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FMS Community's Newsletter #116

 

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, the leaves have left the trees and the chilly temperatures have erased all traces of summer. This means that the holidays are approaching, a time when many of us over work, over spend and deal with heightened stress levels.

Here we will focus on ways to deal with holiday stress without becoming a casualty.

By breaking down the various issues into categories, you can set priorities for physical tasks and emotional issues. It doesn’t matter if you are hosting Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza or Ramada, getting ready for the big day can take a toll on your health.

Health Related Tasks:

If possible, do not schedule routine doctor visits on the crucial days before a holiday. If it is not an emergency, ask your care providers’ office to give you a few days leeway on scheduling. Showering, dressing and getting needed paperwork together as you rush to a doctors’ appointment can be hard on us any time, but it is an unwelcome stress before a holiday. Don’t forget that your doctor also has a family and will understand your need to protect your time with them.

Be diligent with your medications! Take all medications on time, every time and if you have trouble remembering to take them when you are stressed or busy set a timer, use the alarm on your watch or set up a program on your computer to sound a reminder.

At least a week before the big day, check all of your prescriptions to make sure you have enough medication to last you until after the holiday. Your chances of getting an emergency refill the day of a holiday is nearly impossible.

With a myriad of holiday treats at your fingertips, you may be tempted to break your dietary guidelines. If you suffer from I.B.S. make a vow to ignore foods known to cause flares.

Maintain your sleep schedule! While you may accomplish more by staying up late, you will find your energy and overall health lag as the big day nears. Prioritize tasks and only work until your normal bedtime. This means that you may have to start some tasks earlier in the year than usual, such as gift-wrapping, but the resulting health benefits will be well worth it.

Leave your pride at the door! If you have a handicap placard for your car, use it and save precious steps. If walking and shopping wipe you out, consider using one of the motorized carts available at most retail outlets. You may feel silly at the time, but you will love the feeling of a great day spent with your family and friends later.

Getting the House Ready:

If you can afford it, pay someone else to clean your house or check Craig’s List for people willing to barter housecleaning services, you may just have something they want.

If you can’t afford outside help, prioritize your living space and only work on the areas to be used. Designate a coatroom and close the doors to all other rooms, people will respect your boundaries, only a boorish lout would open doors uninvited.

Ignore problem spots that only you can see in your head. You may know that there is a landmine of popcorn and dirty socks under your couch, but nobody else does. Resist the impulse to move furniture and scrub every corner, for truth be known, the average visitor doesn’t even notice. Again, only a rude lout would peer under your couch for dirt.

Clean little used areas as early as possible to avoid overwork the week of the big event. One example would be to clean a spare room to accept your guests coats weeks before you host your party, after that, a simple run through with a dust cloth will spruce it up.

If your budget allows, keep cleaning supplies in various locations throughout the house to avoid extra trips up and down the stairs etc.

If you have an understanding sister, mother, brother, cousin or anyone else you confide in, offer to furnish their favorite lunch or dinner in exchange for their help in cleaning. Make it a fun event by sharing your favorite snacks, listening to music or watching a movie as you work.

Enlist help from your children by making it fun. Turn cleaning into a game and offer a reward. Assign each kid a room and tell them the winner gets to choose a special reward for all of them. The reward can be monetary, permission to stay up late, extra computer time or something as simple as a batch of their favorite home baked cookies after the holiday.

Use the same reward system for heavily used rooms such as the bathroom. Tell your family that if your bathroom is clutter free and without toothpaste spatter on the day you expect company, you will reward them for their cooperation. Remember to use positive reinforcement throughout the week, if you notice less clutter in the living room, thank them. If their clothes are hitting the hamper, thank them for helping, knowing that you noticed their contribution will make them feel good.

Food:

Getting together with family and friends is great, but we all know that we look forward to the good food we will eat when we reach a gathering. Being a perfect host is unrealistic and can deny others the pleasure of contributing or sharing one of their famous recipes.

Most people want to be involved, and contributing a dish to a feast makes them feel like they are part of something special. When approaching others, tell them that you want your celebration to embrace the many flavors of your family. Ask them if they would be willing to bring a dish they are famous for or if they would be willing to introduce something new to the party. Not only will you make others feel like they are contributing, you may just find a new dish you will fall in love with.

