Holiday Fatigue

For many of us, Fatigue is a huge issue. On any normal day, the basic errands and housework can be daunting, especially if you throw a job and child-rearing into the mix. Likewise, preparing for the holidays – baking, cleaning, shopping, decorating, entertaining – can be unusually tiring. Not to mention working overtime to pay for the gifts and entertaining.

So what happens when you combine the usual everyday routine with the hectic holiday chaos? For a healthy person, it can be overwhelming. For someone with ET-induced pain and fatigue, it can be completely debilitating.

Sometimes it feels like we just can’t get ahead. If we have a good day, we are bound to have a bad day the next. And because we are used to feeling tired and sore, we often overdo it when we have a little extra energy. It’s easy to get frustrated with the limitations we find ourselves with, and those frustrations often make us push ourselves too hard.

I pushed myself too hard at Thanksgiving. I should have known better. It was only a few weeks earlier that I had landed myself in the hospital with heart-attack symptoms (but, thankfully, no heart attack). How did that happen? Well, I have to admit that I’d been pushing myself, physically, pretty hard for about 6 weeks prior. Why? I’d decided to ‘get moving’, to get in better shape, thinking I could deal with the ET better that way. And I was probably right. The problem was that I did start to feel a little better, so I pushed a little harder.  And harder.  And set crazy goals for myself.  And the next thing I knew, my body cried ‘uncle’.  What I should have done was be happy with the baby steps.  But no, when I found I could walk, I wanted to run.  And I ran myself into the ground.

So did I learn?  Nope.  I had claimed Thanksgiving dinner again this year, and I decided it would be better than last year.  Everything homemade, full appetizers for several hours beforehand, and I would do it all myself.  Thankfully, when I started to stumble, my husband and daughters stepped in and helped with the cleaning and baking.  By stumble, I mean I suddenly realized I was sitting down every 20 minutes or so to rest in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.  Dinner went very well.  We had company for a total of about 8 hours.  I kept the food and drink coming, and everyone enjoyed themselves.  But, about 4 hours into the evening, my body called it quits.  I suddenly felt like I had sand bags for feet, and I could barely stand.  The pain in my bones and joints was excruciating.  I pasted a fake smile on my face and looked to my husband for help.  He finished the hosting duties for me.

Well, I hope to do a small get-together around Christmas.  Knowing me, I’ll try to do more than necessary.  But this time, I did learn.  And I’ve spent some time thinking about what I’ve done in the past to compensate for the fatigue.  Those methods, along with recognizing my mistakes from Thanksgiving, will make this holiday a lot smoother.

I know I’m not alone with this.  I know many of you will be entertaining as well, and many of you will overdo it, too.  I hope that some of these suggestions will help you to make your holiday a little more bearable, and a little safer for you.

1. Plan AheadIt’s the beginning of December.  No, don’t panic, listen: It’s the beginning of December.  That’s plenty of time.  Sit down and make a list of everything you need to accomplish.  (see, what many of you don’t know is that I am bona fide OCD, so list making is a passion of mine :D)  Divide it up into several lists, and I mean get specific. ‘Clean the House’?  No.  ‘Vacuum’.  ‘Dust’.  ‘Clean the baseboards’.  ‘Scrub the bathroom tile’.  See?  Specific.  That way you can assign each task an amount of time.

2. Give Yourself Plenty of TimeDon’t forget why you are making these lists.  If you think a task will take an hour, give yourself two.  My Thanksgiving cleaning list looked something like this: ‘Monday – Family Room.  Tuesday – Bathroom.’  Etc.  Then, under each day I listed the specific tasks.  Not only was I making sure I allowed time for every little task, but I limited myself to one room a day.  That was way more time than I should have needed, but that’s the point.

3. ScheduleMake a schedule.   Decide which days you will clean, and which days you will shop.  Organize your cooking schedule.  Make days for prepping (anything that can be chopped or mixed ahead of time), and days for baking things like cookies or rolls that can be frozen and warmed later.  Buy a warming tray so that on the big day you can take more time to cook, and cook less things at a time, but still keep them warm until serving.  And here is the most important thing: Stick to your schedule!  If you are having a good day, don’t be tempted to bump things up from another day’s list.  Stick to what you had planned for that day, and save the energy for tomorrow.  Otherwise, you will get yourself into trouble.

Oh, wait, another ‘most important thing’!  Schedule a nap every day.  Seriously.

