One of the hidden blessings of chronic fatigue is that the illness forces you to prioritize and recognize what is truly essential to life. You no longer have the energy to participate in the seasonal chaos that occurs at this time of the year. It just isn’t a physical option. And so, with great regrets at first, you learn to cut back on what you can do for Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate. While I certainly don’t advocate getting sick just so you can learn that lesson, I can see the benefits it has brought to my life. I’m sharing a few tips from my experience that may or may not be of use to you in helping reduce some pressure from your life.
Christmas is a season, not a day. If you believe the retailers, the season begins in October when they start putting out the Christmas items. While I think it should be shorter than that, I do think it lasts more than one or two days. Don’t feel pressured to do everything in a short period of time. Spread out your celebrations. I’ve held Christmas gatherings on December 8th because it was the only mutually agreeable date. I’ve been to Christmas gatherings in early January when weather foiled December plans. Regardless of when you do it, spread the season out a bit so that you don’t overexert yourself.
Decorate as a group or party activity. Decorating for Christmas takes a great deal of energy. My family no longer goes all out for decorating, and I do miss parts of that. However, I accept that I do what I can.
One way to still make this happen is to have parties to decorate and undecorated the house. Most people like to do a certain part of the decorating but not another (the tree, the lights, the ornaments, the accessories). Throw a minimalistic party in December and invite a few friends to come help decorate and celebrate the season. Make it potluck so that you are not providing the food as that takes more energy. If you have special items you are concerned about breaking, set them aside before the party starts. That way you can make sure they are safe.
In Catholic culture, the season of Christmas lasts from December 25th to January 6th in many countries. Celebrate the arrival of the three wise men with another un-decorating party the weekend after New Year’s. Have friends come over again, bringing leftover fruitcake to munch on, and reverse the decorating process. Use the time to decompress from all the foibles and stresses of the season that you are now packing away until the end of the next year.
Holiday Baking. I used to love to make many flavors of cookies just like my grandmother did. However, now I am lucky to just get one made. Dietary restrictions make this even harder. Truth be told, I don’t need or want the sugar from the baking, but I recognize many others do consider it a part of the holidays.
Consider hosting a cookie exchange. Everyone brings several dozen cookies bagged or boxed in dozens. For every dozen you bring, you take home another dozen. Everyone brings one extra dozen for the hostess so that you don’t have to bake, but you’ll provide coffee, tea, and milk. Put out some of the cookies in these hostess dozens so that everyone can sample and munch. This way you can still have a variety of cookies around the house without doing the baking!
Online shopping. It is a lot less stressful than facing malls full of perfumed people and products. True, it doesn’t allow you to have the fun of seeing all the objects you are buying first and experiencing the Christmas decorations, but it does cut down on time and stress. I really recommend it. At this point, you’d have to do express shipping, but next year, consider it as a viable option. No one knows if that name brand item came from a big box store or online.
Buying ahead. I try to pick up presents for my kids (especially stocking stuffers) as I see items on sale during the months ahead. I keep a list on my computer so I don’t forget what I’ve bought. Where I have hidden the gifts is a separate problem: I need to add that to the list, too! Again, this doesn’t help for this year, but consider it as something to do next year.
Green gift wrapping. We use pillowcases and ribbons to wrap presents that aren’t going to others outside of the house. It is far more green than paper that is going to be thrown away after one use. It also avoids using tape which was a huge chemical sensitivity for me for many years. If I can, I use reusable gift bags for others who don’t live here. Regardless, the pillowcase approach makes gift wrapping much quicker and easier!
Give non-tangible gifts. The best gifts are the ones from the heart. While many don’t share that belief, you can use this approach for those who do. Rather than give gifts that the receiver may not like or that may not fit, consider making a donation to a charity like Heifer International, Kiva, your local food bank, or a charity of the receiver’s choice.
Other non-tangible gifts might include tickets to a community play, a local museum membership, or a donation of your time to take a loved one on an excursion you might not do otherwise, like taking them out to dinner. For someone with chronic illness or physical limitations, some of the best gifts you can give are spending time with them or helping them with tasks they cannot handle themselves. For those who are living on tight budgets, you can sometimes make an anonymous payment to one of their utilities by contacting the utility company and using their address to access the account.
Remember the reason for the season. While I am no longer Christian, I do believe in focusing on the values of this time of year rather than the commercialism of the mainstream culture. It is a time to remember family, to remember our blessings, and to be grateful for all we have. Consider attending a worship service at the religious group of your choice or go for an extra hike in nature just to appreciate the natural beauty of the amazing world around us.
How ever you chose to celebrate this season, may it be a blessed, safe and peaceful one for you and your loved ones.
© Green Heart Guidance
I haven't abandoned my blog. However, the past month has been rough for me as I contracted influenza followed by three weeks of viral pneumonia. So as I advise others, I had to let the non-necessary things in life fall by the wayside. However, I am doing better now and am on to the next health challenge that my immune system is conquering.
I realized the other day how much I appreciate the inspirational sayings and mantras that I see on Facebook. It also dawned on me that I have a huge archive of amazing photos courtesy of my photography passion. On top of that, Divine Guidance sends me mantras and wisdom during meditation on a regular basis. So I've come to the conclusion that it's time for me to start creating similar inspirational memes. As time and guidance allow, I'm adding these to the items that will appear on my blog and Facebook page.
Also, please note that if you follow my Facebook page, Facebook does highly censor what you see from businesses in your newsfeed for those of us who don't pay to upgrade our accounts. You might want to periodically check my Facebook page or my blog to see what you've been missing.
Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D.
Holistic Life Coach and