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 doesnt 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. Dont 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
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 Craigs List for
people willing to barter housecleaning services, you may just have something they want.
If you cant 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
doesnt 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
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.
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. Dont forget to put out
sugar, creamer and lemon juice.
Ignore the urge to be the perfect host! Sit down, talk to your guests and dont 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.
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 couldnt put down, one that filled you with good
feelings. While the happy sounds of Christmas music dredge up warm feelings for most of
us, dont 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.
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.
Dont spend money you dont 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 its
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. Dont 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
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
Designed, developed and owned by
a CSSA Partner, (a 501(c)3
maintained by Chip Davis
The Fibromyalgia Community website is a privately owned site.
(C) 1997-2008 The Fibromyalgia Community.
All Rights Reserved.
You can make a donation to this
organization via Pay Pal, credit card, personal check or money order. Receipts given upon
request for tax purposes.
OR Send payment to:
801 Riverside Dr
Lumberton, NC 28358-4625