For me, the holidays are a time of slowing down. This is the time of the year when my classes come to stopping point and I have more time at home. The weather gets colder and I feel it is telling me to stay home where it is warm. I have no problem obeying.
I figured out years ago, maybe even pre-RA that being super busy with a long list of "to do" things does not nourish me and even robs me of the holiday spirit. With rheumatoid arthritis a permanent companion in my life, I am all about nourishing myself by listening to not only what my body is telling me, but what my heart is telling me also.
To reduce my holiday "to do" list and enjoy the spirit that comes with the holidays, I practice a few simple guidelines:
1. I order almost all Christmas gifts online. I am not a great shopper and rather than walking from store to store putting pressure on feet that already hurt, I order online and have fun tracking my packages as they arrive. There is nothing I love better than the arrival of the UPS truck.
2. I keep the number of people I buy for to a minimum. I think we all love receiving gifts, but really, do we need to buy something for every person we know? Finding creative gifts is not really my thing so I would rather focus on the gifts I am giving to the people closest to me rather than spending unlimited amount of time fretting over what to give everyone else.
3. I only prepare the kind of foods that I know my family and I really want and then enjoy baking with a glass of wine, listening to Christmas music, and/or inviting my kids to join me in the kitchen. I think sometimes we get so carried away with the tradition of Christmas that we forget to stop and think about whether what we are doing even makes sense anymore. Do we really need ten different types of baked goods? If we feel like baking a lot during the holidays, we do. If we have other things that we would rather do, we don't.
4. I spend more time listening to my kids and husband talk during this down time. Since I am gone four evenings a week outside of holiday vacation, this is my time to spend with them, not restricting myself to a long list of things to do.
5. I rest. I take this time away from work and other activities to sleep more, to read more, to take more leisurely baths, and even to sit in front of the TV more often. I use this time to replenish my body rather than rob it of more precious energy.
Rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases change our lives. They often require us to look at our lives and decide what is really important. For me, spending time being good to my body and having time with my family is what is most important to me. Letting go of what life may or may not have been pre-RA allows me to make new traditions with my family. This year we have decided to go to a restaurant on Christmas Eve. Everyone is excited. We have never done this and plan to dress up for the event. On Christmas day we may go to a movie together. Who knows? Letting go of the past allows for lots of new possibilities.
Rheumatoid arthritis brings a gift to my life everyday and especially during the holidays. The gift is forcing me out of my comfort zone so that I can look at what is really important to me. It allows me to give up what was in the past so that I can enjoy what is now. Whether we want to accept it or not, there is good in every experience we have and I so appreciate the gift RA has given me to slow down and appreciate all that I have in my life. It is definitely a good life.
How do you celebrate the holidays with an autoimmune disease?