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The National Fibromyalgia Awareness Campaign’s

Holiday Survival Guide:
Part 1: How to Fight Fatigue and Avoid the Holiday Blues

by Lisa Lorden

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or another holiday at this time of year, "Tis the season to be jolly..." may ultimately be a paradox for those with Fibromyalgia or any chronic illness. What should be a time filled with joy and celebration is often one of loss and sadness for those who live with debilitating illness.  Eugene Kennedy, author of The Pain of Being Human, wrote "Some of man's darkest hours black out the skies he feels should be the brightest."

No matter what the time of year, having FM means not being able to do all that we once could, or all that we'd like to do. For many of us, we experience this loss anew around the holidays, when everyone appears to be hustling and bustling and enjoying a perfect holiday.  However, the fact is that for most people, the holidays aren't so perfect.  The Yale Depression Research Clinic claims that feeling "blue" around the holidays is a "universal and normal" experience.  Many people feel disappointed when their expectations of the holidays don't meet the picture they have in their minds, nor the one portrayed in the movies or on television.  For FM sufferers, this disparity may be exaggerated, when we compare our current circumstances to holidays past.

In addition to the psychological factors that contribute to holiday blues, there are often financial factors.  The holiday season usually brings with it an extra financial burden.  With all the gifts to buy and activities to attend, you may find that you simply can't afford to do all that you'd like.

But probably the most difficult toll of the holidays on FM sufferers is the physical burden.  While the added pressures of the holiday season can be difficult for anyone, imagine the stress and fatigue that is created when someone who has difficulty managing even every day tasks tries to take on all the added activities of creating a perfect holiday for themselves or their families.  With all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, decorating, socializing, gift-giving, and celebrating, it's no wonder that those living with chronic illness have a particularly difficult time managing it all.  The extra activities and responsibilities, and the stress that typically goes along with them, are bound to cause an increase in symptoms, which in turn causes feelings of regret and guilt, which only makes us feel worse--a vicious cycle.

There are strategies that can help you cope with the holidays--both physically and emotionally--and can help minimize the cost to your health and well-being now and in the New Year.