Often times we see the holidays as a time to shine, we offer our best dishes and baked goods to our loved ones. However, you need to realize your limits and adjust your tasks accordingly. If you must make your treats from scratch, make the ones that can be stored in the freezer ahead of time. Keep an eye on your goals, do you really need five different pies and twelve dozen cookies if you are only hosting a party for ten? Keep your portions appropriate for your guest list.

Outsource where you can. In my family, I only serve homemade snicker doodles as store bought cookies are left to rot in their containers. However, I have found a local restaurant that makes a pumpkin pie better than my own and my family loves it. Homemade breads and rolls are also out, I now serve only brown and serve rolls or a bake at home bread. My family was not pleased at first, but they got over it, especially when they realized that I was still with them after dinner playing games instead of lying on the couch with a handful of meds and a heat pack.

If you use your good dishes for the main meal, lay in a supply of attractive, disposable plates and plastic silverware for desert. If relatives offer to help with clean up after the meal, let them.

Set up a beverage area with coffee, hot water and a supply of tea bags, sodas, ice and appropriate cups and glasses. This allows your guest to serve their own beverages saving you from making multiple rounds to refill their drinks. Don’t forget to put out sugar, creamer and lemon juice.

Ignore the urge to be the perfect host! Sit down, talk to your guests and don’t feel you have to cater to their every need. If you were healthy, this would be admirable but you are not. If someone asks if there is more cream, direct him or her to the fridge. If someone asks for a drink of water, tell him or her where to find the glasses.

Kids love to role-play. Consider bribing the older children in your group to act as waiters for your guests. Give them a white towel to drape over their arm and ask them to make sure the guests have what they need. Put out tip jars for each little helper and ask your guests to toss in spare change to reward them. The kids will gleefully empty out their jar as they think about the best way to spend their riches. You can also put them in charge of coats, saving you from multiple trips to fetch your guests’ belongings.

Emotional Issues:

It is up to you to take charge of your emotional well-being. Set aside some time each day to relax and do something to feed your soul. Avoid morning T.V. news, newspapers and magazines that can start your day with sad events that can affect your mindset, but that you have no control over.

Pull out one of your feel good movies, remember how good you felt the last time you viewed it? Reread a special book that you couldn’t put down, one that filled you with good feelings. While the happy sounds of Christmas music dredge up warm feelings for most of us, don’t feel locked into it. If you have a favorite soundtrack, or band that makes you relax and smile, put them on while you are working. Let your inner child out of the closet, watch your favorite holiday cartoons, even if the kids are gone. Letting your mind go back to a simpler time can be very cathartic. Dance if you feel like it!

Pull out photos of past holidays, I guarantee that you will remember a special story or dish eaten, and not the fact that you forgot to vacuum the guest room that year. This reminds me of a saying I once heard, that nobody ever heard anyone on their deathbed wish they had spent more time cleaning, or working. Think about that, I know I would wish that I had spent more time with my family, not that I should have had a cleaner bathroom for the Christmas of 2008. Take time to walk away from the commercial side of the holidays and connect with your spiritual side, whatever that may be. Count your blessings and remember why you love the people you are working so hard to please.

If you start to feel snappish, or crabby, try to identify what is going on that may make you feel this way. Often times it may not be the situation causing the problem, it is your body finding that it is not able to deal with the noise and stress of a situation. Identify why you may be reacting like you are, if it is guilt try to let it go, if it is a pair of uncomfortable shoes that look good with your outfit, let it go find a pair of comfortable shoes. If it is pain, or noise overload find a quiet place to take a few moments for yourself. If it is an annoying relative, remind yourself that they will be gone within hours and you will have your life back, try not to let them get to you. If it is a hateful, toxic person that upsets you and the family, avoid them or be direct with them. Their issues are theirs, not yours and you should try to keep them from poisoning your life. Try not to give them power over your life.

Demand respect! It is your house, if you have people who refuse to stop smoking in the crowded kitchen, tell them they must go outside or stop smoking. If you have a problem with drunks, let them know that your party will be dry or that they will be cut off and asked to leave if they become obnoxious.

If you have someone in your life that lets their kids tear up your house and disrupt your guests, you can always put an “Adults Only” clause on your invitation. You can also set up a kid friendly area with snacks, movies and games where they can gather and have fun without tearing up the rest of your house. Another option would be to “hire” some of the older children to babysit so everyone can enjoy the day.

