Managing My Health Through the Holidays
Like many people, I have always treasured the holidays. The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s feel like a time for joy, community, and celebration. The holidays can also be stressful, but they can be especially devastating for those of us managing a chronic illness. I can remember the years I spent Christmas Day in bed, or New Year’s Eve at home, my body spent and often sick after the hustle and bustle of December.
For this reason, it’s vital to set boundaries and set aside time to rest as the holidays approach. Following are some simple guidelines I try to practice to keep myself healthy through the holiday season.
I like to continue the precedent that my parents established when I was growing up: If an appointment can wait, then we’ll leave it for after the holidays. There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, postponing appointments until January creates a pocket in the year when I don’t have to anticipate any difficult conversations or unexpected changes.
Living with pulmonary hypertension, a progressive illness, meant I was rarely told that my health was significantly improving. In fact, more often than not, my numbers would keep declining. By leaving appointments until after the holidays, we gave ourselves a moment when we didn’t have to immediately deal with that reality.
Additionally, it’s always a good idea to avoid clogged-up waiting rooms during cold and flu season. December is one of the worst times to visit a clinic. So, unless it’s urgent, I opt to wait until after the holidays, when waiting rooms are a little quieter.
The holidays present many options to socialize; parties and gift exchanges stack up on the calendar without pause. While saying no is sometimes easier said than done, I have sometimes found it necessary for preserving my energy. I always try to prioritize the things that are most important to me, while letting go of the things that will cause me more strain than joy.
Giving gifts is one of my love languages, and I’ve often burned myself out trying to create memorable gifts for my loved ones. I have always put so much pressure on myself. For this reason, one way that I am learning to manage my stamina through the holidays is by being more thoughtful in my gift planning.
Some examples of this include ordering things online instead of driving out to shops in the Minnesota winter, planning gifts in advance if I’m making them myself, and even wrapping gifts ahead of time. Other ways of managing my stamina include opting to bring the “easy” appetizer to the party, or making time for rest days after big events.
After many years of catching colds — and even developing pneumonia — around the holiday season, I’ve learned to simply let people know that if they’re sick, I don’t want to see them. It can seem like a harsh cutoff to some, but it’s worthwhile and necessary for me to protect my health.
Of course, with COVID-19, we’re dealing with more than just the standard wintertime bugs. Navigating the pandemic will look different for everyone, but this year, my family is requesting that extended family members do both a clinic COVID-19 test and a home test before celebrating with us on Christmas Eve. There will also be more hand-washing and fewer hugs than we’re accustomed to.
Make the most of it
The holidays feel more complicated than ever. There’s been so much to worry about lately for nearly everyone, and it can make the season feel overwhelming and bittersweet. As an immunosuppressed person in a pandemic, I’m making more sacrifices for the sake of my health than ever before. But as I come close to wrapping up a second year of isolation, I’m also learning to celebrate joy in small places.
In these final weeks of the year, I’m savoring the decorations around the house and seizing the opportunity to remind loved ones what they mean to me. Small mercies, but mighty ones.
Through this life I’ve lived, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to celebrate at all, and I’m willing to prioritize my health and stamina in order to make the most of it where I can.
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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.