Silver Bells, Silver Bells

“The holidays are coming! The holidays are COMING!”

Words that strike fear, panic, and immediate exhaustion into everyone’s hearts, but particularly for those who suffer from chronic pain illnesses. I have fibromyalgia, and it took me a really long time to adjust what I did before with what I can do now. Here are my top tips for hopefully surviving the holidays without a flare up.

BFMS (before fibromyalgia syndrome), I was full of rules, etiquette, and tradition. We still have our traditions, but they have altered just a bit. Here’s how:

1. Buy an artificial tree that is pre-lit. Putting on the lights is the worst holiday chore, and it kills your back and shoulders (generally problem areas for fibro people). For years, I insisted that we have a real tree, in spite of my being so allergic to them, I would break out in a rash. Artificial trees are better for the environment and save a ton of effort, including not having to shop for a tree. It also saves a fortune, as trees become more expensive every year. There are no needles requiring constant vacuuming, and it’s much less attractive to the cat, so he leaves it alone. We actually bought a small tree (6ft), but we put it on top of an IKEA LACK end table. It looks bigger, the dogs don’t run into it, and we keep the presents off the floor.

2. This is a big one: GIVE UP THE CHINA! Every year, I would break out the good dishes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then I would stress about the kids breaking something, and I’d have a huge mess to hand wash, since good china can’t go in the dishwasher. One year, I had 20 people for Thanksgiving. At that time, we didn’t have a dishwasher, and our kitchen was tiny. I splurged and bought the prettiest paper plates, napkins, and cups, and matching plastic forks, spoons, and knives. It took five minutes to clean up the mess, and it was so easy, I had the kids do it. If you want to be fancier, buy nice chargers from a discount store, as they are usually about a buck each.

3. Make the holidays a more intimate affair. Have the big dinner with immediate family, and then invite everyone else over for desserts and coffee.

4. Check at your favorite BBQ restaurant and see if they roast turkeys. In South Texas, Rudy’s is the place to go. For around $25, you get a turkey that will feed at least eight people. You save yourself the effort of having to defrost, clean, and roast the thing yourself. That’s at least an hour off your feet, so it’s well worth it.

5. Start writing your holiday cards early. When I say early, I mean work on them while waiting between trick or treaters. Do a few each day. Try to avoid “marathon” task events like writing all your cards at one sitting.

6. Speaking of trick or treaters, weather permitting, sit outside and relax in a chair while handing out candy. It saves a ton of energy if you’re not constantly sitting down then getting up to answer the door every five minutes. I love seeing all the kids in their costumes, so this is a task I don’t want to delegate to my husband or kids.

7. DELEGATE! Give up the idea that YOU are the ONLY ONE who can do everything PERFECTLY! Wow, was that hard for me to accept. I used to be a hard core perfectionist and control freak. Now, I make lists and hand them out to my family members. My daughter wraps presents better than I ever could, and my husband is an excellent grocery shopper. Play to your family members’ strengths, and let them do the work while you relax in front of the computer…which leads us to #8…

8. Shop online. Did you know that many stores start their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving day? Some start as early as right after midnight on Thursday morning. Why in the world would you stand in line when you can just click a mouse?

9. Take advantage of free shipping. Have gifts sent directly from the online store to the recipient. If you really feel it’s necessary, pay for the gift wrap service. You can send a card with your sentiments, and save a fortune in shipping costs.

10. Shop small. Etsy and eBay are the best places to find unique gifts, all while supporting small businesses or artists. Believe it or not, some Etsy sellers offer discounts in their shops, just like the big box stores.

11. If you do feel up to shopping in a brick and mortar store, shop local. Support the small businesses in your area, instead of lining corporate pockets. Not only will you be helping someone to stay in business, normally local shops are much, much smaller than a big box store, so you’ll have a LOT less walking to do.

12. Spread it out. I know it is really tempting to do everything that needs to be done on a day when you feel pretty good, but that is the quickest way to a flare. Just like with your holiday cards, do a little each day.

13. Wrap it up. By that, I mean put it in a bag. Use bags and tissue paper rather than wrapping paper. It’s faster, and you don’t have to stand or sit hunched over for hours. For something really special, buy kraft paper bags (the plain brown ones) and let your kids decorate them. It will keep them busy for a while, and grandparents love getting art from their grandchildren.

Hopefully this will help get you through the holidays without being stuck in bed for weeks, trying to recover! Do you have any tips to add? Post them below!

“It’s Christmas time in the city…”


2 thoughts on “Silver Bells, Silver Bells

  1. I think this list should be in lights in every city and town! So practical, and gets us back into enjoying Christmas instead of stressing. I especially like no. 3 and no. 7 (yes, I know I need to delegate more, too). I don’t have fibromyalgia, but my sister has just been diagnosed with it … x

    • mzklever says:

      Having fibro is a pain in the ass, and everywhere else, too. Be kind when she needs to cancel or change plans because of exhaustion. I think that’s the biggest thing that anyone can do for someone with this condition. No matter how much we may want to do things, or how likely we think we can do them, the reality is that until we wake up in the morning, we have no idea how we’re going to feel that day. There are so many days when I don’t even have the energy to shower, let alone leave the house. I’ve missed countless parties, events, and get togethers just because I was too tired, or was already passed out asleep. Some days, I literally fall over and pass out for a few hours. I don’t realize it until I wake up; it’s like someone flips a switch and I’m out. The good news is that as long as she keeps a positive outlook, advocates for herself to her doctors, and learns to manage her illness, she’ll get along as normally as possible. It’s vital to treat fibro holistically, and not just expect a magic bullet medication. It requires a combination of vitamins, supplements, exercise, medications, a good pain specialist, and the ability to say NO. My daughter and I are both on a gluten free diet, which helps both of us substantially (she was diagnosed at age 12). However, it is equally important to remember that these are all just treatments, not a cure. I wish your sister the best!

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