Perhaps the hardest thing to do is deal with personality clashes and toxic people. We often try to throw everyone together and deal with the problems as they arise. This is where you may have to get creative.

Does Aunt Polly upset your Mom and cause an argument at every holiday gathering? Perhaps you need to eliminate her from the guest list. Instead, contact her and say that your schedule has changed this year and ask her if she can come celebrate with you another day. Offer to meet her for a special lunch after the holiday and make her feel special by telling her you want to spend time with her. Find creative ways to keep toxic people from your home during holiday celebrations. If they insist on coming, you may have to make a decision that could toss you into a flare, but it is better to flare before the holiday than during. If they insist on coming, tell them that their behavior around the family takes a toll on your health. They will be angry with you and you will feel awful, but you will ensure that you and your family will have a great holiday. Moreover, you may help someone realize that their own behavior is ruining their relationship with the family.

Money Issues:

Ok, so you have everyone pitching in with food dishes and the house as clean as its going to be, now what about the gifts? In every family there are people with money who always turn up with expensive gifts. Well guess what, they are in the minority, the rest of us struggle with finances, often taking out loans or using credit cards to buy gifts. Don’t spend money you don’t have on items that may not be appreciated. Why make payments on a toy that will most likely be broken or shoved in a closet before it’s even paid for?

Shop within your means and do NOT try to compete with a gift giver with unlimited finances, the only winner will be your credit card company.

Remember that the cardboard box was inducted into the toy hall of fame for a reason. Kids toss aside the gift and play with the box, so keep it simple. Keep your gifts small and focus on personal interests, not on what is trendy unless you know the recipient really wants it. If you get a kid an expensive video game system because you can afford it and they are an avid bookworm, the money is wasted. They might get more enjoyment from a 50.00 gift certificate to a local bookstore. Don’t assume that all boys are into sports and video games and all girls are into clothes and dolls. I was a tomboy and every doll I was ever given ended up in the hands of other children in my neighborhood. What I really wanted was cowboy boots, my own tools and music. Ask family members what a person is into so you can get the best gift at the best price.

Utilize online shopping. Despite the horror stories you hear, online shopping is safe as long as you follow a few basic safety rules. Only shop from reputable companies your trust. Change your passwords often and do not ask your browser to save your user name, password or credit card information at each site. If you use common sense, you can safely shop from the comfort of your desk chair, conserving precious energy. Some sites will even gift-wrap for a nominal fee.

Ask your family if they would be willing to implement a secret Santa program that would have each person purchasing only one gift per year.

We all know Christmas is for children, see if your family would be open to purchasing gifts for the children and not for each other. This of course means for the extended family, not within your household.

Implement an agreed upon spending limit on gifts.

Stop purchasing expensive gift-wrap that ends up in our landfills. Start a new tradition of using gift bags that you pass back and forth and see how often you get your bag back. Utilize the newspaper, if you have a comic in the family wrap their gift with the funny paper, or use the financial section for a stockbroker, the sports section for a football fan etc. Be inventive with your wrapping. If you purchase a pair of earrings and a scarf for someone, wrap the earrings with the scarf. Wrap that toy for the new baby with the cute blanket or outfit you purchased for them. I once wrapped a pair of slippers my dad wanted with the colorful lap quilt he needed to keep his legs warm while watching T.V.

No matter how much your family begs, do not bring a new pet into the house during the holidays. The extra stress of house training is the last thing you need. You also have to make sure that excited, well-meaning children visiting your home do not feed it inappropriate items or injure it any way. Young pets also have a habit of chewing and sampling things that may not be good for them. Food trays left on low surfaces, low hanging tree ornaments, poultry bones and wrapping paper can all harm your pet. It is not in the best interest of your pet to move into a new environment during such hectic times. If you must get them a pet, give them a framed picture, or an I.O.U. promising to take them to pick out their new friend as soon as things settle down. It will be more enjoyable for your family, and your new pet to meet each other and bond during quieter, private times.

Remember that the holidays are supposed to be fun for everyone, not just for the people you are serving. Conserve your energy, be good to yourself, take time to feed your soul and ignore the dust bunnies under the couch. Your family will enjoy you more than a shiny hall floor.


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