A pug sitting in a santa hat amongst wrapped presents

Coping with holiday stress: techniques to manage pain and enjoy the festivities

By: Aileen Baxter

The holiday season brings joy, festivities, and cherished moments with loved ones. However, it can also bring holiday stress, especially for individuals living with chronic pain. Balancing the demands of the season while managing pain requires effective coping strategies. In this article, I explore techniques that can help you manage pain, reduce stress, and fully enjoy the holiday season.

Prioritise Self-Care:

Self-care is essential for managing chronic pain and reducing stress. Make time for activities that promote relaxation and well-being. Engage in gentle exercises, such as stretching or yoga, to improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension. Practice deep breathing exercises or mindfulness meditation to alleviate stress. Prioritise rest and ensure you’re getting enough sleep to support your overall health.

Plan and Pace Yourself:

Avoid overexertion by planning and pacing your activities. Prioritise the most important tasks and delegate or eliminate non-essential ones. Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps, and take breaks as needed. Allow yourself ample time to rest and recharge between activities to prevent exacerbation of pain.

Set Realistic Expectations:

Setting realistic expectations is crucial during the holiday season. Understand your limitations, and don’t push yourself beyond what you can comfortably handle. Be honest with yourself and others about what you can reasonably accomplish. Embrace the idea of simplifying traditions and focusing on the meaningful aspects of the holidays rather than getting caught up in perfectionism or overwhelming demands.

Manage Stress:

Stress can intensify pain and negatively impact your overall well-being. Implement stress management techniques to maintain a sense of calm. Engage in activities that help you relax and unwind, such as listening to soothing music, practising aromatherapy, or engaging in hobbies that bring you joy. Consider using stress reduction techniques like journaling, talking to a trusted friend or therapist, or engaging in creative outlets to express emotions.

Communicate and Set Boundaries:

Communicate your needs and limitations to loved ones. Openly express how you’re feeling and let them know how they can support you during the holiday season. Establish boundaries that protect your well-being, whether it’s limiting the number of social engagements or asking for assistance with tasks that may exacerbate your pain. Clear communication and boundary-setting can help reduce stress and ensure your needs are met.

Seek Support:

Remember that you don’t have to navigate the holiday season alone. Seek support from family, friends, or support groups who understand your challenges. Share your experiences and feelings with trusted individuals who can offer a listening ear or a helping hand. Sometimes, simply knowing that you have a support system can provide comfort and alleviate stress.

Practice Gratitude and Mindfulness:

Practising gratitude and mindfulness can help shift your focus towards the positive aspects of the holiday season. Take moments to appreciate the simple joys and express gratitude for the blessings in your life. Engage your senses and savour the present moment, whether it’s enjoying the warmth of a hot drink or admiring the beauty of holiday decorations. Cultivating a mindset of gratitude and mindfulness can bring a sense of peace and joy.

Conclusion: Managing chronic pain during the holiday season requires intentional self-care, stress management, and setting realistic expectations. By prioritising your well-being, planning and pacing yourself, managing stress, seeking support, and practising gratitude and mindfulness, you can navigate the festivities with greater ease and enjoyment. Remember, it’s okay to prioritise your health and make choices that best support your pain management. Embrace the moments of joy and connection, and allow yourself to fully experience the spirit of the holidays.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

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