For many individuals living with a disability the thought of the holidays can just be too much to deal with. We want the Christmas season to be a happy time where we are able to connect with friends and family creating joyful memories, but that is sometimes easier said than done. It may be because of an issue that you are facing right now or memories of the past. It may be a physical issue that keeps you from doing the things you always like doing during the season. It may be depression or anxiety that makes the thought of interacting with friends and family overwhelming. Every person is different and will have their own reasons for these feelings. With a little work and a lot of patience with yourself you can work up having the enjoyable holiday season that you want.
The first thing you have to do is give yourself a break. The most important thing I have learned in dealing with a disability is that you can not expect everything to go perfectly according to your plans…it will not happen. One of my very wise doctors gave me a sign that said, “An exacerbation should never be taken as a failure or as evidence of your inability to manage the condition. It is a challenge to self-management, not the end of it.” If things don’t happen when you plan or as well as you plan tell yourself it is ok. You may just need to break your plans down into smaller bits. If you want to decorate your home for the holidays and think it needs to get done all in one day stop and ask yourself if that is realistic. Personally, that was not a realistic expectation of myself before I developed my disability; there is no way I am going to be able to do it now. If you want to entertain friends and family at your home maybe it is better to have a couple of small get togethers with four or five people at a time instead of one large gathering of 20 or more people.
Do not overwhelm yourself with too much at once or things too close together. If you are dealing with a disability I am sure you have had to learn that doing this is a sure fire way to set yourself up. If you are not able to do things at that level normally then why would you expect to be able to do it just because it is December. The Spirit of the Holidays is not going to wave a bough of holly over your head and grant you a holiday reprieve from your condition. This is real life, not a Disney movie. You can do more than you normally do and push yourself a little farther, but you have to know your limits and stick to them. You are the one who knows your body and mind, and only you can be the judge of what is too much. As long as you remain realistic you can have your fun, but if you are not realistic and responsible you run the risk of pushing yourself too far and you will have to pay the price. If you decide that the price is worth paying then go for it, but remember the next day that you made that choice and don’t beat yourself up. You did not fail because you pushed yourself too far, you were successful in pushing yourself too far. There is a difference.
This year I have started my build up to the holiday season by putting up my tree. I have not done it for a few years because I could not get myself in a mindset that would allow me to gear up for the holiday season. I decided that this year was going to be different. I am taking the lessons that I have learned for living with my disability in my daily life and am applying them to the holidays. The only difference between daily life and the holidays is the setting we are doing things in. If I can manage my condition in an everyday setting there is no reason why I can’t do it during the holidays. If I overestimate what I can do and things don’t go according to my plans, no big deal. I have just learned a new limit and the more I learn the better plans I can make in the future. I think my next step in getting myself into the mood for the holidays will be mailing out Christmas cards. If you have any strategies that work for you please share them I would love to hear them.