Sharing the Journey: Managing Holiday Stress
This series – Sharing the Journey – is by you and for you. In your own words, we highlight the perspectives and personal experiences of people who struggle with lupus each day. We also share tips below for a flare-free holiday, read on –
How do you manage stress during the holidays to help prevent and minimize flares?
During the holidays, stress is my biggest trigger so one of the many ways I handle my stress level is to focus on the family time that I get to have during that time. I make time to enjoy family traditions and some nights just curl up with my husband and watch a holiday movie. Taking those times to relax and unwind helps to eliminate the stress. I also will divide up holiday responsibility so that it is not all on my shoulders, I'll do parts of the decorating, shopping and cooking but I have family and friends who help make the holidays joyful rather than stressful. -- Michelle Taylor, age 26
During the holidays, I prepare everything in advance and don't overcommit. I always have a backup plan, remember to delegate and learn to say "no." I've found that if I can somewhat prepare my Thanksgiving or Christmas ahead of time, I know what I am up against. I know I can't commit to seeing every friend and family member, so I try to rotate between the two holidays. It's somewhat a protection mechanism so I don't have to let people down. If hosting at my house, I try my best to delegate responsibility to other family members or guests. Potlucks can be a great approach for a lupus patient! And last, I have a backup plan in case of an unexpected flare. Learning to say "no" is just a great tip for anyone with a chronic illness. It can free us in so many different ways, and we can shift the focus to our body - where it needs to be. -- Marisa Zeppieri-Caruana, age 38
Whenever the holidays are coming, I always try to plan ahead of time. For Christmas I always write a list ahead of time, so I know what I need. I try to do most of my shopping online because sometimes the mall and stores can be too much. With my illness I am unable to walk as fast or shop as fast as other people so at least at home it is less stressful. I can shop the way I want to, at the rate that I am comfortable at. Doing too much, or doing last minute shopping can cause stress, and a flare. Try to enjoy the Christmas songs, and the moment you are in. During the seasons you want to be in the best health for the family. So plan ahead, and enjoy the holidays. Don't think about everything that may go wrong, but think about everything that has gone right. -- Jazmine Trujillo, age 22
My advice for reducing stress during the holidays is to prioritize relaxation. This time of year is so busy and can be quite overwhelming. I have found that I cope better with all of my obligations when I take time for myself. Soak in a warm bath and watch a movie. Make your favorite meal. Try coloring (adult coloring books are so relaxing) or sewing. It does not have to be something huge, but setting aside time to do something you enjoy, however trivial, is so beneficial to your emotional and physical health. And above all else, prioritize sleep. The more you rest, the more efficient you will be during the day! -- Becca Mighell, age 20
Around the holidays, as well as any social setting in general, flare ups can be really unsettling. All you want to do is feel normal, but you have to recognize that you are not like everyone else since you have lupus. Know when your body becomes fatigued and inflamed. Educate your friends and family this coming holiday season, so that they can know how to accommodate you properly. This can relieve a great deal of stress since they will be able to provide the moral support you need, totally embrace this! Having these people in life that support you is everything in regards to dealing with lupus (venting sometimes helps A LOT). Additionally, don't feel like you have to do EVERYTHING. Believe in the spoon theory and listen to what your body is telling you. Make sure you stay consistent with your medications, your anti-inflammatory diet, and your alone time. Having alone time whether that be reading a book, exercising/doing yoga, or taking a walk can help tremendously to regroup and get ready for the next day. Most importantly, have faith! If you have been dealing with lupus, you have been fighting a tough battle, so believe that you are strong and can overcome anything." -- Brittany Wolf, age 23
Try not to over-commit during the holidays. This is something I struggle with, I want to be part of all activities and usually end up burning out right around the New Year. You can still be part of everything, but maybe instead of making a complicated dish to pass, you could bring a bottle of wine or beverage instead, something that takes less energy to prepare. I also try to do the majority of my holiday shopping online. This saves time and energy that I can use more wisely. In some cases, I find better deals online compared to stores anyhow. -- Kristin Larson, age 33
