The week before Christmas in my home is filled with gift wrapping, cookie baking, dogs barking, people talking (loudly)… On a normal day, we feel the pain in the stiff neck, the backache, the headache, (the list could go on). When we are surrounded by stressors, they can take a toll on a person, especially a chronic pain patient, so it’s important that we “just take a minute” when it’s needed.

Christine Miserandino created a theory called The Spoon Theory as she struggled to explain her chronic pain (from Lupus) to a friend. The theory basically goes like this. Every day we get twelve spoons. Every activity we do uses a spoon or more. For example, a shower may use three spoons, leaving us only nine for the rest of the day. During this time of year, we have to be careful how we use our spoons, so we aren’t trying to borrow spoons from the next day/week, because the old adage is true… what we do today, we pay for tomorrow.

I’m learning to let go of things that I simply can’t do anymore or ask for help when it’s available. If you have family, ask for help and put them to work. Let them wrap the gifts or do the cookies. Allow them to help. I’m not very good at that. I know how I like my stuff done, but I’m learning to be gracious even if it’s not all ‘my way.’ I saw a meme the other day that said, “the first Christmas wasn’t perfect so it’s okay if yours isn’t either.” There are no truer words.

Many of us struggle with sensory overload. We can’t deal with loud noises, flickering lights, crowded places, etc. I have chronic tinnitus. It’s always there. So, when it gets too loud for me – when people are over-talking each other, the TV is blaring, grand-kids are running, and the dogs are barking – I excuse myself and I go to the bathroom and take a few minutes to just ‘be.’ They really will not follow ya to the bathroom, so take your moment and breathe, and allow peace to come in. Do that as many times as you need to. I promise it makes a difference. If you are asked, just say, “Well, I have to do what I got to do,” and let that be that.

I hear many times of families who just aren’t very understanding or supportive. We will not convince them in one visit. Michelle Cole wrote an amazing article called Dear Family. It’s on how to tell families and friends what we need from them. I would encourage all to read that. Should there be that one family member who just starts on how yoga helps or how we aren’t praying enough, whatever their “answer” is for our issues, as much as we would like to come back at them, don’t! It’s not the time, and it’s not worth the spoons, so for their sake and the sake of others there (and for your sanity), just let it go. We know the truth. We know some will never understand no matter what, because honestly unless it happens to them, they can’t know. Enjoy your day no matter the naysayers.

Pace yourselves. Do a little each day. Epsom salts baths are a Godsend for me because they help tired sore muscles and joints. If your body says to ‘lay down,’ listen. Our bodies dictate what we need and we have to be mindful. Remember, stress exacerbates our symptoms. As best you can, try to be as stress-free as possible. I know it’s hard. I really do, but none of us need or want a flare (or to spend the next week in bed). Remember, if you can’t do anything (if you can’t do the first cookie, wrap the first gift, buy the first gift), that is okay too! It really is! Above all, give yourself grace! Oftentimes, we extend grace to others but leave ourselves out. Don’t do that! Give yourself grace and while you’re at it, give yourself a little holiday hug!

I pray we all have the best Christmas, remembering why it’s celebrated in the first place. As the admin of our Chiari Prayer Group, my prayer is “May God bless you and keep you. May The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace!” (Numbers 6:24-26)