Surviving the HolidaysBy Karen Lee Richards
Editor's Note: When she wrote this article, Karen Lee Richards was Vice President of the National Fibromyalgia Association and Executive Editor of its magazine, Fibromyalgia AWARE. The article is reprinted from the Sept.-Dec. 2002 issue of the magazine, with permission of NFA.
Does the thought of another holiday season fill you with joyful anticipation or overwhelm you with fear and dread? The average person considers the holidays at least somewhat stressful. For people with fibromyalgia, who are already struggling to cope with daily life in general, the added demands and stresses of the holidays can trigger a flare of fibromyalgia symptoms. While you may not be able to totally avoid all stress, you can reduce your stress level significantly by giving yourself a G.I.F.T.
G - Guilt Must Go
Guilt is born when you fail to live up to your own expectations for yourself. Year after year you are bombarded with a "magical mythical model" of the idyllic holiday scene - complete with family, friends, food and festivities, encompassed in a spirit of peace and goodwill for all. If this is the holiday image you are trying to achieve, it is time for a reality check. The fact is, you have a chronic pain illness which limits what and how much you can do. It's time to stop blaming yourself because you can't provide the elaborate holiday festivities you once did or because you can't do everything you think your family expects you to do. It's time to remember what the holidays are really about - expressing your love and thankfulness for family and friends. There are many ways to express those feelings without damaging your body in the process.
Decide right now that you will refuse to accept any feelings of guilt because of what you cannot do. Instead, focus your attention on what you can do. Then gather that old guilt up into a big ball, kick it out, and lock the door behind it!