What is your first thought when a family member says it's time for a summer vacation?
Is it one of excitement or one of dread? What would you like it to be?
Many people with fibromyalgia and its primary co-conditions want so badly to get excited about vacations and holidays, but too often there is concern about all the variables.
The first thing we must do is let go of the past.
If there were vacations or holidays that did not go well previously, we have to let it go, and decide that today is a new day.
We have to give ourselves more power and choices than the symptoms. One thing I started doing is deciding that not everything had to be perfect.
About 20 years ago, when I was really struggling with this issue of holidays and vacations, I would dread every part of traveling, so I didn't take part in the planning.
I realized over time, that I was only giving more power to my fear and dread about traveling.
What I found is that being a part of the planning, gives us more power.
You see, we forget to ask ourselves "What do WE want to do?"
Being proactive can really change our perspective and ultimately the outcome of our holiday or vacation.
What do you like to do? The beach, the mountains, nature, animal adventures like the zoo or interactive animal farms, creative activities?
How about getting excited for souvenir shopping? That can really shift our focus to others during times of symptoms or pain flaring.
I get it. The holidays can bring a mix of emotions, especially when we are living with a chronic illness.
There are so many unrealistic images and expectations during Christmas and the holiday season, that it can be really overwhelming.
If you are physically alone, sad, or in pain during any holiday season, you are not alone.
With fibromyalgia, we have additional challenges this time of year from seasonal changes, colder weather, the potential for SAD, seasonal affective disorder, and sometimes just the perfect storm of variables that increase symptoms, or bring on a flare.
If you suspect you might also be deficient in the critical Vitamin D, be sure to get tested, as this can be just one piece in seasonal disorders. Also see the paragraph on light therapy at bottom of article.
Have you seen some of those holiday tv commercials portraying the husband who buys his wife a shiny new car wrapped in a big red bow?
It's there waiting in the driveway. Oh wait, he didn't just buy her a new car, he bought a matching one for himself as well.
How many people can actually relate to this? Not many. And, the problem is that not only can you not relate, but it has the potential to make you feel even worse about your situation.
If you are living with chronic pain and symptoms of fibromyalgia, you might find the holidays more challenging. You might feel pressure to decorate, to buy all the presents, to host, or to travel.
The way of the world is not the only way, and the more we realize that, the more we can allow ourselves to get creative and do it our way.
I made a graphic a few years back that says "Do you feel too crowded in a crowd, but too lonely when you're alone?
With fibromyalgia, PTSD, or anxiety issues, you may have to be very discerning about what is right for you. If going to the mall brings up a lot of anxiety, be sure to not go alone, so that you have a friend or family member to focus on.
One of the worst things is to feel too crowded yet feel "alone" at the same time.
If you have MCS and you react to the chemicals and fragrances in the mall and clothing stores, this can feel exactly the same as anxiety and present with heart palpitations, head pain, muscle weakness, nausea, brain fog, and more. Fibromyalgia and Chemical Anxiety.
What about the pressures of family traditions?
Did your mom or grandmother create awesome holiday traditions that you feel obligated to carry on?
My grandmother used to make a ton of Christmas cookies, all different kinds, and what a feat that was!
I still remember receiving the tin of cookies in the mail just before Christmas and feeling the love. (not to mention the best cookies ever!)
I would love to do this for all of my family members and friends, but for me, it is just not feasible. I used to make and sell cultured foods for my clients, and I would often spend too long of a time in the kitchen without breaks, just trying to get it done or meet timelines. Many times, it would "activate" my symptoms. I have decided to still make some holiday foods (my healthy versions) but it will only be for a small amount of friends and family.
One problem that can occur is when you spend a lot of time preparing your house, your gifts, etc. and it goes unnoticed by those around you. People rarely "see" all of the effort put into something. Therefore, if we ourselves can enjoy the "process" of doing and creating, we are one step ahead. It really doesn't matter if others know the time and effort involved.
With all of the pressures and running around this time of year, one of the most peaceful and calming things we can do is create gifts or cards. Not only are gifts made at home more thoughtful, but it is so healing to spend time creating. Be sure to take your time so you are not rushed at the last minute to get a gift made. Do you start making creative gifts early in the year?
People with fibromyalgia have the potential for hand pain, and it is essential to take breaks. If you are desperate to create, but your hands are giving you more pain with repetitive motions, try using various types of compression until you find one that suits you.
If you are like me, and you depend on the sun in more ways than one, you might benefit from using light therapy, especially in the winter months.
This is a reasonable product for light therapy, and if you scroll down the product description, you will see the list of benefits it can provide.
I say it all the time, but it is just so true that when our illness gets "used to" our normal actions and reactions, it's got us.
What can we do differently today? It can be something small like driving a different way home, or having something to look forward to in your schedule today.
This is very important. If impulsive actions prevent us from having things to look forward to, it can feel like there is nothing left, we are done, we are tired, we've seen it and done it all. Do you see what I mean?
Allow yourself things to look forward to by planning, organizing, whatever it takes.