Coping With Holiday Stress

Christmas time is near…and with it comes all the typical stressors of the holidays: unannounced company, parties, meals with family, shopping, house cleaning, and a host of other chores that are added to our daily routines. All of it can become overwhelming very quickly if you’re also trying to cope with a disability on a daily basis. I love the season, but I’ve learned I have to set limits in order to come through without becoming angry and sarcastic. It’s not unusual for me to go into an arthritis flare simply from the stress and extra work I’m dealing with.

This year I’ve scaled down the usually routine by changing my holiday party from a dinner party to snacks. I’m not cleaning the entire house either. Instead, I’ll focus on the kitchen and living room. No one goes into the bedrooms anyway, and if they do, it may be a bit messy, but it’s not dirty. The purpose of the party is to see the people I care about, not to spend days cooking and cleaning! By limiting the food preparation time, I will actually have the time to enjoy visiting with my friends. That’s something I’m looking forward to doing.

Family dinners were always awful during the holidays when I was growing up. We always knew that no matter how hard we tried to keep things light, someone would get mad (usually my father) and have a fit resulting in hard feelings and everyone thinking that Christmas was a bit tarnished. Time has taken care of that stressor, but I also take care now to think through who I’m inviting to my home for dinner, and then talking to them before the festivities start to let them know I want things to be kept light and festive. In other words, no temper tantrums allowed! Pointing that out before anyone else arrives stops it before it starts.

I also make sure now to take care of myself and show myself a little bit of extra attention over the holidays. I try to get to bed at the same time every night, to not over-indulge too often, and to get outside a little everyday to get some sun (if possible!) and fresh air. After all, if I don’t take care of myself, who else is going to do it? So, I slow down, enjoy the lights and music of the season, and love every minute of it!

The holidays can be fun and festive, even when you have a disability. With a little bit of extra attention, you can enjoy them too. Have a happy holiday season!