The holidays are filled with festive parties, decorations and big family meals. While the holiday season is fun, it can also be very stressful, especially for people with chronic pain. Coping with the stress of the holidays is important but can be challenging.
Here are a few tips to help you get through the holidays with chronic pain.
Stick to a budget
One of the biggest stressors during the holidays is trying to buy everyone on your list gifts. However, those gifts can add up quickly. Keep your stress level down by sticking to a budget. Figure out how much money you want to spend total, and then make a list of people for whom you plan on buying gifts. Now that you’re organized, it’ll be easier to find the presents.
Follow your budget and look for items that are on sale. You can also try other ideas such as:
- making gifts yourself
- donating to a charity in your friend’s name
- starting a family or friend gift exchange
The holidays don’t have to be perfect, and putting the stress on yourself to do everything perfectly only makes the holidays harder. Set realistic expectations for yourself and stick to them.
If you start feeling your pain level increase, stop and rest. Then re-evaluate your list of things to do. Prioritize the items that must be completed by a certain time, such as mailing presents. Check things off your list as you go, so you can see your progress.
When you attend holiday parties or dinners, set a time limit for yourself. Even though these kinds of gatherings are lots of fun, they may increase your pain level. It’s okay to leave when you want to, so you stay as pain-free as possible.
Learn to say no
Saying yes when you really want to say no can have a major impact on your chronic pain and emotional health. Your friends, family and co-workers will understand if you need to say no sometimes.
If you feel like you really must attend an event or participate in a project, take a minute to think about what you can let go of doing the next day. This way you’ll have more time to rest and recharge.
Remember: it’s okay to say no.
Keep your healthy habits going
Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you have to stop doing your healthy habits. Keep doing gentle exercises, eating balanced meals and practicing relaxation techniques. In fact, keeping your healthy habits going may help you cope with the stress of the holiday season.
When you start to feel overwhelmed, you can practice breathing techniques, guided imagery or meditation. You can also add in some yoga or Tai Chi for gentle stretching and exercise.
Remember, certain foods may worsen your chronic pain symptoms, so avoiding those foods is still important. However, this can seem challenging during the holidays when rich foods and desserts are everywhere.
You don’t have to completely eliminate your favorite holiday foods, but try to eat them in moderation. If you love green bean casserole, try having a small spoonful of it. If you can’t get through the holidays without eating some of your favorite pie, try only eating one small slice.