It’s almost here! The most wonderful time of the year, or so the song says. If you have rheumatoid arthritis it may look more like a danger laden obstacle course than a time for joyous celebration. Filled with stress, commitments, and expectations, Christmas is by far the most challenging holiday. Between the search for the perfect gift, the energy needed to turn your home into a magical Christmas wonderland, the cooking, cleaning, baking, wrapping, holiday parties…it can all become a bit overwhelming for those of us who have limited resources for getting it all done. Whether that be money, time, energy, or all three, it can leave an RA warrior feeling anything but triumphant. While we can’t cancel this busy holiday (or can we?) there are a few ways we can make it more manageable.
First and foremost, you’re going to have to pace yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither should the monumental undertaking that is Christmas. One of the bigger challenges we face as RA warriors is a limited amount of energy and strength to tackle projects. Recognizing and respecting this fact will go a long way toward making the holiday less draining. The biggest key seems to be not trying to do it all, whatever IT is, in one day. So, wrap a few gifts, then walk away, take a break, go prep some food. Varying the task is always going to make our bodies happier than chaining ourselves to the giftwrapping station or kitchen for half the day. So, switch it up, take your time, and remember to rest and stretch. This is a cross country race, not a sprint, you’re going to need to pace yourself to cross the finish line.
Crossing the finish line is going to require a lot of carefully planned work. Some of which, you really don’t have to do. Wait, what? There are things that don’t have to be done you say? Well then why am I doing them? Great question, why are you? Take a few minutes and jot down your Christmas to do list. Now, give it a good long look. Are there things on the list that aren’t really necessary? Anything that can be skipped? Is there something that you know is going to take every ounce of energy you’ve got? Cross it off and move on. Yep, I said it, you don’t have to get it all done. If you can’t do it, don’t.
If you can’t skip it, delegate. Let’s face it, as much as we’d like to just cross off that entire to do list and crawl back in bed, Christmas is coming, ready or not. There are things that are going to have to get done. You still don’t have to be the one to do them. As a holiday that is entirely about family, giving, and sharing love, there is really no better time to tackle something as a family. Delegate some of those challenging tasks. Recruit a family member to help with the wrapping, cleaning, and decorating. Invite them to join you in the kitchen to bake and prep holiday meals and treats. Remember, many hands make light work. No one ever said you have to do it all to get it all done. In fact, you don’t, delegate and move on. And don’t feel bad about asking for help, this is everyone’s holiday, there is absolutely no reason everyone can’t share in the work needed to make it happen.
If you can’t delegate it to a family member, hire it out! Give yourself the gift of a more enjoyable Christmas, hire someone to come tidy before guests arrive, get that meal catered, hire a local teen to help with decorating. The energy and pain it saves you will be well worth the expense.
Your going to need that energy to enjoy the festivities. Remember to pace the enjoyment. Christmas can be packed with parties, concerts, gatherings, and trips to see Santa. Plan to be able to enjoy them. That means scheduling down time in that hectic schedule. One thing we cannot do, is enjoy life when we are running on empty. So, don’t sign up for a schedule that will take all your reserves and then some. Save that energy for the things that matter most. Say no to the parties of acquaintances, skip the office party if it is not convenient. Don’t be afraid to turn down holiday invites and save the energy for the ones you most enjoy. It’s supposed to be a joy filled holiday, don’t spend it in misery because you’ve said yes to all of the things.
When you do choose to attend an event or gathering, do it from a comfy seat. Sit down, take a load off, sit back and take it all in. Even if you are the hostess. You’ve prepped it all, delegated the rest, it’s time for the fun, let yourself enjoy it. Grab a plate of food and your holiday beverage of choice, sit back and watch it unfold. You’ll enjoy it just as much as you would being up in the middle of it all, and you just might catch a glimpse of some magic from that comfy seat.
Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget to take care of yourself! This is no time to skip all the self-care rituals that keep you moving! If anything, it is a time to double down on self-care so you can find the spoons to get through it. (Spoons? Not sure what I mean, look here.) So, take the supplements, build downtime into that hectic schedule, take a nap, eat real food between all those lovely treats, and try to get some sleep at night. The holiday will be so very much more enjoyable if you do.
While there is no doubt that this is the most challenging holiday season to get through, it doesn’t have to feel like an uphill battle. Taking time to care for you, pacing yourself, delegating, saying no, and paring down on the things you have to do will make it much less of a battle. Save the battling for the really tough stuff, like tying your shoes.
What do you do to get through the holidays? Drop your holiday survival tips in the comments! Looking for that perfect gift for your loved one or dear friend with RA? Don’t miss our Gift Guide for Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Merry Christmas from TenaciousME!