Coping with Christmas

Some things that might trigger a flare: divorce, bereavement, virus and Christmas!! Yes Christmas, a wonderful but potentially very stressful time of year.

Lupus is very unpredictable and can interfere with our lives, stopping us doing everything that we want to and that includes participating in Christmas celebrations.

Is there anything you can do to make Christmas less stressful? Well yes, there is, here are a few ideas, to help you cope with the festivities.

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You aren’t chocolate. I say this over and over again, stop trying to please everyone! I know you’ll want to make Christmas special for everybody but if you don’t take care of yourself first, you won’t have the energy for anyone else. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to do what others are doing, I have news for you – very few people manage a ‘perfect Christmas’, well unless they’re very rich and someone else does it all and even then I’d doubt it was the ‘perfect’ Christmas you see in films.

Planning well in advance is my motto. In life in general, infact almost as soon as Christmas is over I start shopping for the following year (for both Christmas and Birthdays). We can’t leave things until the last minute as our health situation is so unreliable. Also the fact I don’t have last minute panics makes me feel more in control and less stressed. Oh and with our dodgy memories put all the things you buy in advance into large plastic storage boxes labelled Christmas and have them all together otherwise you’ll never find them months later!

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I love a list, it helps me feel organised and also ensures I don’t forget anything, which if lupus brain fog had it’s way I would. There’s also something very satisfying about crossing things off my list, I’ve achieved something.

Get a special book or planner and write down everything that you need to do, note need to do not want to do, start with the absolute essentials and if you have enough energy you can add on extra things. You’ll have things you need to do straight away and other things that need to be done on specific days. If you prefer a planner as an easy visual reference, google ‘free Christmas planners’ and you’ll find lots of printable planners/calendars etc online.

Whilst making your to do list, add ‘check medication supplies’ to it. It’s vital to keep taking your medication, so check that you have enough to see you through the Christmas period, particularly if you’ll be away from home.

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Shop online, stores get very busy during November and even worse in December. They’re often very hot and not that pleasant to be in due to all the crowds. Online shopping takes a little more planning as you will have to check how long it takes to get items delivered and allow at least a few extra days incase something gets lost. However, being able to sit on your comfy sofa in your PJ’s with a nice hot drink and shop at your leisure has got to be better than competing with hoards of other shoppers.

Homemade gifts. Are you someone that likes to give homemade gifts but can no longer manage to make them? Turn to local shops or farmers markets etc. I live in Kent and have a lovely farm shop not far away. I buy local jam/honey/biscuits/cheese etc and pop them into a Christmas box or bag, Even better one year the shop had boxes made up ready to go – no effort at all! These gifts are especially good for people that are difficult to buy for.

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Pay for wrapping for online orders. If the stores you are ordering from offer wrapping services, take advantage of this (if your budget has room for it). This is definitely be a time saver because all you have to do is open the delivery box, label it and put it under the tree! If you do have gifts to wrap ditch wrapping paper and pop the gifts into pretty bags, add a piece of tissue paper (I also sprinkle in some Christmas confetti in snowflake shapes etc) on top and job done!

Order online for out of town family/friends and have it shipped to them. As in the previous comment you can have things gift wrapped and sent directly to friends/family etc. You’re going to have to post it to them anyway, so what you save in postage you can spend on gift wrapping and you save yourself a trip to the post office. Lots of online stores now offer this service.

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Don’t try and go it alone, ask family and friends to give you a hand, I’m sure they know you have lupus and wouldn’t want you to be ill over the Christmas period, so would be happy to assist. Children love to decorate so get them to help and only decorate the areas you spend the most time in, maybe even just one room or even one area in a room. Even just a few Christmas cushions and throws will make a room look festive and a Christmas candle will make it smell festive, so you don’t need to go all out with decorations if you don’t want to. If you really want to save energy don’t take the decorations off your tree (obviously only works with artificial trees!), yes really! If you have a storage space like in your garage, carefully cover your tree in plastic such as bin liners and leave it ready for next year.

Resort to bribery! You’ve probably heard of painting parties? It’s a way of getting a room in your house painted by inviting friends/family over to paint it and you supply snacks and drink for them. How about using a similar idea to get people to help with your Christmas decorations? Even if you just prepare mulled wine and heat up some mince pies, or something like pizza which is also quick and easy, or even easier still, you could get it delivered. Add some Christmas music and it could be lots of fun.

