Surviving the Holidays with ME/CFS & Fibromyalgia

The holidays are supposed to be a happy, joyous occasion, but for those of us with CFS & Fibromyalgia, it usually means more sickness.  Anytime there is more work and more stress involved, you can guarantee a CFS & Fibromyalgia patient will be flaring because of it.  My husband never seems to understand why I don’t share the same enthusiasm that he has for the holidays.  It’s because the holidays for him aren’t always filled with pain, flares, exhaustion, and trying to figure out how to get everything done while going through all of the pain, flares and exhaustion! 

He has one person to shop for (me).  I have everyone else to shop for and he is usually the hardest one to shop for on the list.  So this year I decided that I am going to do all of my holiday shopping online.  I am not going out shopping in a store for anything unless I absolutely have to.  I need to save the energy so that I can actually enjoy a Christmas for a change without feeling like I was run over by a truck. 

I wanted to share a few other tips that I have tried over the years to help during the holidays as well.  Hopefully they will help you survive this hectic season and get through to the new year without a flare. 

  • Start shopping early.  Try to start your shopping as early as possible.  If you are trying to do the bulk of your Christmas shopping right now, bless you.  The stores are nuts after Thanksgiving and I refuse to be a part of the madness.  So here is my next tip…
  • Shop online.  There are many online sites that offer free shipping and you can search for promo codes for free shipping and discounts for many of your major retailers.  Some stores (like Kohl’s) will allow you to enter up to 2 promo codes on one order.   Sometimes it’s worth it to me to have to pay shipping to not have to go out and deal with the crowds of people. 
  • Wrap presents as you get them.  If you wrap and tag your presents as you purchase them or as they arrive at your doorstep, you won’t have it all to do at once right before Christmas. 
  • Plan/space activities with rest in between.  I know with CFS & Fibro it’s hard to plan and stick to it, but I try to make a general plan of about 5 weeks where I will do one thing each week for the holidays that I like to do.  One day one week will be decorating the tree, the next week I will make cookies, the next week will be sending out Christmas cards, etc.  This way, I’m not trying to do everything all at once.  If I plan, I feel like I have some control.  I don’t plan any extras usually.  I don’t decorate my entire house – we only put up a tree.  I don’t make a zillion different kind of cookies – we usually make a couple of different cookies.  I don’t have Christmas parties or anything like that at my house.  It’s too much and I know that it’s more than I can handle. 
  • Go out to eat or don’t have a big meal.  I know going out to eat isn’t the same as having a home-cooked, holiday dinner, but the important thing is being together as a family.  I tried a couple of years making a nice, fancy holiday dinner for my parents and my mother-in-law and it was just too much.  With everything else that we have to do on Christmas day, trying to put together a big meal is exhausting for even a healthy person.  For CFS & Fibromyalgia patients, we have to remember to choose our battles.  Last year I just had ham sandwiches for my husband, son and I for lunch and some finger foods to snack on throughout the day and we just spent the day together and enjoyed it.
  • You can’t get everywhere in one day.   When my husband and I first got together, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day felt like a marathon.  We were on the go from the afternoon of Christmas Eve until after midnight, then we would get up early Christmas Day and run around everywhere that day, too.  When he realized how sick I would get after we were together for a while, he finally agreed that we could no longer run to every family member and friend’s house from here to Timbucktoo.  We now spend Christmas Day at home and we don’t go anywhere until Christmas evening.  On Christmas Eve we go out to eat with the family as a yearly tradition and we usually go to candlelight service and we are back home early.  The holidays are much more relaxed now than what they were in the beginning of our relationship and my health appreciates it immensely!
  • Talk to your family about what you can and can’t do.  Sit down with your family and tell them how hard the holidays are for you with your illness.  People will get upset if they don’t get their way with everything they want but they don’t have to live in your body and go through what you do everyday.  I want to see all of my family on the holidays and I want to do things with all of my family on the holidays but realistically it just can’t happen unless I make myself sick to do it – and I’m not willing to do that.  It takes too long to recover and then I’m not of any use to the people in my own household who need me on a daily basis. 

I hope you make it through this holiday season with minimal flares and please let me know what tips you have to get through the holidays easier!

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  1. This is probably a helpful article for those who are still well enough to be able to do some of the “normal” holiday things. I understand that holidays would be hard for them, because of flares, etc, and I hope that they are able to accommodate their needs and still enjoy the holidays.

    However, this article completely forgets that many of us who have these illnesses are far too sick for these things and that many of us have become very isolated as a result. If you don’t have suggestions for those in such positions, it would be nice to at least acknowledge that we exist and holidays are incredibly hard when this sick and alone. It is hard enough to be mostly forgotten by healthy people, but to be ignored by those who should understand stinks.

  2. I myself have chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. I don’t wake up feeling refreshed like I should. But I found Magnesium supplement helps me sleep better and I do feel a little better in the morning. I suffer chronic pain everyday with muscles spasms throughout my body. Those of us who have inflammation problems I found turmeric capsules to be helpful some of the time. They say yoga helps with Fibromyalgia I haven’t been able to do the routine yet but will and look forward to trying it. Holidays are about being with family and friends and they should understand you and if they don’t, then I would wonder, do they really love you then!! If they care they would take the time to be patient and loving as well! Just food for thought! Have a Beautiful and more Healthier, Happier, Joyful ,Peaceful and Blessed Christmas to all of you!

  3. Sheri Brookshire says:

    Hi, Thank you for the awesome advice, and I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a
    happy,and HeLthy new year.☃

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