As a newly diagnosed lupus patient, managing stress and preventing flares during the holiday season is going to be a new challenge. Unfortunately, I cannot speak from experience. However, as someone who is taking this diagnosis very seriously, being proactive and taking initiative makes all the difference. First and foremost, I will do my best to maintain my current routine, which serves me well. My regiment entails healthy eating, ample rest, yoga classes three to four times a week, and most importantly, listening to my body. As time progresses, I realize that this disease makes itself abundantly clear with what it needs. If I'm not resting enough or eating properly the adverse side effects are not pleasant. An extensive amount of self-care is going to be crucial during this time. Moreover, we are faced with situations where we cannot live our ideal lifestyle, but it is so important to make health a priority. Likewise, for some people, being around family could cause extensive stress and in that case, use your discretion, speak up for your needs, and be smart. Your family is the one support system who should be able to understand you and your needs unconditionally. Stick to what is comfortable and the holiday season should be manageable. -- Victoria Gibbs, age 31
Remembering to take moments to pause and breath and enjoy the present moments -- @martita_victoria
If/when you're around your family, never feel the need to push yourself. Never be afraid to ask them for help! -- @rrab92
If there is anything that can be made ahead, do it. That way you're not rushed and stressed. -- @2kidsnow
Start early so when the bad days come, you have the time to rest, especially with shopping. Oh yeah- also do what you can online. -- @sonyabryant1
My advice is take one day at a time, listen to your body, pass on the reins if you have to and don’t feel guilty about doing it. -- @soph8738
I put my decorations up starting November 1st taking my time, so once Thanksgiving is over I can now just focus on Christmas without a lot of pressure. Yes I get flack from some friends but my family loves it and that's all that really matters! -- Dawn Loechli
Start early. Make and use lists. Rest when you can. Say no. If you have to be a host, make it small and manageable, like a pot luck. Delegate elsewhere as much as possible. TAKE YOUR MEDS! -- Amanda Turner-Nowakowski
I buy most of my gifts online, which saves so much energy. And I ask my family for help with cleaning and prep work. And lots of rest between tasks! -- Laura Smith Walls
Our family has drastically scaled back what we do for the holidays. A few years ago, I had one of the worst flares during the holidays after I had cut back many of the extras that accompany this time of year. What I thought was enough clearly was not. That was a big wake up call. Cutting back is not a one size fits all thing. It needs to fit you and how lupus affects your body! For me, it means no more hosting family meals, sending Christmas cards, doing all of my shopping at the malls, and attending every party we are invited to. Now we have family over for visiting and dessert, we send Valentine's Day cards, I do 97% of my shopping online and take one day to go to lunch and spend 2 hours enjoying the holiday shopping, and have cut out all of the extra parties. I have found that my husband and 4 children appreciate this greatly. In taking care of myself, I am eliminating the need for them to worry if Mommy will end up in the hospital and will be in bed the whole holiday season. Once I made these changes, I was able to fully enjoy the holidays with my family and look January in the eyes with a smile on my face! -- Heather Drecnik
We should all start by NOT being afraid to say, "No". Resting when we need to rest. Not overexerting ourselves! -- Susan Fields
Making sleep a priority...and making sure that meds and hydration stays the same as schedules change. -- Dan Walmer
Tips for a Flare-Free Holiday
The holidays are a wonderful time to get together with friends and family—but it’s hard to enjoy the celebration if you have a lupus flare. This holiday season, we share 5 simple ways you can stay healthy when you get in the holiday spirit:
- If you want to host a big dinner, make it a pot luck. You can make the main course and have everyone bring a side, so you can still have your big family gathering without all the stress.
- Try doing your holiday shopping online. You’ll save hours of time and energy, plus it may be a lot easier to find what you’re looking for.
- Make your holiday travel arrangements in advance. Procrastination is stressful, so book your tickets and start packing early to avoid the rush. And don’t forget to prioritize your health no matter where you celebrate the holidays—a packing list can help you remember everything you need.
- It’s ok to say no to activities. Be open with your friends and family about your lupus, and don’t hesitate to take a break when you aren’t feeling well. They should understand that your health comes first, no matter what time of year it is.
- Keep getting plenty of sleep. No matter how busy you are preparing for your celebrations, remember that getting rest is one of the most important things you can do to prevent a flare.