Tag Archives: Holiday Stress

Fibro Hacking the Holidays: Inner Peace – Part 5

We all want the holidays to be a special time for everyone. This includes ourselves. For me personally, not only do I want to see smiles and joy on everyone else’s face, but I want to feel that ideal peace and serenity of the season too. However, for many years this eluded me because I would push myself so much making everything “perfect” for everyone else that by the time the activities and celebrations arrived, I was completely worn out and in pain. For women with fibromyalgia, I know that you know what I’m talking about.

Several years ago, I gave up the idea of a “perfect” holiday. And it was probably the best thing I ever did. I decided it was not my place to make it perfect, but it was my place to enjoy it right along with everyone else. Not only did the pain and fatigue get better, but I was also able to deal with the pain that I experienced much easier. This is when I learned to embrace inner peace above all else.

Here are my 5 strategies for fibro hacking the holidays to find inner peace in the midst of this busy season:

  1. Release Resistance

If you find yourself exhausted or in pain, recognize it and release your resistance to it. Listen to your body and heed the direction it is giving you. This may sound odd, but not only do I listen to my body I also talk to it. Research shows that our body responds to our thoughts. Just think about this for a moment. If you were to really imagine and think about slicing a lemon and squeezing it into a glass, your body would produce signals making your mouth salivate and pucker as if you were about to drink a glass of lemonade. So, I surmised if our body could produce chemicals to make internal changes happen, then I could also make changes to pain and fatigue. It certainly takes practice, but our bodies do respond to our thoughts so instead of ignoring the pain or feeling hate and disdain toward the part of the body affected by pain, try acknowledging and loving the area of pain. Ask your body what it needs then follow its direction. If you need to lie down and rest, do. If you need to use an ice or heat pack, magnesium oil, or anti-inflammatory, do so. You can have a better-quality day when you pay attention to your body.

  1. Practice Deep Breathing

Another way to hit the reset button on overwhelm brought on by discomfort is to practice deep breathing. It sounds simple, but it can help. Try 5 to 15 minutes of calm slow breathing. As you inhale and exhale, you can either focus on the up and down rising or your abdomen, or you can count. I like to count with each in and out cycle of breath. This may calm any anxiety brought on by pain or overwhelm.

  1. Go Outside

No matter where you live (unless you are in subarctic winter temperatures), going outside for a few minutes can be a way to rest your mind and shift your focus. A bit of nature, even in your back yard or a walk around the block, gives you the chance to breathe fresh air and increase your oxygen levels. If you get a few minutes in the sunlight it could support renewed feelings of well-being. If you are able to take a little walk, the movement may help increase circulation. All these things together can change your physiology and mindset, and be helpful in separating yourself from any stress you might have been feeling.

  1. Talk to Someone

 One of the great things about the holidays is that it opens opportunities for talking with loved ones and friends. If you have the chance, sit and have a nice long talk with someone you trust that you know cares about you. If not in person, find some time to pick up the phone and reach out. When I speak with true friends, I find that it brings an uplifting energy. My mind feels renewed and happy, helping my body to feel relaxed.

  1. Feel Gratitude

 Make a habit of gratitude. I choose to start my day with mental gratitude before getting out of bed. This I learned from the wonderful author of “You Can Heal Your Life”, Louise Hay. She used to say that in the morning she would thank her bed. Without thinking of anything in the future, of what I might have to do that day, right where I am as I first stir in the morning in bed gives me the opportunity to be thankful right then and there. I’m thankful for my soft pillow and cozy blankets, for my fuzzy socks, and the quiet stillness in the early morning light.

Make the habit simple. You do not need to make gratitude monumental, the small blessings in the moment are profound on their own. In an online article in On the Pulse, it was noted that a neuroscientist at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, said that feeling gratitude can activate several parts of the brain associated with reward and motivation, and the hypothalamus associated with eating and sleeping. Dr. Susan Ferguson said “when humans feel gratitude, the brain produces oxytocin…” This is the same hormone that is released after giving birth, and often dubbed the love hormone.

The feeling of love is definitely a healing emotion in the body. So, if activating these parts of the brain to produce positive feelings to support our body can be done with gratitude, then count me in! It’s worth being grateful for everything I can!

When you find yourself looking for the comfort of inner peace this holiday, remember to take 10 minutes to conquer your reality by releasing resistance to what is, taking a deep breath, walking outside, talking to a friend, and practicing gratitude. These small acts of self-care can renew your inner peace as often as you need it through the holidays.

Hearts & (gentle) Hugs,
Dr. Jen

Fibro Hacking the Holidays: Ask for Help – Part 3

The holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration with family and friends, but for a lot of people they are a very emotional time. It is a time of year that many find very difficult to get through—either because they have lost someone they loved, or because they are chronically ill. The season with social gatherings, gift giving, and traditions can trigger depression, loneliness, and grief, due to either missing a loved one… or missing the way things used to be.

For myself, although I have fibro life in balance (knock on wood), this will be the first year without my father. It’s been a hard year as it is, but the holidays are a trigger for memories. When loss is new the emptiness is sometimes too much. For my mother, who also has fibro, and any woman going through difficult emotions or fibro flares this is definitely a time for when self-advocacy is called for.

Here are several steps to take as the holidays approach:

  1. Recognize how you feel: As the holiday approaches stop to check in with yourself and if you are experiencing heavy emotions, don’t push past them but instead allow yourself to recognize them. This may help you to start processing the emotions.
  2. Plan ahead: if you are aware of your emotions, you can be gentle with yourself this season by looking ahead and making note of any triggers that may come up. Try to avoid situations or events that may be too uncomfortable for you. The hope is that by planning ahead you won’t find yourself in a circumstance where you are caught off guard by overwhelming feelings.
  3. Ask for help: Please know that if you are having a difficult time either because you lost someone special or because you are dealing with fibro challenges or something else, you do not have to pretend to be cheerful and try to do all the events or celebrations you used to by yourself. You should not be expected to. Determine what you need help with and let others know. It is okay to ask others to help, especially when you have had a tough time from either illness or grief, or both.
  4. Accept the help: Do you need someone to run errands or do some holiday shopping for you? Do you need help planning, organizing, or wrapping gifts– especially if you have young children or guests that will be arriving? Do you need help prepping or preparing a holiday meal? A lot of times, your family and friends want to do something for you but aren’t sure how you will feel about it. Just kindly ask them for help.

Focus on the Moment

If you are feeling off balance any time during the holiday or during social gatherings try to intentionally focus on the moment at hand. Look around and purposefully notice the things around the room, the lace design of the tablecloth, the light in the room, the décor on the table, the number of chairs, and on and on. If you direct your attention specifically it may help divert the negative feeling long enough for you to regain balance.

Don’t try to get through the tough holidays by yourself. Realizing when you may need help and making a plan to ask for that help is called self-advocacy. Often women will struggle with loss and pain alone rather than ask for help. Understand that you are worthy of having help. It is human to have tough times throughout life. Having others that care about you, help you through the holidays, can be a great comfort to you.

Hearts & Gentle Hugs,

Dr. Jen

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