Holiday Season Survival 101
The holiday season can be fraught with obstacles for people with chronic health conditions. That’s why we need to talk about Holiday Season Survival!
For those living in the Southern Hemisphere, it has its own unique challenges because the weather is usually stinking hot. That means for those with POTS or an intolerance to heat, the holidays can be a real battle. Not to mention the emotional toll the holidays can have on our mental wellbeing. Let’s look at a few tips for getting through the holiday season, hopefully in one piece.
PACING If you’ve had any therapy around having a chronic health condition, then I dare say you will have had the concept of pacing drilled into you. It’s not very complex, yet it can be a huge help and quite powerful if you actually use it! In a nutshell, pacing is about knowing your tolerance level and then spreading out your activities so that you have an appropriate balance between activity and rest.
Most of us with hypermobility need a little bit of extra downtime to recover from events in comparison to our non-hypermobile friends & family. And that’s OK. The key is to work out what your tipping point is, and then ideally never let yourself get to that point.
So over this Christmas period, it might mean that you can’t go to everything you’re invited to; it may mean you can’t go Christmas shopping in the morning and to a party that afternoon; it may be that you need a rest day in between activity days. Whatever you need is absolutely OK, there is no right and wrong here, as long as you are pacing!
REST As I said, most of us need a bit more downtime than other people. Make sure you schedule this rest time into your days & weeks. The holiday season is notorious for having a bazillion catch ups & events, and it’s OK to say you can’t get to all of them. Make sure you schedule in rest before and after a big event, because you’re going to need it, especially if it’s hot!
Also, if you’re at family or friends places, don’t be shy in asking to go and lie down on a bed or the couch if you need a bit of a rest. This is called self-preservation, and it’s OK.
It’s more than OK; it’s great. If you need a rest, have a rest.
BEING ABLE TO SAY “NO” / HAVING GOOD BOUNDARIES One thing that a lot of us struggle with is saying no to invitations. I know a lot of us don’t like to turn down an invitation because we don’t want to disappoint the invitee; or we might be afraid that if we say no, we will not be invited again. But the reality is, people without chronic health conditions say no to things as well.
It’s often not physically possible to do everything that is happening at this time of year, so we have to be selective with what we WANT to do. This is where having good boundaries is important.
Don’t let yourself be swayed to do something you don’t want to do because it might mean it writes you off for something that you do really want to do.
It’s OK to say no. You don’t have to give a reason; you can just say you already have other plans. Those plans can be resting, in preparation for something else. You still have plans.
This boundary ‘setting and keeping’ with family can sometimes be more difficult but is also extremely important. Make sure you’re included in the discussion regarding what is happening with family events and make sure they meet your needs. It’s easy for your needs to get overlooked if you don’t speak up about them.
Maybe going to visit extended family 2 hours away and staying the night is not what you need right now? Maybe having everyone at your house isn’t what you need because you need to be able to leave and retreat & get some rest? Whatever it is, remember that it’s OK for that to be what you need right now. You’re not trying to be difficult; you’re just expressing your needs in a healthy way.MANAGING POTS & HEAT If you experience POTS symptoms or heat intolerance, I trust that you have a management plan in the place with your treating team. That plan is obviously what you should be following. But just a few pointers:
- Don’t forget to drink plenty of water
- Try to limit alcohol intake as this can be dehydrating
- Stay cool – preferably in air conditioning or at least in front of a fan
- If it’s super hot, try spraying yourself with a mist of water (from a spray bottle), and then standing in front of a fan!
- If you’re struggling, try lying down and doing some slow breathing/meditation
- If all else fails, do what your treating team have told you to do in these situations!
KNOWING YOUR LIMITS All of the above points can be summarised into this: know your limits.
If you can be aware of your limits and stick to them, you’re far more likely to get through the holiday season unscathed. Pushing yourself too hard, stretching your energy reserves to their limit, drinking too much alcohol, being stuck places you don’t want to be or can’t get the rest you need…. It’s all going to leave you with a massive energy deprivation / Christmas hangover.
And these hangovers are really hard to recover from (much harder than the alcoholic kind). If you’ve been pushing yourself to the limit, you will most likely have been running on adrenaline, and I think we all know what the post-adrenaline crash feels like. Christmas has the potential to be a prolongated high-adrenaline nightmare.
Know your limits. Be strong; be brave, and stick to those limits. You will thank yourself later.
Have you got any tips of your own to share? Leave a comment below!
Michelle is a Senior Occupational Therapist working solely with adults with hypermobility and related conditions. Michelle is the owner of Hypermobility Connect, an online platform for people with hypermobility to connect with resources, health professionals & each other. Michelle practices OT in her private practice and provides education to health professionals relating to hypermobility conditions.