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Hints for a Healthier Holiday

  [ 31 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ]
By Eunice Beck, RN • • December 15, 2000

Dear Friends,

Life is close to back to "normal,” whatever that is. So let's get on with our visits. The holidays will soon be here, and it’s always difficult to manage everything we want to do. So I’m going to outline how we might think about prioritizing to make the most out of the season.

First, on the subject of shopping for gifts - this a challenge even for the healthy! For those of us who are not, the energy expenditure can be more than we are capable of. However, I have found, over my years with CFIDS, some alternate ways of shopping that can be more fun, more creative and less expensive.

During my first two to three years with CFIDS, I spent many days in bed. Much of the time, I didn't even have the energy to hold a book, or a clear head to follow a story. Television was my company. I started channel surfing and found something that was immensely helpful: Home Shopping. With a TV, a telephone, and a credit card, shopping is incredibly easy. You even get the Christmas carols, without the crowds and the hassle.

Now, with the Internet, there is another great way of shopping. Virtually every major store has a web site. There is probably at least one "Dot Com" out there for anything you could possibly want. Both home and Internet shopping deliver your gifts to your door. Think of the energy and pain that saves!

Now, a word of warning. Keep a list of what you order, and for whom, because the "brain fog" can get you if you don't. I have a dear friend who still has a beautiful set of cookware she doesn't remember ordering for herself or anyone else. And she took so long trying to figure out why she had ordered it that she was embarrassed to send it back. So as packages arrive, open and inspect them, check them off, and put them all in the same place. On more than one occasion, after finding that perfect something, I hid it away only to find it a month or two after Christmas.

Electronic greeting cards are a relatively new concept. I use them for everything I can. They are essentially free and you can't beat that!

The holiday season is a time when we think about how our homes look. Don't get caught up in the "my house must be clean" trap. Our disease simply does not allow for perfectionism. The energy is better put into getting out those decorations we store away for every Christmas. Many of them have fond memories - of our childhood, our early married years, our children, or perhaps, places we have visited.

As for how much you decorate, that’s up to individual taste. I personally love Christmas and would decorate every nook and cranny if my financial and energy budgets would allow. But what I want to emphasize is that you decorate at your own pace and enjoy the warm, special feelings that go with the season. If we get stressed over how the house looks or getting all the decorating we want to do done at once, we lose all the positive, joyful feeling that can come from it. If you haven't heard before, happiness and relaxation release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers--stress discourages it.

Try to remember to pace yourself. I always start putting things out in the house sometime in November so I can take my time in preparing for Christmas. I do things in 10 to 20 minute increments because when I get too tired, I can no longer enjoy the decorations themselves or the spirit and memories that go with them.

Decorating the tree usually comes last. I usually get one small tree and it may take me a week to decorate it. Not because I’m so picky, but because I get tired that rapidly. I see no need to force myself to finish in one day. The lights go on first, and the other decorations, with all their memories, go on a few at a time. I try not to see the tree as a task that must be done, but as a project to be savored. It is a relaxing, pleasant time for me. And we all need as much time like that as we can get.

For those of you who have children or grandchildren, try to involve them. If decorating the tree is too much for you even at a slow pace, let the children do it. It may not look like something out of "House Beautiful,” but it will certainly be something out of your "House Special.” The same goes with baking cookies or other special projects you do at this time of year. If your loved ones, family or friends, can share in these special times with you, the warmth and happiness are wonderful --and you expend much less energy just supervising.

Behind all this holiday talk, I guess you realize that I’m giving you some hints not just for the holiday season. Relax and enjoy, even when you can do just little bits at a time. Five minutes may be your limit. Stop before it becomes painful. Make positives out of tasks that can seem overwhelming.

We can do the things we want to do.

Your emails have been wonderful and have touched my heart. I'll be responding to some of you individually, as my life and CFIDS allow me the energy. But please know that I empathize with what you are all going through. And I thank you for taking the time and energy to write to me. Take Care and Be Well.

Yours in Health,

My articles and email responses are not being offered as those of a health care provider. The information and opinions included are intended to give you some information about your disease. It is very important that you empower yourself with knowledge and participate in your own search for care. Any advice given is not intended to take the place of advice of your physician or mental health care provider. Always follow your physician's advice, even if contradicted by something written here. You and your physician know your situation far better than I do.

Thank you and be well.


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