The Arthritis Newsletter

Winter 2012

Enjoying the Holidays!


Pain, fatigue, depression, and many other arthritis symptoms can take the joy out of the holidays! Add to this a heavily-scheduled holiday calendar, family visits and related obligations, shopping, wrapping gifts, decorating, baking, and cooking and you have a recipe for an arthritis flare of Hurricane Sandy dimensions!! The Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) members have a few suggestions to help you cope with the challenges of the holidays, but be prepared to “board up a few windows” and do some sensible downsizing of activities too!


  • Make a list! We are often unaware of how many obligations we face over the holidays until it is too late and our bodies collapse from fatigue. To avoid this happening to you, take the time to write a to-do list. On this list, include all the events you are scheduled to attend, any obligations related to attending those events, whether they are shopping for gifts, shopping for groceries, cleaning, decorating, baking, cooking, and entertaining. WHEW!

    Once your list is complete, you can plan your activities ahead of time and omit or simplify lower priority actions and tasks — depending on your own personal health challenges. Accept your limitations and exercise your ability to delegate tasks to others. People are invariably delighted to help. Remember: amazing is the power of a big smile and a sense of humour.

  • Send your regrets! Has worrying about the number of events you have planned to attend during the holidays caused you anxiety? Are you concerned that holiday commitments may bring on an arthritis flare? If so, then take a look at your calendar and consider rescheduling.

    Keep the amount of entertaining you do over the holiday season to a minimum. There are 50 more weeks in the year where you can have people in for dinner – think Valentine’s Day. One of our CAB members cancelled a friend’s X-mass party invitation and, instead, scheduled a get together in January. “I sent my regrets with an invitation for a dinner in January; my girlfriend understood and we had a great visit in January discussing our holiday adventures.

  • Repeat after me … “NO!” It is difficult to refuse an invitation to attend a holiday party; it is equally difficult to refuse a request for help from a friend, family member, church group, etc. If you want to take pleasure in the holidays, you must learn to say NO! If saying no is too difficult for you, begin by asking for time to assess your schedule. Then take the time to review your calendar and your to-do list; and say “no” if the added commitment will jeopardize your wellbeing! Enjoying the holidays should be your top priority!
  • KISS – Keep It Simple Silly! The most daunting challenge to holiday preparation and celebration, particularly for those who enjoy doing things themselves, is to accept and enjoy making things simple. Here’s how you can simplify holiday responsibilities:
    • Formal dinner parties can be a lot of work. Instead, invite guests for a dessert/appetizer evening. Lunch or brunch is a fabulous substitute for dinner. If your arthritis has you exhausted by evening, host a lunch or brunch. Or, better yet, organize a luncheon at a restaurant.
    • A house filled with Christmas decorations can be festive, but so can a simply decorated room … what makes a room special are not holiday trappings and tinsel but the people who gather there – the family and friends who meet to enjoy the season’s festivities … enjoy more with less.
    • Host a (low-key) tree-decorating get-together. Serve store-bought cookies with eggnog and invite family and friends over to help you decorate!
    • Inexpensive gift bags purchased from the dollar store are an easy alternative to wrapping gifts.
    • Take the hard work out of cleaning by hiring a cleaning company. Remember to reserve as soon as possible; there is much demand for this service over the holidays.
    • Ask a high school or university student to help you clean the house; they will appreciate the money.
  • “Breakup” with family traditions – you don’t have to do it all! If you have traditionally hosted the Christmas dinner or baked most of the family’s Christmas goodies and found yourself exhausted after the holidays, it is time for a change. Talk to your family and tell them you are breaking with tradition, and explain why. Here are a few changes CAB members have made that you may find helpful:
    • Write a list of cooking tasks and delegate those tasks
    • Host a buffet-style dinner where everyone contributes
    • Encourage family and friends to share the purchase, preparation and making of holiday meals.  Simplify the menu and share the knowledge of your expertise.  Do you really need all those appetizers?
    • Cook dishes that can be frozen ahead to save time on Christmas day
    • Ask someone else to host the family event this year.
    • Consider a cookie exchange with family members and friends. Have each participant bake a large batch of his/her favourite cookie. Then have everyone gather for coffee and divide each batch amongst the participants.
    • Instead of baking in large quantities make smaller batches. Your family and friends may groan, but their waistlines will thank you after the holidays.
    • Buy baked goods from local bakeries or grocery stores.
    • Instead of a baking marathon, spread it out over time and enjoy the moment of the preparation by inviting a friend or family member to help. Send each helper home with a lovely plate of baked goods.
  • Take the “pain” out of holiday shopping! It’s hugely satisfying to give someone you care about the perfect gift. Planning is key (remember, failing to plan is planning to fail). Make a list. On the list include a first choice and a second choice for each person; this will help you avoid coming home empty-handed. Gift suggestions:
    • Try to maximize the acquisition of easy but flexible gifts—book vouchers, movie coupons, meal and entertainment vouchers etc. (cash too, is often welcome!!).
    • Give gift certificates from the recipient’s favourite stores, not only are they easy to wrap, recipients will have fun after the holidays picking out exactly what they want.

    Shopping can be hard on the joints, so divide the task. One CAB member makes a separate list for ladies and men. She shops for the ladies’ gifts on one trip and for the men’s gifts on another trip. When possible, don’t venture out into the cold before you have called the stores to check on the availability of items. Make shopping easier by:

    • Avoiding the traffic and crowds by shopping online where possible. Check delivery dates to ensure your gift will be delivered on time. If you find the perfect gift online but it can’t be delivered before Christmas, print an online photo of the item and slip it and the delivery date in a gift bag.
    • If you have a large circle of friends or family to buy for, have adults draw a name and buy a present only for the person whose name they’ve drawn. Remember to set a price limit. Some families have the person write his/her name on a piece of paper along with a few gift suggestions!
    • Leave your coat and boots in the trunk of the car, put on a comfortable pair of shoes and carry a light purse. Whenever possible, bring a shopping cart for parcels.
  • Maintain healthy habits! Keep in mind that taking care of your health through good nutrition, restorative rest, and invigorating exercise all constitute excellent ways to allow you—- not only to “survive” the holidays— but to extract a maximum measure of happiness and pleasure from one of the most joyous times of the year!!!


Happy Holidays!

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