Holidays are something that most people look forward to because it’s a time when we have an excuse to take some time off work and spend time with our families but not if you have chronic pain. When you have chronic pain you will miserable no matter what time of year it is because pain doesn’t take a vacation. For me personally, since living with pain the holidays have always been something that is slightly less enjoyable because there is always the possibility of having something at a gathering that could trigger more pain. I love hanging out with friends and family and being surprised by what gifts you bought but that is the extent of what I enjoy about the holidays! I wish enjoying the holidays wasn’t so difficult but it is if you have pain to consider. Pain shouldn’t rob you of all of your happiness during the holidays but if it is here are a few things you can do to make it better.
Go easy on the wrapping- When I unwrap gifts I am pretty much over it by gift two! It’s not that I am not excited about the gift you gave me I am just in too much pain from unwrapping gifts to show much emotion. People often assume migraines are just minor head pains and Tylenol will do the trick but if that was the case I wouldn’t be advocating about it. Aside from my migraines that I get on pretty a frequent basis I also get pains that shoot up my whole arm making eating meals and opening gifts painful and hardly enjoyable. My medication has helped prevent some migraines which have improved my quality of life but it has not touched this type of pain and I don’t know if it ever will or how long it will take before it does. Some things will always be hard for me no matter how easy you try to make it but one way you can make it easier is by simply using gift bags and ditching the ribbons on all the wrapping paper you use! Save the ribbons for people who will appreciate them because I will not but will only get frustrating with them.
Offer help- My disability is very visible so I don’t generally have any difficulties getting any extra help at Christmas parties but that is not always the case for disabilities that aren’t so visible. Chronic pain affects you in more ways than most people realize and although you can’t see our pain we need just as much as those with visible disabilities. The holidays can be exhausting for a chronic pain sufferer but offering to help do some of these tasks can take a huge weight off our shoulders. It can be simple as helping to wrap gifts or running an errand for them no task is too small and chronic pain sufferers will always appreciate the extra help because that is one less thing we have to do. If they don’t appreciate the help and you didn’t force help on them then they have some more personal problems that you can’t help them with.
Make your own sweets- During the holidays you are surrounded by all kinds of sweets but if you have chronic pain you may not be able to have as much as your friends if you want to keep from having a pain flare. The people around will not have those same limits and will be eating those sweets at a much faster rate so when you want something it is never there. If you find yourself feeling frustrated because you are always missing out then make your own batch of cookies because it’s only fair that you get the same enjoyment as your friends.
Talk to your doctor- Personally for me during the wintertime my pain is not that bad but is better than any other time of the year because I sweat a lot especially during the summer (and at night) because my body temperature rises causing me to sweat and triggering more migraines than in the winter. The wintertime in Florida is great because not only does it not snow but I don’t have as much pain because I don’t sweat as much but that is not the case for all migraineurs and for some frigid weather changes can worsen your symptoms. Things change and sometimes when you have been on a medication for a really long time your body gets used to it and it stops working. If that is the case it may be time to get some expert tips on what you can do to make your pain better because no one deserves to be miserable. Sometimes all it takes is a simple medication or dietary change for you to get your pain back to what it was so you can enjoy the holidays.
Online shopping- Most people enjoy shopping(at least women do) but when you have chronic pain it is a little less enjoyable. Before I had chronic pain I enjoyed shopping but now there is nothing about going to the store and buying stuff that I enjoy. Buying stuff for others can be fun but going to the store and picking it out the perfect gift is anything but fun and unless I need something or am gift shopping I usually don’t look at much and generally just cruise around to kill time. The truth when shopping I am focusing more on my pain than my shopping experience because it is exhausting and can’t be ignored. I never get a break because just pushing my chair a short distance feels like I was punched in both arms and strapped a pair of weights to them. I to take as little trips to the store as possible and the way you can do that is buy what you know your friends will like online!
Hydrate– During the holiday you are surrounded by foods and drinks that are full of sugar which won’t help your pain but may, in fact, worsen it. You should enjoy life and having a few sugary drinks every now in then never killed anybody but if you want to keep your pain manageable you should be mindful of how much you are consuming! Make sure for every alcoholic and sugary beverage you consume you are also having a glass of water because too much sugar can cause inflammation and large amounts of alcohol will spike your blood sugar levels possibly trigger a migraine and that would be no way to start or end your day!
Try low-intensity exercise- Exercise is not for everyone and that is especially true if you have chronic pain. Some people can do low-intensity exercises like Pilates or Yoga but some cannot exercise at all because it triggers high pain levels. I am not one of those people that will judge you for not exercising by saying that you always should because I know it’s not always an option but I will say this if you can exercise try to make time for it. Exercise won’t take away the pain away but it can help you feel better by easing your symptoms and making you stronger so that when pain is high your life is just a tad bit easier.
When you have chronic pain the holiday can be a very difficult time for a lot of people because it reminds us of when we weren’t in pain and how much easier our lives were before having chronic pain. Some people have had pain for so long that they can’t even remember what it’s like to live a life without pain and to be honest they crave that life. The holidays are an exciting time of year but for those who have pain it may not feel that way and if you are hurting my heart goes out to you. Schedule in rests, pace yourself, and get help so you don’t get too overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done. If you get depressed this time of year because of pain always remember that you are not alone and your friends and family hate to see your hurting just as much as you hate living with pain. Don’t be so hard on yourself by making tasks harder than they have to be but ask for help when you are struggling. You may be surprised at how much your friends want to help but you can’t expect them to read minds! How are you going to help this holiday season?