Tag Archives: Fibro Hacking

Fibro Hacking the Holidays: Set Boundaries – Part 2

The holidays are all about spending time with people, and many get together with friends and family that they don’t see most of the year. This usually involves a lot of preparing for gatherings and may involve traveling. For those that have fibromyalgia and other chronic health issues, extra activities like this outside of routine can not only cause anxiety, but also can be very stressful.

I know, just standing on your feet cooking a big meal for a group of people you are not ordinarily accustomed to hosting can be too much physically. But if you have any family drama that may come with a group of folks gathering then it can be extra stressful. One of the ways to manage the holiday stress being around family drama is through setting boundaries.

Boundaries are your personal guidelines for what you expect from others and how you expect to be treated and supported. Here are some things to help establish boundaries with friends and family as we head into the holidays.

Understand Your Triggers

It is important that you understand what you need and what during the holidays contributes to your stress so that you can clearly communicate this to others. If you can identify your stressors, you’ll be able to prepare ahead of time. So that you don’t become anxious as the holidays near, take some time to reflect on past stressors and identify causes of discomfort or distress you experienced.

Make Yourself a Priority

Making yourself a priority is part of self-advocacy. You have to realize that you are worthy of feeling comfortable, worthy of being respected. Sometimes at family gatherings it can feel like a trap when relatives are reminiscing and bringing up the past that might be an emotional trigger for you. This can cause social anxiety and be a trigger for a fibro flare-up. It doesn’t matter if it is just in the holiday jest or games, if certain comments and jokes about the past make you uncomfortable, that is not okay—even if they claim you are being too sensitive. You are worthy of respect. When you know your worth, you will be better able to stand up for yourself and communicate your boundaries.

Setting Boundaries

In expressing boundaries, your communication may be received more easily if you use statements that begin with “I”. This way the other person or group will less likely feel the need to be defensive. If you keep the dialogue about you and how you feel in certain situations, it is more about helping you than it is about attacking what they do or say that makes you feel that way.

Communicate Your Needs

It is so important that you think about your holiday stressors beforehand. If family drama is something that triggers you every year, then this is the year to communicate that. If the point of the holiday celebration is to spend time with loved ones, then communicate early. A lot of women with fibro feel overwhelmed by family drama because others make comments about them that make them feel lousy. I am part of several fibromyalgia Facebook groups and it is so sad what these women must listen to from relatives. Because fibro is an invisible ailment, there is a lot of judgment, and these women feel it. If this has been you in the past, know that there are many of us that see you and understand.

Plan to Stay Calm

If you still find yourself in a family drama situation this year, there are two approaches you can take. First, breathe through it. Keep your mind calm and focus on your breath. Stay centered and don’t let yourself jump into reaction mode. You do not need to defend yourself. You have to take care of yourself and that means keeping your stress level low. Lean into your own conviction to be grounded this holiday. And the second approach, remove yourself from the area of family drama if necessary. Take a walk or go to another room. It is better to guard your health. You are worth it.

Family drama does not have to ruin your holiday celebrations if you prepare mindfully ahead of time. Spending time with family can be one of the most beautiful parts of the season, and you deserve that joy so take these steps to set boundaries to help manage that stress.

Hearts & (gentle) Hugs,
Dr. Jen

Fibro Hacking the Holidays: Planning Ahead – Part 1

How many of you are like me, saying “what?” How did it get to be the end of the year already! But it is that time of year again. Time to get ready for the holidays. And to anyone with fibro we know what that means—a delicate tight wire to cross between now and the new year.

The holidays can be hard on many people for many reasons, but to women with fibromyalgia it may be particularly bittersweet. Not that we don’t love the holidays, I’m sure most of us do, but we know what the holidays bring. Lots of opportunities to fall off that tight wire!

The Expectations

 Between the shopping, the dinners, the family gatherings, the children’s plays and performances, the parties, the gift giving, the expectations… this is where a woman with fibromyalgia can lose her balance. Life is hard enough trying to stave off flare-ups, but during the holidays all the extra responsibilities and obligations can be too much. And it’s not that we don’t want to participate, we really, really do.

The Body Budget

We all have what I like to call a body budget. And typically someone healthy will have 8-10 hours worth of energy to be productive in a day. But when you have fibromyalgia that is cut in half—so you have maybe 4-5 hours in a day, if you are lucky, that you can get things done. Unless you are in a flare-up, then you may lose days to weeks where you had hoped to get things accomplished. This is extremely hard for women that have fibro and especially those that have to work outside the home. I see you. I know what you are going through.

Fibro Hacking

This is part one of my fibro hacking the holidays strategies. Fibro hacking is basically anytime you devise a DIY plan to manage your fibromyalgia and stave off or halt any flare-ups. Ahhh, if you are a fibro newbie (aka just learning about fibro or haven’t been dealing with it for years), you may not have recognized the flare-up prodrome as I call it. Which can be different for some of us. But mine historically would be a feeling of overwhelming exhaustion followed by forgetfulness and body aches. In the beginning I always thought, “oh no, I must be coming down with the flu!” But after a few years, I realized it was the prodrome to a fibro flare for me. As many fibro veterans, I began to recognize it and started making note of the triggers. And that was the beginning of my fibro hacking. I discovered that if I avoided the known triggers (sometimes there are unknown triggers too) but if I avoided the known triggers such as overdoing it and for me, eating wheat and sugar, then I could more easily keep my energy and physical well-being balanced.

Planning Ahead

A big component of fibro hacking and self-care is planning ahead. Oh, but where to begin? Start with a calendar. Put in the days you know that you want or need to be somewhere. Keep the calendar handy so as you receive invitations through the holidays you can jot them into your schedule.

One of the most important things to do when planning your days, especially in maintaining awareness of fibro life balance, is to be realistic when filling in your schedule. Remember that some days might not have a full body budget of energy and if you go-go-go on one day be mindful to build in time for recovery and relaxation on the next. Outlining your schedule ahead of time will allow you to select your higher priority events and eliminate the items that are not so important.

Make a Checklist

Begin a checklist for each event or priority coming up. List everything that you need to do or are responsible for. Choose your party attire ahead of time so that you are not stressed when trying to get ready. If you are hosting a meal, plan the meal according to the food or diet that is best for YOUR health. Yes, of course there are traditional items that everyone expects, like yams with marshmallows and the such. But make sure there is plenty of food that you can eat that will not trigger a flare-up. Many women with fibromyalgia find that they do much better, are more comfortable, and have more energy if they eat gluten-free. And of course, low carb is good for most of us and might just help us stay out of that post meal coma!

Healthy Holiday Meals

I know meals are a big deal for the holidays, but I also know that getting through them without a fibro flare is a dream if at all possible. So, I have a special treat for you. I put together a Healthy Holidays Recipe book so you can plan a yummy gluten-free and low carb menu this year that everyone is sure to like. I included 5 starters or appetizers, 5 main courses, 5 side dishes, and 5 desserts. Choose what you need or make a feast of all 20 items. Click here for my gift to you to help you get ahead on the planning for the holidays.

Take a deep breath and allow yourself to plan ahead. When you can get ready for what is coming up, you won’t be caught off guard and end up rushing around in a frenzy. And remember, to schedule time to relax and recover from the hustle and bustle of these holidays.

Like I always say, tiny consistent actions can make BIG changes in your life. You’ve got this. This year can be organized and relaxed, helping you feel your best while you stay balance.

Get your Healthy Holidays Recipes Here!

Hearts & (gentle) Hugs,

Dr. Jen