Holiday Survival Guide
Surviving the holidays can be tough for even the most energetic people to get through.
For those of us with Fibromyalgia (FM) and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic
Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) it can be a nightmare.
Help avoid a holiday meltdown by following these nine steps:
Step #1 - Planning
Make a list of everything you want to accomplish. Be extremely detailed - include:
- wrapping presents
- assembling toys
- stuffing stockings (if you have young children)
- attending parties and family functions
Think about everything you've done over the past few holiday seasons and put it on the
list. I recommend doing this right after the holidays, while your memories are fresh
and you're more likely to be realistic.
Step #2 - Prioritize
Now, take your list and prioritize it. What things are most important to you? What
absolutely has to happen for your holidays to be happy?
A temptation here is to think about what everyone wants. For those of you with
young children, the biggest priority is making things perfect for them, but if you
find yourself prioritizing based on your mother-in-law's, brother's, and great-aunt's
needs, STOP! While you may want to take care of everyone, you need to be realistic
and take care of YOU first! If Aunt Betty wants a pecan pie, she can bake one herself.
As you prioritize, think not only about what's important, but what you truly love to do.
If wrapping presents with lots of elaborate ribbon and bows makes you happy, don't
short change your own enjoyment by going with gift bags or delegating it to someone
else. This season is about joy, so don't give that up!
Step #3 - Cut It Down!
Pacing yourself is the key to surviving every day with FM and CFS/ME, so don't forget
it during the busy times! Now is when you need it most.
Several steps go into pacing, and the first is cutting down your list. Count up your
items, and cut out the half that are lowest priorities. Don't worry about those
things anymore - you've already determined that they're non-essential and don't bring
you joy. You don't need them, and they'll only bring you down.
Step #4 - Simplify
Do you have some items on your list that you could do in a simpler way than you have
in the past? I've always loved walking around the stores, soaking up the "Christmas-ness"
of the season. However, shopping and walking through stores is one of many things I'm
unable to do anymore. So what I do now is a lot of online purchasing, which is
really easy now that I know what I want and where to get it.
If I can't buy what I want online, or I can get a better price locally, I only go to
one store a day. If I need to do more or I'm getting multiple things, I bring my mother
along to push my wheelchair so I don't exhaust myself completely. (Yes, at first it
feels strange to be in a wheelchair, but I've learned it's the only way for me to have
Step #5 - Delegate
Now look at your list again and see what someone else can do. If you've traditionally done
a big dinner, turn it into a potluck. Who can come over to help you decorate or set
the table? Who can help you clean up? You might be surprised at how much people are
willing to do to help you.
If no one's willing to help, then what? If it's a family dinner or gathering, perhaps
their unwillingness to help shows that it's not a priority for them, which means it
doesn't need to be a priority for you!
Keep in mind that making holiday tasks a group affair can make it a lot of fun! Get
family or friends involved in decorating while you serve hot chocolate, and
while everyone's over, have some strong, healthy person shovel the walk for you or
hang your outside lights.
Step #6 - Cut Again!
Now that you've seen what can be simplified and what can be delegated, take another look
at your list. Consider the amount of hours it will take you to accomplish everything
One of three things is likely happening as you do this:
- You've done such a great job that you're thinking, "Wow, this is totally do-able!"
- You're thinking, "It's a lot, but I'm determined to make the holidays perfect!"
- You're starting to get that panicky feeling and thinking, "I can't do it!"
For you number ones, as long as you're being honest with yourself you can now move on to
If you're a number two, STOP! Be honest, and think back to the last time you forced
yourself to work that hard. Realistically, if you go into it with that mind set, you're
likely to wear yourself out, stress about what you're not getting done, and send
yourself into a major flare-up.
If you're a three, take a deep breath. You don't have to do all of that!
Twos and threes - start cutting again, and whittle that list down to about half of what
it is now. I know it's scary, but if you get everything done and have the time and
energy, you can always revive some of the things falling by the wayside now.
This might feel selfish, but if you had a broken leg or a brain tumor, you'd
forgive yourself, wouldn't you? Just because other people can't see or possibly
don't understand your illness doesn't make it less of a real impact on you and your life.
Step #7 - Fill in the Blanks
Now's the time to figure out when you can get things done. What can you be working on
in, say, September? Make notes on your list of when you want to start things. Get out
a calendar with any parties or events written on it so you can plan to have down time
before and after. (Don't plan to shop or hang lights the day after a party, you know it
As you start to identify busy days, think about how long you can typically be functional
at a time and schedule rest periods. If you can usually handle 4 hours of activity, cut
it down to 3 hours of activity with an hour to rest. Then you'll be able to handle
more periods of activity.
Step #8 - Listen to Yourself
If you get half way through the season and your body is sending warning signs, listen to
it! You may need to revise your list as you go in order to keep yourself functional.
Step #9 - Recovery Time
After a busy period, we need some recovery time. On top of scheduling downtime throughout
the season, make sure you give yourself a few days to recover afterward.
FM/CFS/ME RESOURCES wishes everyone Happy Holidays!
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