5 Tips for Getting Through the Holidays with Chronic Pain

I look forward to the holidays when friends and family gather for food, fun and laughter. I usually end up overdoing it and struggle to control my pain. As I was thinking about this year’s gathering, I decided to write out the things that have helped me in the past that I plan on using again this year.

1. Pacing

I’m kind of an all or nothing girl—mostly all. I know it is easier to manage my pain when I respect my limitations and pace myself. When we’re experiencing less pain, it’s a temptation to do everything in one day. We then end up in bed for several days. For the holidays, I plan to pay close attention to my energy levels. When I start to get fatigued I will take a breathing break or a power nap.

2. Routines

I have many routines that help me live a functional life despite central nerve pain. It’s super important for me to get enough sleep but difficult to go to bed while everyone else is still up having fun. Instead of bemoaning the fact that I need more sleep, I will choose to care for myself, so I can stay engaged the next day. Exercise is also an important routine that helps me manage pain during the day and sleep at night. It’s easy for me to let this routine slide for other activities. I plan on challenging myself to keep this important appointment with myself.

3. Asking for help

I have found that delegating is a great way to manage my pain during the holidays. I recently hosted an event in my home and was planning on making all the food. A friend suggested we have several people bring food. It made the evening so much more enjoyable for me as I didn’t overwork myself trying to prepare the whole meal.  Accepting cleanup offers is also a great way to conserve energy.

4. Keeping it simple

It’s easy to get carried away with wanting everything to be memorable and thinking “memorable” means it needs to be complicated, but I have found that keeping things simple is much more enjoyable for everyone. A meal is just as enjoyable when it includes just 2 to 3 things—entrée, bread, salad—as when there are 8 things.  I was recently reminded by a family member that a holiday is just as fun when not crammed with activities and obligations. She said she prefers to just relax.

5. Planning ahead

For this holiday season I have scheduled out the meals and have several things made ahead in the freezer so when the family arrives I don’t need to spend energy on planning and cooking. I can just pull the pre-made meals from the freezer and enjoy time with my guests. There will still be some cooking to do, but I have greatly reduced my time standing in the kitchen. This leaves more time for walks, games, conversations and laughter.

I would love to hear your thoughts on what has worked for you in the past and what you are planning to get through this year’s holiday season.

About the Author: Becky Curtis

After a horrific car accident nearly took her life and her own long and complex recovery journey, Becky has assembled a vibrant team of specially-trained coaches—healthcare professionals who have gained proficiency in teaching and coaching, many who live successfully with chronic pain. Becky travels extensively to speak about the role of health coaching in pain management and has been a regular speaker at PAINWeek®, and many other conferences, in addition to coaching and managing TCC’s program. She lives in Utah with her husband and dog, Quigley.

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