Provided by Dr. Petra E. Peper, Director of the Wellness Program
This time of year is wonderful but it can also become overwhelming and stressful! Dealing with a chronic pain condition makes this season even more of a challenge to manage successfully.
Tips to Make the Holidays Easier
Getting together with family and friends disrupts your normal routine. You may stay up later, get less sleep or change your pain medication routine. To avoid “being a burden” you may physically overextend yourself or not pay attention when your body is telling you to take it easy.
Tip: Monitor your pain level. Enjoy your time with others but also know your limits. If you need to excuse yourself, stand up or move into a different sitting position, do it. Know what parts of your normal routine need to stay in place.
Socializing outside your home will involve travel by car or even plane. Cramped seating, sitting still, walking or sitting with poor back support can result in a big increase in pain.
Tip: Do what you can to minimize your pain (for example scheduling rest stops on car trips, getting up or standing in the back on plane flights). Be sure to plan for rest/recovery time if you'll need it when you arrive. Avoid feeling guilty about making car trips longer or feeling rude when you need to rest or take a break.
Dealing with Scheduled Activities
One of the most challenging aspects of the holiday season can be trying to meet the demands of a scheduled activity. There is often no way of determining whether or not you can do what is necessary (e.g., cooking, shopping or attending a party) when the time arrives.
Tip: Be realistic and don't set yourself or others up for disappointment by agreeing to do something that may be sabotaged by your pain. It's much more stressful to have to say “I can't” and cancel shortly before the event than it is to say “I'll try my best to be there” when you are invited!
Reduce Your Stress!
When things get hectic it's easy to focus only on what needs to be done and forget to pay attention to your stress level. Pain not only restricts your physical abilities, but can also have a major impact on your mood and attitude as well. Consider the thinking strategies below to help you manage your stress.
Do Some Trouble-shooting: • Do you have you realistic expectations of yourself? • Do your family/friends have realistic expectations of you? If not, modify them • Schedule in downtime to “recharge your batteries” • Check your pain and stress level often to avoid becoming overwhelmed • Know your limits and stick to them, even if you feel pressured not to • Adjust your schedule and activity level ASAP when your stress or pain levels increase • Identify what people or social situations cause you to overextend yourself • Consider the physical and emotional consequences of not following the recommendations above
Remind yourself what this time of year is all about
There is no perfect family or perfect holiday. Ask yourself what makes this time of year meaningful to you. Use this information to create realistic goals for yourself (e.g., quality time with my kids). Staying true to yourself is the best way to make this season fulfilling and avoid getting caught up in the pressure that often sabotages your peace of mind. Pay equal attention to the status of your pain, mood and thoughts.