This post was written for Leo | The Anxious Teacher at https://theanxiousteachtwo.home.blog as part of #Blogmas.
The fairy lights are twinkling. Christmas trees are popping up left, right and centre. Shops and supermarkets are pushing their stock of all things gift-like. It’s not yet December but the Christmas period is well and truly upon us.
I always used to love Christmas. The excitement of everything that came with it: parties, decorating the house, opening presents, drinking mulled wine by the bucketful, it was all such fun.
That’s until the winter of 2018, when the first of many chest infections took hold. I continued to push through the exhaustion and eventual fatigue I experienced. Little did I know this was a seriously bad idea and would lead to a deterioration in my basic mobility. Effectively, I’ve never recovered since.
Anyway, this Christmas period is my first “official” one with ME CFS. This is the first Christmas where I’m going to have to do things very, very differently from ever before. Presents are not going to be adorned with fancy ribbon, nor am I going to spend like crazy on gifts for others. The whole approach to this season is going to have to be very different because life as a whole is very different these days.
Survival is going to have to be the key word in getting through the festive period.
I’m therefore planning on approaching Christmas with the following 5 rules and I figured it was probably worth sharing these in case others are in a similar position. I’d love to hear from people who have gone through several Christmasses with ME CFS and how they’ve survived each time.
I’m pretty sure that in a few weeks’ time I’ll look back at this list and realise I’ve kept not a single one, but the aim is there and hey, you can’t blame a girl for trying.
Rest as much as possible / stick to your pacing routine.
I like to think I have a pretty good routine these days. I don’t do full days out, they’re just not possible. Mornings are my good time when I generally have more energy, bearing in mind it’s all relative. Therefore, any trips out to get something from the shops or to take the little one out and about have to happen in the morning. I know I have to rest for at least 3-4 hours a day. Rests for me mean lying down, not having to talk (or listen for that matter) and generally being at peace. Hopefully through the festive period I’ll still be able to factor in these rest periods each day.
Feel confident enough to say I’m too tired now, I need to leave, and mean it.
Over the festive period we like to see friends and family, catch up, exchange presents and generally enjoy the time together. This means there’s generally a demand on one’s time. I’m lucky that I’m not invited to any work Christmas parties this year or indeed any Christmas party for that matter. I’ll try not to get too low about the whole billy-no-mates situation I realise that makes me. Therefore, the whole getting dressed up, fancy make up etc are irrelevant to me. But still there are family and friend gatherings to attend. My challenge will be to know when things have got too much and I need to leave in order to rest.
If you’ve ever taken one look at the magazines around Christmas time, or even other people’s pictures of their decorations, it’s easy to get caught up in the whole “I need my house to look spotless, my presents need to be colour-coordinated and all the food cooked from scratch.” Well, that isn’t going to happen this year. (Actually, the food thing has never happened as I’ve never actually hosted Christmas Day.) Presents are going to have to be wrapped in a very basic fashion, no fancy ribbon or bows. Gifts are going to have to be bought online and not at the last minute. And cards are going to have to be written (and sent) much earlier than usual.
Make lists and keep to them.
My hubby will be the first to complain about this. When I get stressed, everything that might ever need doing in the next year becomes immediate and must. Get. Done. NOW. It’s like my mind suddenly becomes a completely jumbled mess of various to-do lists with no sense of prioritisation in there at all. So, this year there are going to be actual, written down lists of things that need doing, with levels of priority given to each item. If something really isn’t important or doesn’t need doing immediately, it goes to the bottom of the list. If “getting out of bed” is one of the things on the list, so I get a chance to at least cross something off that day, then brilliant.
Be present and mindful.
This is my final rule and one of the most important. Christmas is a happy time of course, with Christmas Day itself being the highlight, but in all of the festive period it can be easy to get worked up and stressed about the many things that need doing, the many people to see. My aim is going to be to stay present and mindful on a daily basis, practising mindfulness as often as possible. It’s going to be a challenging time, where it’ll be impossible to not reflect on the losses of the last year, but if staying present and being mindful helps to calm some of the stress then it’ll be worth it.
To all of you with chronic illness, what are your survival tips for the festive period? What have you learnt to do or not do to help you get through it? Comment below and let me know your thoughts.
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