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Chronic Pain and the Holidays - 3 Tips to Help


Though holiday songs, cards and greetings herald it as ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,’ for people suffering from chronic pain conditions, these final weeks on the calendar can feel anything but merry. Even for those who aren’t burdened by illness, the holidays are often stressful. But when you’ve got a condition characterized by pain, the stress and ill-effects on your health can make matters worse. Here are some tips that may help you keep the season bright.

  1. Prioritization – If you’ve got doctor’s appointments or physical therapy sessions around this time of year, DO keep them. Shrugging off your health for a holiday party or two won’t be worth it when the conversation you wanted to have with your doctor, or that PT session that could’ve helped you make it through the New Year with your pain in check are missed.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is at epic levels for everyone this time of year. But at some point we all realize that we can’t actually do it all. Something usually “gives.” Don’t let it be your health – physically or mentally. Prioritize those events that are most important to you AND won’t exacerbate your pain symptoms. For example, if being out in the cold air seems to bring on discomfort, perhaps this year you might skip that tree lighting ceremony or simply view enjoy it or holiday lights from the comfort of heated vehicle.

Prioritizing occasions isn’t relegated solely to avoiding events that will bring on physical distress either. You must also focus on your mental health this time of year. If that holiday gathering is chalk full of folks who don’t understand what you’re going through – or worse, aren’t supportive – really think about whether the event is “worth” it. As we have seen in countless studies, your outlook and disposition can have a lot to do with your perception of chronic pain. So keeping yourself “well” mentally and emotionally are important pain management tools too!

  1. Delegation – Of course, “skipping” events is a lot easier said than done. Perhaps your place is the “hub” where friends and loved ones gather for the holidays. Cancelling is out of the question and this is something you actually enjoy doing. Something you look forward to doing, even when you have a chronic illness is important. So how can you manage the event without compromising your health? DELEGATE. This year, maybe you don’t need to be the sole provider and maker of the complete holiday feast. Save your energy and ask loved ones who will be attending to help by bringing a dish, coming early to help prepare it, staying late to assist with clean-up, or helping to support the event in other ways that don’t put the burden singularly on your shoulders.
  2. Relaxation – Especially if you’re someone who has a lot to do during the holidays, relaxation during this time of year can seem like a laughable and unattainable goal. But I am telling you, it’s going to help see you through it. If you can take an entire day of “self-care” and curl up with a good book and warm cup of tea – do it! But even if you can’t, there are small things you can do every day that promote healing and relaxation for chronic pain sufferers. Take a few moments to meditate or do some deep Yoga breathing. Exercise with a brisk walk outside or half an hour on a treadmill. Get a good night’s sleep. These are all things that most of us can find the time to do, we just need to make them important. Especially when you’re in pain, they can be significantly helpful in getting through the holidays.

My wish for you is a season full of bright memories that aren’t blurred by chronic pain. While it may be impossible to eliminate it completely, these tips can help get you through. As always, support from friends and loved ones who get what you’re dealing with is also HUGE. So be sure to reach out and lean on them for support.