Here’s some tips on how to deal with shopping, parties, travel, and greeting cards.
For many, the holiday season is a time of joy and celebration.
For some people, however, this time of year can be difficult.
Living with a medical condition such as rheumatoid arthritis is one thing that can make the holiday season not so bright.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
People who live with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) just need to prepare for holiday-related events a little differently than those who live without pain or illness.
Some things, such as cold wintry weather, is beyond a person’s control. Sometimes, the business and “hustle bustle” of the season is also something that can’t always be avoided.
But with planning, self-awareness, mindfulness, and self-care, the chaos and emotions of the holiday season can be better managed and mitigated.
One thing that can be stressful for people with RA during the winter holidays is travel.
Being prepared for holiday travel can reduce stress and discomfort.
One important tip is to board airplanes as early as possible.
Here’s some other helpful advice:
- Ask for help with luggage when you need it.
- Bring a pillow for comfort on the plane if you’re flying.
- Wear a face mask and use hand sanitizers to protect against germs.
- Choose healthy foods at rest stops or airports.
- Know about TSA regulations regarding medications.
- When traveling by car, make yourself as comfortable as possible, stopping for stretch breaks often.
Gift wrapping is another pain point (literally) for people living with rheumatoid arthritis.
One option is to go with colorful gift bags instead of wrapping paper.
If the presents must be wrapped, see if the store or shopping center offers gift wrap services.
Or, ask a friend or a child to help you out with wrapping.
Some nonprofit organizations, such as animal shelters and health organizations, will wrap presents for a small donation during the holiday season.
You can also “go green” this holiday season and opt out of wrapping paper or gift bags altogether.
You can also utilize arthritis-friendly scissors. Various models of scissors exist that are ergonomically developed for people with joint problems and mobility or grip issues.
It’s important to remember self-care during the hectic holidays.
Here’s some ways to do that:
- Carve out time for yourself, even if you’re visiting friends and family.
- Sit by the fire and enjoy a cup of herbal tea.
- Indulge in a steam shower or a hot bath.
- Diffuse your favorite aromatic essential oils.
- Book a massage or acupuncture session.
- Slather on your favorite body lotion.
- Practice deep breathing while you focus on gratitude.
- Take a midday nap after a busy day of Christmas shopping.
When you’re shopping, it’s important that you pace yourself.
Wear any assistive braces that you may need (for your wrist, your feet, or your knee).
Sit down when you need to. Use a cane, scooter, or wheelchair if it’s required.
Park in the accessible parking spots at the shopping center if you have a parking placard.
Take an escalator or elevators at stores or malls if they’re available.
Ask a store employee, friend, child, or spouse to carry your bags to your car for you.
Women should carry a handbag that isn’t too hard on the wrists or shoulders.
Sometimes, holiday parties, meals, and gatherings can be a source of stress and, often, physical pain.
If you’re planning a party, don’t try to do it all on your own.
Here’s some advice on making party preparation easier:
- If you can afford a cleaning service, hire maids to help you prepare the house. Or, ask your family members or spouse to assist you in cleaning and cooking.
- If you’re hosting, remember to sit down when you need to and don’t forget to eat.
- Take your medications accordingly and have over-the-counter pain relievers on hand.
- If you’re a guest at a party, contact the host or hostess ahead of time to let them know you’ll require a spot to sit.
- Wear comfortable shoes and bring any adaptive or assistive devices with you. You can always leave a cane, brace, or heating pad in the car and grab it later.
- Stay hydrated if you’re drinking alcohol and make sure you’re allowed to drink while taking your RA medications.
- If you’re on drugs that suppress your immune system, avoid shaking hands or hugging at holiday get-togethers. A wave could be a good alternative.
Writing out greeting cards for the holidays can be a pain — literally.
Order cards online, print out labels, or, forgo paper “snail mail” greeting cards altogether and send out e-cards via the internet instead.
If you’re looking for gifts for someone with RA, there are plenty of arthritis-friendly gift guides on the internet.
Some options may include heating pads, comfort pillows, ergonomic slippers, pain relief lotions, anti-inflammatory tea, and pill cases.
A donation made to an arthritis organization in a loved one’s name is also a nice gesture during the holidays. So is walking or running in events like the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run, if you’re physically able to do so.
The holidays can be stressful for everyone, but stress is a known trigger of RA flares.
So be easy on yourself, remember to practice self-care, and try to have as pain-free and joy-filled a holiday as you can.