Tips for Preparing for the Holidays, Part Two

Serena Lawrence avatar

by Serena Lawrence |

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In Life with PH

In continuation from last week’s column, here are my remaining tips to help prepare for the holidays while living with pulmonary hypertension.

4. Watch what you eat

The holidays make it difficult to stick to the meal plan you find best for your health and lifestyle. Dietary limits and needs can vary among those living with pulmonary hypertension patients. I’m a real pain in the butt to have as a guest because I limit my meat intake and try to avoid gluten and dairy.

Plus salt is the biggest no-no of all of me! Here are some tips to help you stick to your dietary needs this holiday season without missing out on the festivities:

– If you are going to someone else’s house as a guest for a meal, be sure to let them know about any dietary requirements you have. If they are unable to accommodate and prepare a meal that is safe for you, you can bring your own meal, or eat before you arrive.

– If you eat dinner before you head over, you can always enjoy a small meal with everyone else while they eat. You could enjoy a salad (you can make no-sodium dressing very easily with balsamic vinegar and oil) or bread. Leafy greens can interfere with some blood thinners, so keep that in mind. I know this scenario doesn’t sound ideal, but this way you aren’t missing out on the bonding time that opens over meals during the holidays.

–  For dining at a restaurant, be sure to let your server know about your dietary needs. I always tell my servers that I cannot have any salt, especially because meals can be heavily salted. I always tell servers I have a heart issue, as well. I found that when I wore oxygen servers were more diligent about my dietary needs. Once my illness became more invisible my meals started to become very salty — and dangerous. Explaining why I need low sodium food has helped with that issue.

– Ask for condiments on the side. Sauces, dresses, gravy, etc., can all be very salty. If you ask for them on the side you are in control of how much extra sodium will be added to your meal.

– If you are preparing your own meals, look for no- to low-sodium products. Avoid pre-packaged items as they can be loaded with salt as a preservative.

– Alter your recipes as needed. Don’t be afraid to omit salt completely and add low- to no-sodium products that the recipe calls for. (For example, if a recipe calls for a certain kind of canned crushed tomatoes, find canned crushed tomatoes that don’t have sodium.)

5. Take care of yourself

It is difficult not to get caught up in the whirlwind of the holidays, but it is important to take care of yourself. Make your happiness and health a priority. If those two things aren’t a priority for you, add them to your list of New Year’s resolutions.

– If you’re not feeling well enough to keep plans, you can reschedule. Your friends and family will be  happier knowing you may be able to enjoy something more if it was put off until another day. I know a lot of us hate cancelling plans, but being tired, in pain and not feeling well make it nearly impossible to enjoy the good things the holidays have to offer. Your true friends and family will understand, and they will want what is best for you.

– Ask for help! Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance, especially if a helping hand can make a situation easier for you.

– Relax before, during or after an event. Do whatever you need to do to recharge, including taking a day or so to recoup after a gathering, (I like to call these my “sloth” days). My sloth days consist of lazying around in cozy clothes, enjoying a cup of tea, and cuddling with my dog, closest human or stuffed animal. Slothing can include, but is not limited to: reading, marathoning a good TV show, reading, drawing, surfing the web and meditation. Relax if you need to, and don’t feel guilty about it. Everyone is entitled to a good sloth day, especially after making it through the holidays.

6. Enjoy the holidays!

Last, but not least, have fun and try to enjoy the holiday season as much as possible. I understand the holidays can be hard for a mixture of different reasons. Pulmonary hypertension affects everyone differently, and we all have different disabilities and issues when facing PH individually. Personally, I know things aren’t perfect. In fact, things can be really hard. But my struggles have made me wise to enjoying the good things while they roll.

– Utilize your “good days.” Say “yes” to opportunities if you feel well enough to take part, and truly want to do.

img_4788– Don’t be afraid to say “no” to anything that leaves you with anxiety or dread instead of joy. You don’t want to drive six hours for a two-hour dinner? Makes sense to me. If you would like to see everyone, but aren’t up for the drive, see if an alternative can be made. Remember that sometimes taking care of yourself, and being kind to yourself, means saying no to things that are too physically or emotionally demanding.

– Celebrate! If the festivities approach and you are feeling well enough, go for it! Have fun! Make memories with your friends and families. Take pictures. Laugh and, most importantly, have fun.

– Make accommodations for yourself. Too-tired to stay up until midnight on New Years? Make your own countdown. Go out or stay in. Dress up, or celebrate in your comfy clothes. The most important thing is that you do whatever feels best for you. Do whatever will bring you the most bliss.


Wishing you all a very healthy, happy and safe 2017.

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension 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 Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Maria Lock avatar

Maria Lock

Thank you so much for sharing these tips. I am busy translating as much information about PH as possible into Afrikaans so my family can understand the illness better. Take care and enjoy your holidays!

Serena Lawrence avatar

Serena Lawrence

Thanks for reading, Maria! It sounds like you are very busy. Best of luck with translating information for your family to better understand PH. Happy holidays :)


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