Fibro Hacking the Holidays: Managing Expectations – Part 4

Dec 13, 2021
Fibro Hacking the Holidays: Managing Expectations – Part 4

Let me ask you something—how many times do the holidays go as planned? I know I always have amazing ideas for the holidays. I plan the perfect gifts for each person in my life. I think about the times for being with family, gift exchanging, and the perfect dinner. But rarely, let me emphasize that again, RARELY does any holiday activity ever go as planned. This can be a big source of stress during the holidays, and it can especially affect women with fibromyalgia.

Unrealistic Expectations

First, I know those of us that have had to deal with fibro during the holidays are already pushing ourselves mentally and physically. And second, when we try to add in unrealistic expectations on top of an already overextended “body-budget,” it can feel overwhelming.

I know it can be a major disappointment when the reality of the situation doesn’t meet your expectations, whether that is an expectation of how the kids will behave, how dinner will turn out, how the holiday party goes, hosting relatives, or whether someone liked your gift.

It All Adds Up

It all adds up. This is why self-care during the holidays is extremely vital. And I don’t mean, you need to go for spa treatments or yoga sessions in the midst of an overbooked season. Self-care during the holidays is all about taking the time to attend to your own needs, whether physical or mental, to make sure you are balancing your wellbeing and able to manage the situations that are inevitable during the activities of this season.

Here are some ways to help you manage expectations and maintain self-care:

Be Realistic: There is nothing setting you up to feel disappointed like unrealistic expectations. And when you are disappointed, it can take a toll on your emotions and completely derail your holiday joy. It is so easy to get stressed during the holidays because we believed something was going to go a certain way, and when the anticipation is replaced by disappointment it can really bring us down. So, up front, before opening the presents or before attempting to make grandma’s famous monkey rolls, understand that mishaps will probably occur, and things won’t be exactly as imagined. This will better prepare you for rolling with whatever ends up happening.

Emotionally Prepare: Just be aware that one of the kids probably won’t like a gift—and they will most likely express their discontent at the most inopportune time. Keep in mind that wrong sizes will be purchased for pajamas and fuzzy slippers. Recipes may be a disaster. People may start arguing at the dinner table. And we may not get what we wanted. This is the time to remind ourselves what is really important. And we do this by valuing and elevating our personal priorities, which might include kindness to all including ourselves. Just keeping this in the forefront of our thought throughout the holidays, can help us better manage any stress and cope under less-than-ideal circumstances.

Ask for Help: Last week’s episode was all about asking for help, but I want to add it to this week’s list for fibro hacking the holidays. It is probably the most important thing to do if you are overwhelmed or having to forge through this season either in a fibro flare or trying to keep from letting too many things trigger a flare. Stress is a big trigger to flare-ups. And I know. I’m guilty of believing I can do way more than I really can in very unrealistic timeframes! And I’m also guilty of believing that if others cared, they would see that I need help and offer. However, I’ve learned not to be offended by the lack of consideration, because after many years I’ve realized that others just don’t realize that I might need help because of the nature of fibro. It is basically invisible. I typically look fine, right? But they don’t see the excruciating pain in my arms from lifting full saucepans and stirring all afternoon. Yeap, I know. I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with my arms just throbbing. So my point, you have to blatantly ask for help up front. If you’ve been dealing with fibro for any amount of time, you probably know what triggers can set off discomfort and pain. So please don’t be shy, self-advocate for your needs ahead of time.

When you get help you are able to accomplish much more, and generally do it in a more efficient and effective way. Thus, seeking help can be a great strategy for managing expectations and stress during the holidays.

 Stop Comparing: Lastly, don’t compare your family’s holiday with someone else’s. I know, I know—but the fancy parties, the sparkling packages with the big bows that must have taken hours to do, and those gorgeous family photo cards! Hey friends, it’s so much better to just allow yourself to enjoy the holiday without worrying about feeling judged. So what if your bow doesn’t match the wrapping paper, or you ran out of name tags and had to write to who it belongs and who it is from on the package. And so what if you brought mac and cheese to the gathering instead of the fancy artichoke dip. At least the kids will be happy! And seriously, shouldn’t we all try to be more like children during this season anyway? Eat, laugh, and be merry. Let the rest go!

My utmost urgent fibro hacking the holidays suggestion for you as we head into the thick of the season now, is to avoid the stressful trap of expectations and embrace self-care by focusing on your personal values so you can experience joy from here on out.

Hearts & (gentle) Hugs,
Dr. Jen