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Lupus Coping Corner

Handling the Holidays

Jessica Rowshandel, M.S.W.
Amy Caron
Project Director
Lupus Research Institute

How is your holiday season going? Maybe okay, maybe not so okay. Yes, the winter festivities are supposed to be the most joyous time of year. But even if you do experience that joy, it doesn’t mean you aren’t also experiencing added exhaustion or stress.  For some the holidays also can highlight feelings of isolation. Whether or not you enjoy all the hoopla, its extra pressures can impact the state of your lupus. Here are some things to keep in mind to make the best of the season:

Identify your feelings

Don’t just shop and shop, or cook and cook, or whatever it is that has you doing extra running around. Before you know it, you will hit a wall of exhaustion. Perhaps all this is also making you very cranky. You may you find yourself sobbing for no apparent reason. Before things get to that point, it’s helpful to do at least one check-in a day. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling?” And be honest. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, stressed, or sad. And think about what feelings this time of year usually brings up for you? Knowing this about yourself not only connects you to your feelings, but also enables you to manage them in a healthy way. You cannot manage something that you cannot name.

Decide how to proceed

What will you do once you identify these feelings? The answer depends on your own situation. If you are going too fast, you might need to slow down. If you are feeling lonely, you might need to put yourself in situations where you are around others who make you feel good. If money is an issue, it might be time to reframe what the holidays mean to you and find different, yet meaningful, ways to celebrate. Actively finding ways to help change the situation is key.

What are your expectations?

There is no specific way people should feel during this time, no specific way people should celebrate, no amount of people you should celebrate with, or amount of money you should spend. In fact, there are many others out there who are experiencing similar feelings or situations. Allow yourself to feel what you feel, spend what you can afford, and exert only the energy you can exert. As much as the holidays are supposed to be about spreading joy and giving to others, your health comes first, which is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and to those who love you. Setting limits on yourself and others who are putting (perhaps well-meaning) demands on you could be your greatest tool. Do what you can and know that it’s okay to say no to the rest.

Treat yourself with TLC

Before you get to a point where you don’t feel well or if you are starting not to feel well, take time out for every single day to pay attention to yourself. It’s not a luxury but an absolute necessity. What does taking care of yourself mean to you? Does it mean a couple of extra naps a day? A bubble bath? Time meditating? Watching your favorite TV show? Journaling? All of the above? How you feel in mind and body is extremely important, so give yourself as much attention as possible each day in ways that make you feel good.

Remember, gratitude is good for your health

Tis the season of giving, and, thus, the season of gratitude. Giving thanks is good for your health because it helps you focus on what you do have, not on what you don’t. This is especially important during a time when we might have a heightened sense of lacking money, family and friends, or energy, especially if we are comparing ourselves to others (another tip: don’t compare!). Practicing gratitude is helpful throughout the year, but may be especially good for you when the going is a little rocky . Read more here about ways to keep track of your gratitude and what you have to be grateful for.  What are three things you are grateful for at this very moment?

Connect with others

Taking time out to connect with the world around you is especially important. Being with other people can help you feel less lonely, allow you to stop and relax , and maybe even make you laugh (a great medicine)! There are ways to connect with others even if your loved ones are not nearby. I have written about it here, where I also remind you that reconnecting with yourself is just as important as (re)connecting with others.

Read More About Coping During the Holidays

Because stress and loneliness are common during this season, there are many resources out there that give guidelines and reminders about how to cope. Here are a few:

Mayo Clinic
Cleveland Clinic

Remember, reducing stress and loneliness will only lead to good things. And if you are already thinking about those New Year’s Resolutions, click here for some tips I suggested last year.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season!

 

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Lupus Coping Corner

Disclaimer: The information provided by the S.L.E Lupus Foundation is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosing or treating a medical or mental illness, nor be a substitute for professional care. Consult your healthcare provider if you have or suspect you may have a medical or mental health problem.

Amy Caron, MPH is a lupus patient and Project Director of the Lupus Research Institute provider education initiative.  She is not a physician or counselor.  The suggestions shared in this column are strictly opinions from the perspective of a lay person with lupus. Lupus is a very individualized illness; consult a healthcare professional before making any decisions about your care.

The S.L.E. Lupus Foundation does not provide any direct medical or psychological services nor recommend or endorse any particular treatment or therapy. The S.L.E. Lupus Foundation employees, consultants, and agents shall not be liable for any claims or damages, and expressly disclaim all liability of any nature for any action or non-action taken as a result of the information generated by the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation programs and its website, as well as the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation Facebook and Twitter pages.