Tag Archives: Planning Ahead

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: 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