Tips for Making It Through the Holidays with RA

My husband will admit to being a little bit of a Scrooge sometimes. While I came from a family that packed as much into the holiday season as possible, and we loved every minute of it, my hubby sees holidays as a time to relax which is far from what he gets to do when November and December roll around each year. Between holiday shows, family get-togethers, and religious traditions, our schedule is usually packed and that can lead my favorite Santa Claus to be a pretty grumpy Claus at times.

The last few holiday seasons, however, I have been the party-killer. Having rheumatoid arthritis means I’ve had to scale back on my holiday activities way back. One year, it was primarily the fatigue that got me. Last year, my big toe was so inflamed that I was barely able to finish cooking Christmas dinner and had to leave clean-up to my family, as I soaked my foot in ice to relieve the pain and swelling.

Despite the changes I have had to make to my holiday schedule, however, it’s not all glum. I am actually finding that a slower pace is making me appreciate the holidays more. Here are a few things I have found that can make the holiday season more joyful, despite having RA.

Enjoy a Sensory Experience

So often, we think of enjoying the holidays as doing things. It is easy to reframe it as an opportunity to experience the season. Perhaps the smells of turkey in the oven, freshly cut pine, or pumpkin pie captures the holiday spirit for you. How about the sights of colored lights or children sledding down a snow-covered hill? Sounds like logs crackling in the fireplace or a well-loved collection of holiday songs can evoke wonderful memories and emotions too. Slow down and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells that make the holiday season special to you.

Take Advantage of Take-Out

Life has become so busy for so many that it is now easy to find ways to create a perfect from-scratch meal without ever turning on the oven. Some restaurants, and even grocery stores, now offer entire meals complete with turkey, sides, rolls, and pie that you can pick up ahead of time and just heat up for your holiday dinner. Tired of the traditional? One of the most popular alternatives is Chinese take-out since many Asians aren’t celebrating religious holidays this time of year and will keep their restaurants open.

Host a Potluck in Style

One of the best Thanksgiving dinners I ever attended was at my 80-year-old neighbor’s house. Everyone in the family brought a dish, and we served ourselves from the kitchen. And of course, at the end of the night, everyone took their dishes home, making cleanup a five-minute affair. If you want to make it fancy, check out the decorative plastic dinnerware available at your local party store. Disposable can still be beautiful!

Prioritize Your Schedule and Take Time Out for You

When everyone and everything holiday-related is beckoning you to join in, remember your priorities. List out your options must do’s, want to-do’s, and optional activities. Choose one-holiday event per child and get a friend or family member to go to the rest, with a camera and/or video recorder in hand. Can’t go to any of it? Sit down and figure out how to participate in your own special way. Facetime is fantastic, scrapbooking can be special, or perhaps you’ll get your own private performance! And remember, build in time to rest in between activities. You’ll be grateful you did, trust me.

Keep Your Diet on Track

Remember that high fat, high-calorie food, and drinks with lots of sugar can lead to flare-ups, so make sure you don’t go overboard with the Christmas cookies! They may be yummy now, but you’ll pay for it later. Everything in moderation is a good rule of thumb, even during the holiday season, when it’s tempting to overindulge.

Remember Your Tiny Steps

As you go through the holiday season, remember to take those tiny steps to keep you on balance. Think about what can you do today and over the upcoming weeks ahead to keep you feeling your best!


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