Surviving the Holidays with Chronic Pain
By Jazmin Stearne
The holiday season is now upon us. Some of us may feel “forced” to do things we might not feel like doing. For example, we are forced (by societal standards) to attend parties, overindulge in food, and give gifts. If you are one of the millions of Americans living with chronic pain, you might not be feeling up to it.
So, what are some ways you can still participate in some of the holiday fun? I’ve come up with five ways you can care for yourself during the holiday season.
- Put your health (including mental health) first
I cannot stress this enough. If you are living with any condition, please put your health first. Do not cancel any of your appointments; this includes your therapist if you have one. If you are looking for a therapist, you can give our office a call. The Christmas season has long been associated with higher rates of depression and suicide. If you suffer from depression, please stay in touch with your therapist.
- Practice self-care
Always remember to practice self-care. Take the time to soothe yourself as often as you can. Why not buy yourself that cozy robe you’ve been eyeing online? Light some candles, take a bubble bath, the choice is yours. For all the men out there, who suffer from chronic pain—set aside at least thirty minutes to yourself. During those thirty minutes, read a new magazine or take a short walk. You owe it to yourself to practice soothing activities. I love adult coloring books. I think they are great because the drawings are so complex, it forces me to focus on nothing else but coloring. The things you can do to soothe yourself are endless—as long as they are healthy for you.
- Offer to bring a dish if you are invited to a party
It would be an understatement to say this year has been different. Every holiday we’ve celebrated is different than before, because of COVID-19 and social distancing. Because of social distancing, many of us will be celebrating with our loved ones virtually this year. However, there may be a few of us who will still make the decision to go out and be with family. Some chronic health conditions cause food sensitivities. For instance, I live with ulcerative colitis and I have to be very careful about what I eat. So, if you’re like me, and have food sensitivities, I highly encourage you to bring your own dish. That way, you can eat your own dish instead of having to “be polite” and eat your loved one’s food. Also, you won’t have to pay for it later, by having another flare up.
- Dress Casual
If you are going out to visit a loved one, I recommend you dress casual. I am fortunate enough to know that I don’t have to dress up when visiting family for Christmas. We always dress casual and I appreciate this, because dressing up can be very difficult to do while you’re dealing with a painful flare-up. If your family dresses up and you are a woman for example, wear a flowing dress with casual shoes. I know this may be feasible for some but if it isn’t, try to be as comfortable as you can. I recommend wearing breathable attire while in pain.
- It’s OK to say “No”
I hate saying no to my loved ones. For me it feels unnatural, as I love them and want to help them. However, not everything is realistic when I’m in pain. When I’m in pain, it’s hard to make it through the day. If you are having a high pain day and someone asks you to attend their holiday party, you don’t have to go. If they really care about you, they won’t get offended. Set boundaries. If you aren’t able to go, cancel or plan something else later at another time.
Here is the number for the National Suicide Hotline: 1–800–273–TALK
if you need extra support 24/7 this holiday season.
Be honest with yourself during the holidays. Try not to set the bar too high and be as realistic as you can when planning holiday gatherings. As always, keep in touch with all your healthcare professionals. If you are looking for a therapist, I encourage you to give our office a call. I hope you all have a safe holiday season. Happy Holidays!