The holidays are supposed to be full of Yuletide cheer and festive fun, right?
But when living with a rheumatic disease, a holly jolly Christmas can be easier said than done.
Oftentimes, all that dashing through the snow to make spirits bright can result in a major flare-up … and that’s when the most wonderful time of the year doesn’t feel so wonderful after all.
What can you do to make sure the hustle and bustle of the holiday season doesn’t lead to debilitating pain and an increase of symptoms?
Here’s our top 10 suggestions for helping you make the most out of this holiday season:
#1 Take Your Medication: When life gets busy, it can be difficult to remember the little details that normally would be on the forefront of your mind. Do not let a change from your everyday schedule interrupt your medication regime. Whether you need prescribed pills, vitamin/herbal supplements, ointments/creams, or injections, try to not skip any doses.
#2 Set Up Travel Arrangements: If you plan on traveling for the holidays, try to make your time on the road or in the sky as comfortable as possible. Travel during non-peak hours. Take stops on that long car ride. Bring a pillow or two to support your neck and back. Wear support stockings or compression tights. Dress in layers if you tend to be chilled on an airplane. Traveling is hard on the body and can have you feeling the aftermath for days without proper planning.
#3 Coordinate Special Accommodations: Along with those travel arrangements, make sure to secure any additional needed accommodations that require advanced reservations. If traveling through an airport, get a wheelchair. If staying in a hotel, request a handicap accessible room. If you need to keep medications cold, book a hotel room with a refrigerator.
#4 Devise a Sleep Plan: Sleep can be hard to come by when living with a rheumatic disease. When you add into the equation the extra stress that comes with December (plus any travel plans), quality sleep can feel like a near impossible feat. Be prepared by bringing ear plugs, a sleep mask, noise machine, fan, sleep aids, extra pillows, or any other items that would help you get a good night’s rest.
#5 Make a Meal Plan: Certain foods can trigger inflammation and bring on a flare-up. If you have dietary restrictions, now is not the time to stray from that diet. If you have been able to pinpoint which foods don't settle well with your body, try to avoid those even amidst the holiday gatherings. This might mean you need to bring your own food to a family dinner.
#6 Pack a Day Bag: When out and about, be prepared with items that could help you feel your best. Always pack a water bottle to stay hydrated. Bring a few protein-filled snacks to regulate your blood sugar. Pack a dose of pain medications or specific prescriptions that might come in handy. Give your body a fighting chance to combat the wear-and-tear of a busy day. Your day bag could even include a hat and some sunscreen in case you end up outdoors.
#7 Schedule Downtime: December is hectic. Depending on your stage of life, you might be that parent running around to dance recitals, choir concerts, and class parties. Or perhaps you are the boss coordinating a work party, the neighbor hosting the empty nesters get-together, or the grandparent preparing for a family gathering. Whatever is in the works for your holiday season, you will be able to accomplish more when you take time to rejuvenate.
#8 Plan Ahead: While you are scheduling in that downtime, make sure to map out other necessary components to make your December a success. Take a hard look at the calendar and circle the must-do events. Schedule your month around those activities.
#9 Expect the Unexpected: Yes, this tip probably appears to directly contradict the prior suggestion. What is a December without a few hiccups, though?! Mentally prepare for disruptions to your original plans. Emotionally set realistic expectations. Physically take on what you can handle, and then set aside the rest.
#10 Give Grace: Okay, one more suggestion to go along the lines of planning and scheduling. As you anticipate interruptions and expect complications, be patient with the process. Be gentle on yourself with your limited capabilities. Try your best, and then give yourself a pat on the back for your efforts.
Are you ready to jingle all the way through December?
Even if the weather outside is frightful and Jack Frost is nipping at your nose, you can make the most of this holiday season by taking precautionary steps to manage your rheumatic disease.
Our team at Paducah Rheumatology is here for you!
Give us a call at (270) 408-6100 if you have questions or need to schedule an appointment. Also, we are accepting new patients with a physician's referral.
And from our Paducah Rheumatology family to yours … We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!