Are you prone to overdoing things? Maybe you could have a look out buddy? Someone that knows you well, who can keep an eye on you and when they think you need help, step in, whether it’s just to get you to sit down for a while or offer practical help. If they give you advice, take it, there’s no point if you are going to argue with them.

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If you’re planning an event do you really have to make everything from scratch? That goes for Christmas dinner too, try a few shortcuts such as pre prepared vegetables/sauces/desserts, these days it’s difficult to tell the difference. Can you get your groceries delivered? Book your delivery slot asap though as the Christmas and New Year slots fill up weeks in advance. Also an awful lot of dishes can be prepared in advance and frozen so you could spread the preparation over several weeks.

You don’t have to go to every single event. Are you someone that goes to every tree lighting ceremony, Christmas market and work get together that there is? Ask yourself, do I really need to attend this event? Is it something I feel obliged to go to or is it just out of habit, rather than something I enjoy? If it is something you don’t really need to attend perhaps you should politely decline, ideally well in advance. For the events you do want to go to, try to schedule a little down time before and after each one.

The other thing you could try if you feel obliged to attend an event, is: turn up, mingle a bit, have a drink, some food then leave, yes leave! I’ve done this, it’s particularly easy at large parties, no-one even notices, especially after they’ve had a couple of drinks. If anyone does notice, you could say you’d accidentally accepted invitations to 2 parties on the same night and off you go! If there’s a family event you absolutely have to go to how about taking a nap halfway through? It’s not like your family don’t know you’re ill. Mention beforehand that it would help you to do that and ask if they’d mind you popping off to a bedroom and having a quick refreshing sleep, I’d be pretty sure they’d be happy and even tempted to do it themselves!

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Don’t overeat or drink. There will be tons of food and drink tempting you from every corner, it’s easy for everyone to overindulge especially at Christmas. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean to say you have to eat/drink it all as that could potentially lead to problems later. Personally if I have more than a couple of glasses of wine the next day my joints are aching so I don’t do it, it’s just not worth it. Lots of lupus patients have intolerances to certain foods, usually over processed foods, such as white rice/bread etc, so again with all the extra fat and sugar available it’s easy to eat things than you wouldn’t normally and suffer later.

Dress for success and by that I mean comfort! As you get older pretty much all ladies ditch towering high heels and find comfortable shoes, so whatever your age try flat/lower heels. With the vast range available there are really pretty flat shoes everywhere so you don’t have to settle for a boring old fashioned shoe. Wear an outfit you feel comfortable in and that you can spend hours wearing, if you feel ill or tired it’s made worse if you also feel uncomfortable.

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What if you do unfortunately find yourself bedridden? Don’t miss out on Christmas, bring a few Christmas decorations/cushions/throws into your bedroom, if you have Christmas bedding put it on your bed. How about some Christmas pyjamas? Even host a little Christmas get together with a few family and friends, get them to bring snacks and drinks. Play some Christmas music, it might sound silly but if they’re close to you they’ll also want you to enjoy the festivities. Only plan to get together for an hour or so if you’re feeling very tired as you don’t want to overdo things.

What you can do to help someone with lupus.

You can give an extra gift to people struggling to cope with the festive season by offering help such as the things below.

  • Offer to do a bit of shopping for them, especially if you have shopping to do yourself. Ask if they need help putting up decorations as that can be exhausting.

  • Ask if they’d like a kitchen assistant if they are preparing for a party or even Christmas dinner. Even if all you do is wash up, it’s one less thing for them to worry about. Perhaps you could help serve the food or drinks? Really anything you can help with will lessen the load for us.

  • If you’re going to their house offer to bring a dish along, perhaps you could provide the dessert, one less job for them to do.

  • Of they’re coming to your house, ask if they might like a quick nap during the party (see above), beforehand offer a quiet bedroom and say just pop in there whenever you want to. They’ll be very grateful for the offer even if they don’t need it.

  • Can you look after their children for a while, perhaps to give them a break or let them get on with a few festive preparations?

  • Don’t make them feel different to other guests but make sure they’re comfortable and let them know in advance that if they are tired and need to go home early it’s perfectly fine with you.

  • Lupus is extremely unpredictable and can flare in a second. Please be understanding if someone has to cancel plans at the last minute, be kind and don’t make us feel any worse than we already do. We don’t want to be cancel but but unfortunately sometimes lupus leaves us no choice.