Holidays are often stressful for anyone even is you don’t have the added stress of having RA (or any chronic condition for that matter) but they can be particularly trying for those of us who do. There are shortcuts you can take, things you can do differently than you might have thought of doing them, or, let’s face it, things we can lighten up and not do at all if necessary. We just have to think differently and do what we need to do.
You can do this.
I’m sterling with Christmas here because I’m writing this deep in the heart of Christmas. I’m working full time (plus) and trying to maintain my familial relationships and trying to keep my head from exploding. Frankly I’m holding on by a sheer thread of sanity. But I am holding on so there is that.
I’m also starting here because it is the holiday that I most identify with in my memories and my heart, and if I’m undertaking this, I’m undertaking it in a way that will help me in my head, in my heart and in my soul.
When I was growing up, the decorations that we put up around the house, the swags of tinsel and paper bells, the wreaths and the plastic snowman on the cellar porch, all went up periodically through December but the Christmas tree went up on Christmas Eve. In or defense, it was always a real tree and often as not one ‘rescued’ from one of the parking meters in town after they became fair game. But regardless, it went up Christmas Eve and santa was always the one who decorated it.
The iconic symbol of the holiday in a kid’s mind and it was Christmas Eve and in the hands of a fat guy you never got to see (except that year when he came to visit me and sounded disturbingly like my Aunt Bea). I heard kids at school talking about tree decorating parties so I knew santa didn’t do everyone’s tree.
I heard that other people had theme trees. Theme trees? Like the ones you see in catalogs and in stores? TOTALLY, I heard about them and I remember the year that family members had a red and gold tree and another when they had a blue and silver tree. I wondered if they threw away the red and gold bulbs and tinsel so they had somewhere to put the blue and silver. I was astounded.
Oh the stories I heard.
Food is always a big part of holidays and Christmas is certainly no different. If you’re new to the whole RA adventure, you might not know for sure if you have any correlation between food/beverages and your tendency to flair to one degree or another. Some people might be able to. If you know one person worth RA you know ONE person with RA.
It might be the case that a little over indulgence doesn’t cause any reaction. It might be that wheat or corn syrup or chocolate might mean a day of feeling crappy.
I don’t notice that I have any specific food sensitivities, but I do know that I am terrified of the doctor’s warnings that the mess that keep me functional can destroy my liver with a little added alcohol. So all of those well meant gifts of wine that are gathering dust above my cookbook cupboard are going to continue to gather dust and I turn down a beer or egg nog in exchange for festively decorated virgin counterparts. Or just coffee or coke.
I can toast at the office party (that we never actually have anyway) with coke as well as a beer and I don’t have to worry about driving home or acting like an idiot.
I enjoy a little of all of the yummy favorites that I love.
I also make cookies and candy and deserts and anything that I can make ahead well in advance of when I might need them and always when I’m feeling particularly human. I vacuum seal them if they are candidates to have all of the air sucked ou. I freeze them if freezing is an option. It means that I can wip out a couple dozen cookies on demand, open/thaw and yuumminess ensues.
The same goes for turkey carcass stock, ham stock, other soup bases… cook it up when my body approves… freeze and vacuum store.
RA can mean achy hands (bet that’s not a big shock to you, huh?) and achy hands can mean that cutting onions, tearing lettuce, cutting other produce is a real non-treat in any season. If you have some of this squirreled away that’s awesome. If not, there is no shame in trading convenience for not hurting… for sanity. Buy pre packaged lettuce, dehydrated or chopped onions and peppers and garlic and celery. No one will ever know later that you didn’t spend painfull hours doing it yourself.
Alternatively, suck it up and admit to your loved ones that you’re not perfect (they aren’t either) or that you’re not feeling 100%. Ask for help. And when you ask for help don’t criticize the help. It may not be the way you would do it but you’re not doing it. Gracefully accept the help. No one will measure the size of any pieces later.
Ah, shopping. Getting up, getting dressed(ish) and heading to the stores, the malls, seeing the decorations and the people. Dealing with parking and crowds. It can be amazing. It can be incredibly draining.
Shopping isn’t my favorite in any season. Having crabby tired people shopping and arguing with clerks is even less of a favorite. I really enjoy getting out during the holiday season and sitting in the mall’s food court, enjoying a cup of coffee, and people watching. But braving the stores, not so much.
I do like to get shopping done through the year, or get things made for people I love through the year. That means I have to have a place to store presents until it’s time for them to go to their new homes (somewhere safely away from the cat). But it means I don’t have to deal with the stress crap that comes if I wait too long.
The internet is an incredible boon to people like us who have a chronic illness. Yeah, everyone thinks of Amazon for on line shopping, but almost every brick and mortar store that you would walk into has an on line corollary where you can buy nearly everything you can walk into the store and buy (and some things that are either much cheaper on line or only available on line that you can’t get in the store at all) and have it magically show up at your door.
During the holiday season many offer free shipping to entice you to shop at their establishments (and they are frankly hoping that you keep shopping with them after the holiday season).
Most offer gift wrapping and direct delivery to wherever you need to have the gifts delivered to, so you don’t even have to deal with the hassle of going through all of that if you don’t want to (or you aren’t sure you’re going to be up for it).
Staying In Touch
Want to save a little money? Buy Christmas cards the day after Christmas for next year. Want to save some time and sanity? Start signing and addressing them inJuly or September when your hands are having a happy day.
Not in the mood? There are internet stations that play Christmas music year round.