Would you like to get through the holiday season with more freedom and less frenzy? Would you like to tame your fibromyalgia flares into submission rather than see them spiral out of control?
I feel your pain (almost literally).
Before Christmas of 2002, I found myself sitting at my dining room table staring at piles of my medical bills, pharmaceutical receipts, lab results, etc. You get the picture. Although I’d seen nearly two dozen doctors and had spent more money and more time than I wished to admit, I was no closer to a diagnosis.
Every doctor said, “There’s nothing wrong with you.”
I wanted to believe them … but, I knew it wasn’t true.
If nothing was wrong, then why was I in such horrific pain day and night? Why couldn’t I sleep? Why didn’t it go away? Why was it worse at some times and better at others?
This last question really struck a nerve with me. I realized that while I had no idea WHAT was wrong, I could use deductive reasoning to look back and determine WHEN my symptoms were at their worst.
I began to sift through the sea of papers and put them into piles according to my symptoms. Then I sorted then according to when they occurred. I quickly saw it was too much to view all in one place, so I sketched out a quick spreadsheet on the back cover of a notebook. Eventually, I transferred that data into my computer.
I include a detailed description of this scenario in my book, FibroWHYalgia if you’d like to read more about it there. What I learned from this practice, was far more than I ever expected.
I figured out how to predict my symptom flares.
And, what does this have to do with the holidays, you may ask?
I learned the value of a map.
My spreadsheet was, in essence, a map of my past. From it, I could plan out my current activities and see a clearer view of my future (all on one page).
At this time of year, many of us feel burdened by our own expectations. Is it a time of celebration of sabotage? Overextending ourselves (with food, money, time, and energy), can result in pain, fatigue, fogginess, increased body and head aches, and more.
If you could wish on a Christmas star at this hectic time of year, would you wish for the following?
To feel your circumstances are manageable
To feel your holiday budget is manageable
To feel your personal energy resources are manageable
To feel a general sense of peace and calm about your circumstances
Fortunately, the answers to all of the above “wishes” have one thing in common – a map. Each of the above wishes can be achieved by following a map, or plan, for the weeks ahead.
Create your own holiday task map
Here’s a simple 4 Step process to help you map out – and see on one page – your tasks and plans for the weeks ahead
Jot down a list of the activities you plan to undertake between now and New Years
- Include money expenditures
- Include time expenditures
- Include all shopping and prep activities
Transfer your tasks onto a blank calendar for the month (use a pencil). Blank calendar pages can be found here, or through your own word processing programs such as Word.
Sit back and take an objective view of your calendar. Are your expectations even realistic? Can everything you plan to do get done? Is the budget reflected on the calendar doable? Take some time to review, analyze, and make adjustments to this document.
Make liberal use of your pencil eraser. Erase the activities that simply don’t fit into your list of priorities. Adjust your expectations and “get real.” Only leave the activities that truly feed your soul, are affirming to you and your family, and those that support your health goals.
When tackling Step #4, keep this in mind –
but is the price we pay really worth it?
Some of you may say that you don’t have the time to plan ahead and create your own maps. If this is you, here are a few solid reasons to reconsider.
Creating a firm plan of action allows you to assess your plans as they relate to your resources. Do you really have the time, the money, or the energy?
Creating your own map allows you to easily see (at a glance) a step-by-step process which helps to reduce anxiety over “getting it all done.”
Creating your map provides you with a way to track your progress which further affirms your goals.
Creating your map allows you to visualize your priorities and place them first on your “to do” list.
Visualizing your map as a work in progress (i.e. writing in pencil) allows you to be flexible and make adjustments as needed. We could all use a contingency plan at this frenetic time of year!
Planning ahead – and visualizing your plan – allows you to feel confident and in control of your available resources. You know what’s ahead, and you’ve budgeted your time, energy, and resources accordingly.
Follow these steps and you’ll be sure to streamline your holiday task list. By setting your priorities first, you can stay within your budget while keeping your sanity.
You can’t please everyone.
Burning the candle at both ends and risking your own health serves no purpose. It’s time to make your own health resources a priority and tackle what’s important to you.
You can map out everything!
Now that you’ve got the hang of mapping things out, you can apply this new skill to all of your holiday plans! A wealth of printable, downloadable spreadsheets, templates, guides, and worksheets on all sorts of topics are available online. To get you started, here are several to choose from on a variety of topics.
Start mapping out your holiday season, right now!
These tools should provide you with a wealth of ideas for how to map out any busy time of year. By creating a map for your holiday activities, you can feel a sense of control over the time that’s quickly diminishing as this year comes to a close.
Here’s another resource to help you feel in control at this time of year. You may wish to re-visit this ProHealth article entitled, “12 Tips to Stick to your Fibromyalgia Diet of the Holidays: How Family Influences can Sabotage Your Eating Plans.”
And, for something completely different, did you know that in some circumstances, feeling out of control can actually provide benefits?
is through laughter.
Check out these fascinating facts about laughter.
At this time of year, be sure to laugh, love, and take time to reflect on your blessings. Make time to pray and meditate on all the good things you experienced this year and on what you plan to experience next year.
Don’t forget to share this thankfulness with loved ones.
that blossom and bloom throughout both body and soul.
Are you ready to implement this simple 4 Step method? By following along, you’ll be well on your way to creating a little bit of Peace on Earth, just for you.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!
Sue Ingebretson (www.RebuildingWellness.com) is an author, speaker, certified holistic health care practitioner and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. She is also a Patient Advocate/Fibromyalgia Expert for the Alliance Health website and a Fibromyalgia editor for the ProHealth website community.
Her #1 Amazon best-selling chronic illness book, FibroWHYalgia, details her own journey from chronic illness to chronic wellness. She is also the creator of the FibroFrog™– a therapeutic stress-relieving tool which provides powerful healing benefits with fun and whimsy.
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