While a chronic illness can really slow you down over the holidays, not all is lost. It can also provide the opportunity to slow down and smell the roses a bit more. And those roses really do smell pretty great when you take the time to enjoy them.
The holiday season is a time to reconnect with friends and family we haven’t seen in a while, celebrate the year’s successes, and talk about the coming year.
Enjoy the Season; Avoid the Flare
For those of us with chronic illnesses, the holidays can present a host of challenges though. One that I find personally challenging is remembering names on-the-spot. My memory loss and slower speed of thinking can sometimes create some anxiety when someone I know I know starts a conversation with me. Sometimes I’m at a loss in greeting them, or if I do quickly recall their name, I forget where our last life updates have left us.
I would be horrified if someone thought I wasn’t listening to them during our last conversation or that I simply didn’t care enough to recall. So, I cover the best I can. Dare I say this is a skill I have come to master in most such moments? So yes, my chronic illness has taught me something new: appropriately bluffing, covering, or whatever you want to call it. I consider it a skill nonetheless.
With holidays often also comes the hustle and bustle of activities. Too, too many for me to go to, leaving me feeling guilty for declining invites (hoping they don’t find out I declined simply to lay on the couch for a much-needed rest). While I know they would understand, I can’t help the guilt I feel. After struggling for years to learn pacing though I am finally getting better at it. To be honest I wished I had slowed my life down years ago. Now when I go out, I’m all in (or as all in as I can be). I’m with the people that mean the most to me and more fully enjoying their company. I consider this a win in my life.
Ahh… the holidays… colorful, shiny, bright beautiful colors. The sounds of laughter and fun in the air. I love it all. Yet sometimes it all also hurts me. Certain sounds, certain volumes instantly trigger a flare-up for me. Once a flare-up starts, it’s off to the races. Quickly I must seek out quiet – a quiet room, a soft bed, a set of earplugs... And the colors, so beautiful but sometimes also too much and too bright. I need to turn away or find a darker angle within the room. Never was I so aware of my surroundings, anticipating my triggers, and deciding a potential escape plan.
If you want someone to notice your holiday efforts (and at least internally enjoy them), I’m your lady!
Tips and Tricks
While triggers can be abundant during the holidays, I do always carry a few tricks up my sleeve. Earplugs are a must for any loud restaurants or parties. Keeping a bottle of water handy is key to keeping me hydrated and alert. My honed meditation skills have helped me quickly start some deep breathing exercises if I sense a potential flare trigger. Oftentimes that alone can help slow it down or stop it in its tracks. My yoga skills have also helped me stay in the moment and engaged in conversations.
I also often pack a protein bar in my bag. While the candy and cookies of the holidays are great, they aren’t the source of energy that my body really needs. Sometimes sneaking a quick protein bar in the bathroom can carry me through the night. Also, identifying my “escape plan,” just in case, (perhaps a little-used bathroom, or better yet, a bed to lie down on) can also provide great relief. A bag of tricks never used to be my plus one but now it’s my must have. They have allowed me to avoid flare-ups, minimize them or worst case, they’ve helped me quickly get to a place where I can rest and recoup.
Slowing Down and Smelling the Roses
While the holidays aren’t as full of activities as they were before, I have to say I do enjoy the events I participate in more because I’ve prioritized them and dedicated my best to my best. Pacing may have come from having a chronic illness but I must say it’s been a blessing in disguise. As they say, slow down and smell the roses. While not by choice, I’m glad I’ve made this life change. Because those roses really do smell pretty great when you take the time to enjoy them.
Do You Have Personal Challenges that you Encounter Over the Holidays?
Whether a chronic illness or some other challenge, many of us come to the holidays with some extra worries. How do you handle them? Any tips or tricks that you can share?