(Editor’s note: Eunice Beck is a registered nurse and ‘PWC.’ Health permitting, Eunice’s columns will be featured on ImmuneSupport.com several times monthly. If you have any questions you’d like Eunice to address, please email her at email@example.com)
Here we are in the midst of the holidays, and wondering how to get through them. How do we decide what the limits of our energy will allow us to do? How do we pace ourselves so we still have energy for the important family time that comes at the end of the season?
Good questions, with different answers for each of us. And our ability to participate in activities will certainly be different from year to year. Some of the decision-making may involve how big your family is, and whether or not you live near your family – especially as traveling also takes a big bite out of our energy allowance.
All of us appreciate the warmth of spending time with family and friends, particularly at this time of year. But we need to have energy left to be able to enjoy these times. In addition, this is winter illness season, a time when it is especially important to take care of ourselves.
Is it necessary for you to attend all the holiday activities to which you are invited? The easy answer is NO. The difficult answer is, how do I chose which ones I want to expend my energy to be involved in? When answering those invitations, try to choose those people or things which have special meaning for you, those things which make you feel good emotionally.
Maybe that means sitting in front of the fireplace with old friends. Or attending the lighting of a special Christmas tree, because it helps you remember a loved one. Perhaps it is caroling with the church group. If it involves an outdoor activity, remember that keeping warm is also an energy expenditure.
And if you have to entertain? Depending on your situation and health, this may be possible, provided there is some understanding of your limits by the others involved.
A few years ago, my husband and I were the only ones with a house that could accommodate one side of his family. So we agreed to have the family Christmas dinner on Christmas day.
How? This was done with the understanding that I would be “Hostess” but that others were doing the work. Our nephews came to help set up tables and chairs the day before. My mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my husband did most of the cooking. And we planned a menu, and all attending were asked to contribute. Clean-up was a community effort after the meal. All I had to do was greet, visit, and get an occasional cup of coffee. I was even able to sneak off for a short rest during the afternoon. But this only worked, because the family, especially the immediate family, understood enough about my illness to support us in our willingness to host this family get-together.
Some of you may not be lucky enough to have this kind of family support, but you do want to share the holiday with friends or extended family. I have a couple of ideas to accomplish this, and make it as easy for you as possible. If you want to have the “party” in the late afternoon or evening, ask all your guests to bring their favorite “heavy” or hot hors d’oeuvres. All you need to provide are paper plates, napkins and drinks. You might even consider asking one friend to do eggnog or punch. To make it a special treat for everyone, ask your guests to bring recipe cards for their treat to share.
If you feel better, or have more energy in the morning, plan your activity as a brunch. If you and your family can handle scrambled eggs, and coffee, ask your guests to bring the breakfast meats and breads. For those who want to, bringing their special recipe, and sharing it with others makes this even better. My Mom used to make the best cinnamon rolls, friends would even pay for the ingredients if she would make them for their parties.
Are you getting tired just reading this? I understand. So we need to talk about taking care of ourselves. Any planned activity also needs a plan for preparation and recovery! If you remember the story in my last article about the woman who loved to go ballroom dancing, the same applies here. It is important for each of us to learn how to rest, and how much extra rest we need in preparation for an activity. We must also plan for rest time after the activity, which means not accepting back to back invitations. If you are the “hostess”, you probably need to plan for more time, both pre and post your party in order to recover to your normal level of functioning.
I know there are those of you out there for whom none of this sounds anywhere near possible because of the severity of your disease. Perhaps your time in front of the fireplace will be spent lying on the couch, or sitting in a recliner. Perhaps it will be phone conversations with family or friends, if that is all you can manage. And hopefully, next year will be better. We may not be able to do much. But listening to Christmas carols, watching specials on TV, can give us the warm feelings of the season too, and with little or no energy required.
It’s a hard time to be sick, and difficult to maintain a positive attitude and outlook. But of all the ideas and feelings I might share during this special time of year, that is perhaps the most important. Recognize that our disease places limitations on us that are out of our control. How we deal with these limitations is up to us. We can make an effort to find and enjoy the positives of life, and get enjoyment and satisfaction from them. For most of us, this is a very joyful and happy time. I wish all of you the ability to find peace within yourself, and joy in your life, despite being “gifted” with CFIDS/FM.
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 the I do.. Thank you and be well.