The holiday season is in full swing, but for people with chronic pain, it’s hard to see it as the “most wonderful time of the year.” Family gatherings, colder weather and indulging in comfort food can make your pain even worse. Of course, you want nothing more than to enjoy this festive time of year with your friends and family. So lets talk about how to cope with chronic pain this holiday season.
Take it Easy
Far too often, people put too much on their plates during the holidays. If you’re suffering from chronic pain, a packed schedule is only going to make you feel miserable. Remember that the holidays are not a competition, and your loved ones won’t mind it if you skip a party or two to give yourself a break.
Set realistic expectations, and don’t overcommit. It's okay to say no.
The holidays are a family affair, so get everyone involved. Delegate tasks, and share the load. For example, if you’re hosting a holiday party, make it a potluck. This way, if your pain is especially bad that day, you don’t have to worry about cooking.
Have the kids help you decorate. Pay the neighborhood kids to shovel your driveway or porch. Spread out the workload so that you don’t overdo it. Remember that you don’t have to do everything yourself.
Give Yourself Time to Rest
When you’re making plans for the holidays, make sure that you schedule in some downtime. It’s easy to feel rushed, overwhelmed and stressed about the holidays. Setting aside time for rest and recuperation can help prevent flare-ups.
If you have a hectic week ahead, try to squeeze a day off in between. Prioritizing rest will give your body some much-needed time to recharge and heal.
Prioritize Exercise, Diet and Sleep
There are three things that suffer the most during the holidays (aside from your wallet!):
- Your diet
It’s easy to put exercise on the backburner when you have so many things on your plate, but it’s important to stay active and stick to your regular exercise routine. Staying active can help with pain management and provide some stress relief.
Between the cookies, pies, cakes and dips, it’s easy to fall off the bandwagon and feel miserable. Make your diet a priority. Try to stick to the 80/20 rule: 80% healthy food and 20% not-so-healthy food. There are usually a few healthy options at parties and gatherings, so try to stick to those whenever possible.
Sleep can also be elusive during the holidays. We’re constantly running around, whether it’s shopping, attending holiday events or going to parties. If you’re not getting enough sleep, your body can’t get the rest it needs to heal. Sleep deprivation can make chronic pain worse.
How can you make sleep a priority?
- Leave parties or family gatherings a little earlier than usual so that you can get to sleep at a reasonable hour.
- Do your shopping online, so you’re not running around from store to store until late at night.
- Stick to your normal bedtime routine. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every night.
Do your best to stick to your regular routine. Not only can this help you feel grounded, but it may also help prevent your pain from getting worse during the holidays.
When things get overwhelming or your pain is getting worse, try aromatherapy to relax and enjoy some relief.
Research has shown that aromatherapy can significantly reduce pain. Some of the most beneficial essential oils for pain include:
Try using a combination of oils to combat pain and help you relax. Give yourself time to rest and allow the aromatherapy to work its magic. Take a nap, read a book or meditate to give yourself a rest.
Try Natural Remedies to Ease the Pain
There are many ways to deal with pain. In addition to your doctor’s recommended treatment, you can also incorporate natural remedies to maximize the pain relief, such as:
A 2018 review found that CBD was an effective tool for pain management and didn’t cause adverse side effects.
CBD can also be applied topically to provide localized pain relief.
Ginger and Turmeric
Ginger and turmeric both have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with pain relief. In fact, in one study, people with osteoarthritis took 1 gram of ginger extract daily for three months. The study found that ginger reduced inflammation and nitric oxide levels.
Remember to Enjoy Yourself
The holidays can be stressful, especially if you’re dealing with chronic pain, but it’s important to remember to enjoy yourself. Prioritize your health and well-being. Take breaks, don’t overcommit, try to stick to your normal routine, and use the tips above to help combat pain when it’s at its worst.
If you take time to take care of yourself, your body and your family will thank you for it.
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