I have decided to get back to my original blog plan to keep myself organized and on track. With the holidays coming and my ardent desire to maintain this blog I need something to keep me motivated and on track!
So today it is the holidays and lupus. The holidays are stressful and there is no way around that. As I get older and live with lupus longer I am realizing that I can't ignore lupus as much as I would like to. Those of you who read my blog on a regular basis have probably figured out that I love to have people at the house - big family dinners, parties for the kids. And I love to cook. But the party we had for Halloween and Thanksgiving dinner reminded me that I can no longer go and go and go and go without there being consequences. Those consequences include massive lupus fog, headaches, joint-pain and exhaustion.
So I did some research on lupus and stress. I began with my go to webpage for lupus information, The Lupus Foundation of America. They have their own blog which has a list of other "lupus" blogs. Then I googled "Lupus and Holiday Stress." And while I should have been grading final papers I read.
Some of the information is frustrating (as lupus in general is frustrating). Because much of lupus is nonspecific, in the sense that people who have lupus react differently to having lupus. Some people have severe skin reactions, some have lung involvement, some have kidney involvement, some have joint-pain, some have fibromyalgia, some have eye problems, some can't work due to exhaustion, some work two jobs .... I think you get my point.
So the list of ways that stress can impact lupus also is long and nonspecific: "These symptoms include poor or inadequate sleep (insomnia), anxiety, depression, panic attacks, headaches, poor concentration, muscle aches, skin inflammation (eczema), inflammation of the joints (arthritis), irritable bowel syndrome (spastic colitis), constipation and diarrhea, high blood pressure (hypertension), certain types of stomach ulcers, asthma attacks, decreased sex drive, and even some cancer. Any of these symptoms, or any combination of them, can affect a person who is suffering from stress."
But the general consensus seems to be that stress in lupus patients can cause a lupus flare (periods where symptoms of lupus worsen), can cause some symptoms of lupus that a patient does not normally have, and is basically not a good thing for lupus patients to experience.
So then my research continued to how one handles the holidays and lessens stress if you have lupus. This too was frustrating. I learned for the first time a phrase: the 4 As - Avoid, Alter, Accept & Adapt.
- Avoid - stay away from situations that cause you stress by planning ahead, avoid people who bother you, learn to say no, prioritize you "to-do" list so you know which things you can not do.
- Alter - ask others (politely) to change their behaviors that cause you stress, communicate your feelings openly, manage your time better, state your limits in advance so people don't expect more of you.
- Accept - Talk with someone about your stress, forgive others and forgive yourself because it takes energy to be angry, practice positive self-talk, learn from your mistakes.
- Adapt - adjust your standards (do you expect too much from yourself), stop gloomy thoughts immediately, reframe your situation, adopt a mantra ("I can do this"), make a list of things that bring you joy, look at the big picture.
So ok, this is a reasonable list. It is logical and it makes sense. The list is reasonable but often not realistic. Don't get me wrong - I actually do a lot of these things already and had no idea they were on a 4 As list - again because these are logical things to do and people with a chronic illness just do them because it is the only way to survive. But these are really good things we can do regularly - it changes when the holidays are here, when there are expectations of things you need to do for children, family, work, friends, etc.
Most of these expectations we place on ourselves. Our children do not come right out and say to us "I want a perfect Christmas mommy." Our friends do not sit us down and say "I demand a spectacular holiday dinner at your house - complete with homemade desserts and a dozen kind of cookies." But, Better Homes and Gardens creates those expectations. Martha Stewart creates those expectations.
So what have I learned in my quest for a stress free holiday -
- Plan ahead
- Forgive yourself
- Ask for help
- Be realistic
- Set reasonable expectations
I don't know if it will work .... but if all this fails it is so important to remember the one thing that will reduce stress no matter what time of year it is .... laughter is the best medicine! And the holidays are full of laughter .... don't ever forget that in the end this is what the holidays are all about - lupus fog or not!