducing victuals.
For treats, look for pain-friendly recipes try oven-dried cinnamon apple chips. It’s sweet, natural, filled with fiber, and has anti-inflammatory cinnamon. Or, if you do indulge in a few holiday treats, do so in moderation.
Plan ahead for your medications
Traveling can be especially difficult for those pain patients who are taking medications under a doctor’s supervision for pain management. Refilling a prescription halfway across the country from your home pharmacy can be difficult, if not impossible.
Plan ahead and make sure you have enough medication for the trip. If it becomes apparent that you will run out of medication before you get home, call your doctor and ask them to phone a prescription in to a local pharmacy as soon as possible.
Keep in mind that sharing medication is against the law. Even taking one pill from a family member is strictly prohibited. With a little planning, you can avoid having to rush around to fill a prescription during the busy holiday season.
Practice more pain-friendly travel
Holidays mean travel. Whether your family likes to hit the open road to go visit family or fly away to a peaceful vacation, travel can be very taxing for those with chronic pain. When we think about traveling with chronic pain, we believe that the number one rule of thumb is to plan ahead.
For travelers in the air, try to pre-select aisle seats so that you can stand up and move around when you need to. Pre-selecting seats also allows you to take your time with checking in and boarding. Bring a plastic Ziploc bag and ask flight attendant for some ice when you first get seated. An ice pack in the first 30 minutes of the flight can help manage pain symptoms.
If you are driving to your destination, schedule regular stops to stretch and get moving. If possible, plan to drive during the time of day where you are generally feeling your best, but don’t overdo it.
Find your balance
When families get together over the holidays, there is often a flurry of activity. From something as simple as cooking a nightly meal for family in town to more elaborate outings, having fun can be exhausting and painful.
It may not be possible to do everything, so decide ahead of time what gets you the most bang for your buck. Don’t love shopping? Skip the last-minute gift-buying frenzy and rest up for a late night around the dinner table. Hay rides not your thing, but ice skating is? Don’t feel bad saying no to bouncing around in a wagon so you can lace up your blades later. Even something as simple as decorating for the holidays needs a plan.
In this case, it really is quality, not quantity. You will enjoy the company of family and friends more when you are not in a haze of pain and fatigue. Recognize what’s important to you, and save your energy for that. Don’t overschedule yourself, thinking you can push through. While it is important to do what you can, pushing past your limits could result in more pain in the following days.
But keep in mind: movement and activity is recommended for nearly every chronic pain condition. If you use the holidays as an excuse to take a break from exercising, that could prompt more pain than usual.
Spread out gift wrapping
We don’t normally think of gift wrapping as an activity that could cause pain, but imagine wrapping an entire family’s worth of gifts with rheumatoid arthritis. All at once. Even if your fingers are nimble, the posture of gift wrapping can be enough to send back pain flaring up. Plan ahead, and wrap a gift a day. Better yet, take advantage of any store’s free gift wrapping and spend your time on a thoughtful note.
If a friend or family member is living with chronic pain, take the time to get them a gift of comfort or support. There are a number of thoughtful gifts that can help make their daily life easier and more pain-free.
Staying healthy after the holidays
And just like that, it’s all over.
You have been rushing towards the end of the year, steaming through all of the December holidays. Your New Year’s Eve party was a bash to remember. You watched football and ate black-eyed peas and collard greens or long Asian noodles for good luck, but now it’s January 2. Your house is filled with holiday decorations, dust bunnies, and other holiday detritus. The kids are headed back to school, and work schedules pick up. You feel yourself getting tense as you wonder how to get back into the swing of things now that the holidays are over.
Don’t worry, and don’t stress. We have some helpful hints and tips to stay sane and healthy as you move out of the holidays and into the new year.
First, don’t forget you
In the rush of cleaning up and straightening and getting everyone back on their schedules, don’t forget to take time out for self-care. This may mean keeping a regular appointment with your dog on the hiking trail, or it may mean a hot bath with Epsom salts at the end of the day. If you have chronic pain that has been on the back burner over the holidays, you may begin to feel the rebound effect as the excitement of your celebrations wears off.
Before that happens, decide to care for you as you chip away at your to-do list. It’s just like the airline safety speech: in the event of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first. Self-care is the oxygen mask.
Put a plan into place
A plan for un-holidaying the house is essential. Think about the steps you will need to take to not only clean up the house but also the way in which you will store holiday decorations so that they are easy to use next year.
Take a lesson from professional house cleaners. Companies that clean houses for a living follow a very simple formula to efficiently and thoroughly clean each house. After all, time is money, and the faster they work (and the better they clean) the more houses they can get to and the more money they can make. The formula? Top to bottom and left to right.
Divide the house, inside and out. Then move top to bottom, left to right. Top on the outside might mean starting with the lights on the roof, then moving to the bushes and ornaments in the yard. Top in the inside might mean gathering any holiday decorative touches throughout the upper floors of the house before focusing on the downstairs. Decide how you will proceed before you start.
You weren’t the only one enjoying the holiday house, and you should not be the only one taking care of putting the decorations away. Every member of the family can help with something, whether it is gathering holiday towels and soap dispensers from around the house or neatly coiling lights for next year.
Clean as you go
When the lights are low and the decorations are out, it is easy to miss the cobwebs in the corners and the dust bunnies under the beds. As you clear the house of holiday decorations, keep one hand on a duster and take a moment to dust where they were.
Use cleaning wipes to tidy up surfaces all over the house and Magic Erasers to get rid of scuff marks (or dirty fingerprints) from your holiday parties. Wipe down white doors, light switches, and door jambs. You may be surprised at how this small step brightens up your home (and how dirty those areas were!).
Plan for next year’s holidays
If you are thinking of switching to LED lights, make a list and head to the store now for deeply discounted lights. If the stockings you hung by the chimney with care are looking a little bedraggled and could use replacing, add that to the list.
In fact, take a moment after the holidays to think about what you used a lot of and to plan for next year. Many people decide to have a moratorium on spending extra money on non-essentials for January, but make an exception for post-holiday sales on things like candles, greeting cards, wrapping paper, and non-perishable hostess gifts. Some of these items are as much as 90% off and can get you ahead of the game when the holidays roll around next year.
Don’t just wad the lights into a ball and shove them into a box. Wrap them neatly or coil them into easy-to-use loops. Same goes for wreaths, wrapping paper, and decorations. If ornaments do not have their own box, store them carefully in stockings. Wreaths can be stored in special boxes, as can wrapping paper. This may take more time, but you will be so grateful you took the time when you open these decorations up again in November.
Invest in plastic, lidded storage bins and clearly label them, both for the holiday and whether they go inside or outside.
Throw away any broken ornaments, burned-out lights, and wrapping paper tubes with just two inches of paper left. Unless your decorations have significant sentimental attachments, be merciless when deciding what stays for next year and what gets thrown out or recycled.
Finally, make it an occasion
Okay, so cleaning and packing is not normally what one would consider entertainment, but there is no reason why it has to be sheer drudgery. Make a delicious punch, some tasty finger foods, and play your favorite music. Talk about your favorite parts of the holiday season, and make plans for next year.
You could even take this opportunity to write a letter to yourself as a family for the next year, documenting highlights and things you want to do again (or avoid!) for the next holiday season. Gratitude is one of the most powerful keys to happiness. In your letter, reflect on what you and your family are grateful for this holiday season to really understand how many blessings that you have.
What do you do to prevent holiday pain flare-ups before and after the season? Need even more help for your pain? You can find a pain doctor in your area by clicking the button below or looking for one in your area by using the tips here: https://paindoctor.com/pain-management-doctors/.