Navigating the Holidays in an unwell body
If you have followed any of my blogs you are aware that I have been offered diagnoses for a variety of health conditions, including but not limited to: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease, and Fibromyalgia. Right after Thanksgiving, after dealing with four weeks of hives I was diagnosed with pneumonia. I'm no stranger to pneumonia, but this year totally slowed me down. I'm actually only now starting to feel some relief. This is, of course, after two rounds of antibiotics, breathing treatments every four hours, multiple appointments with both the chiropractor and the acupuncturist. I'm a firm believer that everything in my life that happens is either an opportunity to grow or an opportunity to learn, and many times it's both. For many years I have believed that everything I experience provides an opportunity for me to share my experience to help others grow. And so this blog was born out of my experience for navigating the Holidays with Health issues.
Typically, I prefer to have my Holiday shopping done before Halloween. There's a very strong and relevant reason for this. It's partially due to financial reasoning. Being self employed this allows me to budget the money better. But it's also very much due to an energy standpoint. I am acutely aware of how cold air and holiday stress impacts my body, and the more I can get done while the weather is warmer, the easier it will be for me.
Alas, this year was not as well organized for me as years in the past. A couple of weeks ago it hit me: I had done no Holiday baking, my house was not decorated at all, and I had done no gift shipping. And as the stress was growing inside my mind and body the shifting thought hit me, "What would I tell my clients to do?" And my Actions Steps (combined with my suggestions to you or your loved ones who are navigating the holidays with health issues) are below:
- Ask For and Accept Help: I have lost count of the times I have had people tell me to let them know how they can help me. And, so I allowed one of my closest friends in the world to help me bake cookies. Literally every time I needed to put something in the oven or take something out of the oven, I allowed her to do this for me. It was such an amazing help!
- Know Your Limits: In a perfect world we would all talk regularly and openly about what our limits are. But that's just not the world we live in yet. Until that time is created in our world, we have to begin where we are. I recently began scaling back my hours at work. My physical body just isn't currently capable of working 12 or 15 hour days. So, I scaled my hours back and no longer work beyond 6pm most nights. Whatever limits you need to set in order to cultivate healing in your life, please do so. And do so unapologetically!
- Become okay with Sleep: I have never in my life been a person to nap. I suspect I had a lot of negative programming in my mind regarding rest, naps and sleep. I've been slowly working on reprogramming my brain to embrace sleep, whether it's at bedtime, or during the middle of a sunny afternoon. The time or duration of my sleep is less important that the fact that I actually use sleep to heal. Currently, if I am tired I lay down and sleep. If I have a client who reschedules their appointment, I lay down and sleep.
- Making Healing Your Highest Priority: My number one priority in my life is healing and reclaiming my health. As such every action I take and every plan I make is run through this filter: How will this promote my healing? If the answer even comes close to being a set back I am highly unlikely to take the action. Because my healing is my highest priority, I take care of myself first and I actively look for ways to heal my physical body.
- Keep It Simple: This idea sounds like such a silly concept, but in reality it's a crucial concept. No one needs 15 different kinds of cookies, no one is going to die if they don't have the gourmet Holiday meal, and no one is going to lose their mind if they don't get 23 gifts to open. The reality is, in my home, many of the cookies go into the garbage because they are stale or moldy. So, I will no longer be cooking or baking things, "Just because it's tradition." If there's not a practical reason for everything I begin to cook or bake, then it's just not happening.
- Commit to Only What Nurtures Your Soul: If spending time with your family or in laws doesn't make you feel good about yourself, then please just don't do it. If you don't have a desire to go to work holiday get together or the church social function... it's really simple. Just don't go!! I can't express that enough times. Life is too short for me to do things that don't fill my soul. So, I just politely decline. There's no need to be rude, but I don't need to put myself in situations that don't lift me up.
- Give From Your Heart: I'm so very excited about the gift I am giving my Husband this Christmas! I would love to tell you exactly what it is, but on the off chance he reads this, I just can't risk it yet. We made the decision that we needed to massively scale back our gift giving this Christmas, so it became even more relevant for me to give him something that only I could that he has been asking for since the day we met. Don't stress yourself out by spending beyond your means. Give something small and thoughtful.
- Laugh: As someone with trauma brain, laughing typically stimulates the para sympathetic nervous system. Which induces calmness and relaxation. It is often said that laughter is the best medicine, because it is so healing to just let go and laugh. Indulge that part of you and let go of the stress of the Holiday season. Turn on your favorite cartoon and just watch it for a while. Allow yourself to just check out, forget about life, and relax. It is so healing to just laugh.
- Disconnect: The modern wording for disconnection has become "social media detox." As is typical for me, I can't be bothered by the title or vocabulary choices you use. But allow yourself to just schedule in some down time: turn the phone off, disconnect from all social media, don't turn on the computer and just read a book, meditate, sit in nature or do something else to just allow yourself to recenter and regain focus. It can be so very healing to disconnect and regroup. I think it is the least you owe yourself after a long year of interacting with people.
- Do One Small Thing to Heal: Each and every day I make the commitment to do one small thing to heal my physical body that day. I'm sure it sounds absolutely absurd if you are operating from a healthy body. That's just not my experience. As such, I make the commitment each and every morning to do one thing that will promote my healing. Some example of things I do to manifest healing include: EFT, Self-hypnosis, acupuncture, chiropractic, yoga, infrared sauna, sleep, hydration, etc. The list seriously is so long that I had to narrow it down just to list it in this blog. You owe no one an explanation for how or why you are healing. You only owe it to yourself to making healing a priority.
I would love to hear your suggestions for how to navigate Holiday stress with an unwell body. What are you doing that is working amazingly well for you and what are you doing that needs tweaking? As always, I would love to know how to support you so feel free to send me an email at Jenn@JennBoveeLCSW.com