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The Holidays

Dr. Laurie helps us prep for the emotional onslaught.

Holiday Stress on CreakyJoints.org | Your Arthritis Homepage

When you walk into any store, it is obvious we have slid into that time of year.

The Holidays.

I know, it seems premature to begin addressing that in October!  But Halloween candy, shorter daylight, and decorations in the local Target all suggest to me that it is a good time to prepare for how we want to handle the combination of temptation and deprivation.

The temptations come in the form of eating too much, eating the wrong things, going out to often, and overloading on stressful expectations and events.

The deprivations are giving up exercise or other healthful practices (because "there's not enough time"), losing sleep, and putting your health last instead of first.

This season can be magical.  It can also stress your life and aggravate your illness.  You can choose to create the path through the next weeks that works for you -- and supports your health.

"I'll do it once the holidays are over" applies to everything from a doctor's appointment, to keeping better track of medication, to resting.

Here are a few tips to help you prepare mentally for how you want to handle this time.  The result is that you will be more relaxed, more in charge, and able to enjoy all the blessings of the holiday seasons -- from Halloween through New Year's!

Create a game plan.

Although we vow every year to do it differently, most of us get sucked into a whirlwind, primarily because we didn't think ahead of what we wanted to do -- and what we wanted to avoid.

Take a moment and list what are the most difficult aspects of the next six weeks for you.

Then think what are the best.

Compare your lists.  What can you stop doing?  What will be your priority for your time and attention and money?  What is most important to you?  How will you make sure you do that?

Preparation makes a big difference -- and it isn't hard.  Carve out some space and time to think ahead instead of reacting to every phone call, invitation, and request.

Put your health ahead on the list.

Dealing with a chronic and unpredictable illness isn't fun.  It isn't easy either.

But ignoring what you need to do to feel OK only compounds the difficulty.

You deserve to feel your best -- even if that takes time away from other people or projects.  The holidays aren't going to be enjoyable for you if you have exhausted yourself taking care of everyone else's food preferences or last-minute whims.

If exercise helps, don't neglect it.  If you need an afternoon break, don't skip it.  If rich food aggravates your joints, don't have it in the house.

Think about what you need -- and do it.

Practice cutting things out before you add in.

From homemade Halloween costumes, to perfect turkeys, to a gift-buying blitz -- there is a lot of extra pressure.  And for those of you who don't have to run a household, there is still the pressure of the office party, the family expectations, and often the loneliness of everyone else's holiday preoccupation.

Sometimes it's the prospect of spending so much time with your family that send you over the edge.

This season, think what you might eliminate.

How can you slow down and do a little less?  Can you keep your schedule a little lighter and give yourself a little more room?  Can you see only the people who really matter -- and maybe for a shorter burst of time?

Think about eliminating and streamlining.

This season can be magical.  It can also stress your life and aggravate your illness.

You can choose to create the path through the next weeks that works for you -- and supports your health.  As always, it's up to you!

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