I have been dealing with vasculitis symptoms and fatigue for the past 14 holiday seasons.
In the early years, I was so worried about disappointing my family and friends that I tried to be my old self and accomplish everything. This behavior always led to a series of disasters. I would find myself too exhausted to enjoy the special days with family and friends, and instead be curled up in bed, hiding. Hoping no one would know I was missing.
My family did notice, and nobody seemed to be enjoying their holiday celebrations. I had to break this cycle. I had to stop overdoing it every year.
I am happy to say that I have broken the cycle. The following simple tips can help you make your holidays more manageable and less exhausting, too.
Use paper plates and plastic silverware
This is my most crucial survival tip. Our disease limits energy, so why should I waste that energy washing plates and silverware? My family doesn’t care if we eat on the fancy dishware or on bulk paper plates from the local warehouse store.
The amount of energy I save using disposable dishware means I can stay up late and watch that quirky holiday movie with my family. Getting more family time makes it an easy decision for me.
Don’t forget about ‘semi-homemade’
Years ago, a chef on the food network named Sandra Lee made her tagline, “Semi-Homemade — fresh ingredients with specially selected store-bought items.” When I am not feeling my best and the stress of the holiday season is upon me, I hear Sandra whispering to me, “Remember semi-homemade.”
There is no shame in buying prepared dough for that holiday pizza or using takeout sushi for your Feast of the Seven Fishes. That prepared chicken from your local deli makes a great meal when you add a few sides to it.
Due to COVID-19, many restaurants have fantastic takeout dinners for the holidays. Maybe it’s time you relaxed and ordered in for the holidays.
Ask for help
I find this one to be the easiest to tell people but the hardest to do myself. I am a micromanager, so this is very difficult for me! It’s hard to give up control, but it’s so rewarding when I do.
My friends are always asking to help me, and many times I am too stubborn to accept their help. I never want to be a burden, but the opposite is true, especially around the holidays. They want to help, and all I need to do is ask.
I have learned to ask them to pick me up a few things while they are at the grocery store. They feel better for helping me, and I am less exhausted because I did not have to leave the house.
Sometimes they make special treats and want to share them with my family. I have learned to say “yes,” and then enjoy homemade tamales, pozole, or even dessert items.
I must remember that if my friends ask to help me, it doesn’t mean I am a burden, it means they love me and want to help me.
Focus on a few important things
For holiday must-haves, choose up to three activities. Focus on those, and let the others slide this year.
I don’t worry about decorating my entire house anymore. I pick two rooms that I will be in the most, and those are the only rooms I’ll decorate. I can no longer make the entire house perfect, but I can make those two rooms joyful.
Cooking is one of my passions, so I use my energy on Christmas Day to prepare meals. I have learned to use my slow cooker and start organizing things days in advance. I do not want to be exhausted to the point that I can’t even enjoy the meal. Sandra Lee reminds me to use the semi-homemade principles, so I’m not making everything from scratch.
Remember, your family is happy to have you around
My family doesn’t care if I curl up on the couch, they just want me with them. My ANCA vasculitis tends to flare every winter. As I brought my nebulizer out of the closet last week so that I could breathe comfortably, I had the urge to scream, “Not again!” I am flaring, and I am failing my family.
It takes time for me to get over these negative thoughts and remember that my family is happy just to have me around for another holiday season.
Note: ANCA Vasculitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ANCA Vasculitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ANCA vasculitis.