4. Use Your ResourcesAsk for help.  It’s okay, really ;).  Give your husband the grocery list.  Ask Mom, or Mom-in-Law, to make a side dish.  If you really, really have trouble asking for help, hire help.  For some odd reason, sometimes it makes a difference if you are paying someone rather than asking for their help.  Don’t ask me why, I didn’t say it made sense.  The kids’ babysitter?  Bet she’d take a few bucks to wrap presents.  Or run the vacuum and set the table in the couple hours before company is due.

5. Shop OnlineYou know what I was doing on Black Friday, at 4 am, while it was snowing and all those folks were lined up outside of stores, hoping to grab certain sale items before the store ran out?  Sleeping. Sometime around noon, still in my pajamas, hair unbrushed, cup of coffee in hand, I got online and found the same deals, free shipping, and no ‘out of stock’ issues.  I even got some extra, money-saving, online promos.  There is still time to shop online and get your purchases before Christmas without having to pay extra for faster shipping.  It is far less stressful…no crowds, no traffic, no cold, no ‘out of stock’ signs.  And with all that extra time, take a nap :).

6. Rest your mindThe key to most of these suggestions isn’t just the fact that they will keep you from getting physically run down.  I know I’m not the only one who has noticed that the more stressed I get, the more fatigued I get.  Mental fatigue leads to physical fatigue.  So, suggestions like scheduling, avoiding crowds and traffic and doing less at a time help because they reduce stress.  That will, in the long run, give you more physical energy to handle the things you need to accomplish.

7.  SimplicityDon’t forget the real reason why you are getting together with friends and family – to be with friends and family!  You don’t need a Martha Stewart-esque tablescape and a 5 course dinner.  Everyone is there to spend time together, and that includes you.  If you are stuck in the kitchen, how are you enjoying the day?  Simple food is often the most delicious, anyway, and your guests would rather have you enjoying it with them.  Thanks for the reminder, Gloria!

8. Give as a groupAnother great suggestion from Gloria will help to reduce the stress associated with trying to find the perfect gift for everyone and dealing with holiday traffic and crowds.  Talk to your family about choosing charities to donate to in lieu of gifts.  Each individual or family could choose a different charity, or the entire group could decide on the same one.  The money that would otherwise be spent on gifts would instead be given as a donation, which not only reduces stress, but is just a wonderful act in itself.  Another option for gift-related stress reduction is to decide with your family to draw names, so you have one person to shop for, rather than several.

I’m sure there are many more helpful suggestions.  Tell me what they are.  How do you keep from getting even more overwhelmed during the holidays?  I’ll add them to the list, and I’ll be grateful to put them to use, too :).


~ by julie70 on December 7, 2010.

7 Responses to “Holiday Fatigue”

  1. Hi Julie,

    I came to your blog via WEGO Health and your comment on the blog prompts post. I don’t know anything about your health condition, so please forgive my ignorance. I live with fibromyalgia and I found that I relate a lot with this post!

    I struggle so much to keep up with today, so the holidays or a lot of extra events planned closely together really throw me. I managed through Thanksgiving pretty well this year, because my sister-in-law hosted and we shared the responsibilities. I will be having Christmas at my house and I am scared to death!

    If I could, I would hire someone to do everything so that I could work on the basics, and the important stuff, like family time (would love to take time to bake cookies with the kids this year), keeping up with my job and getting in the much needed exercise and even showers (sometimes harder than it should be).

    So, what will I do? I will start planning now and work to keep myself paced. Thank you for your great tips and for sharing!

    • Hi Amy 🙂
      Thank you for coming by, and for commenting. I hope my suggestions will make this season easier, and more enjoyable, for you. Please let me know how it works out.
      Merry Christmas!


  2. I have learned many of these lessons the hard way as well. A few years ago I started cutting things out, make it simple and no one has complained. This Thanksgiving our dinner was…Wine with cheese, fruit and crackers to start. Turkey cooked in the Webber outside by my husband (no stuffing). I made the yams and mashed potatoes the day before. Baked apple and pumpkin pies in the AM, steamed some carrots and snap peas and made the gravy at the last min. Daughter set the table. No stress for me and I even enjoyed the meal for the first time in many years. I have found that most people don’t need all the trimmings and get joy from the fact that we can join in and have a good time as well.

    • That’s a great point, Gloria! In fact, I think I’ll make that #7 on the list. Thanks for the reminder…it’s very easy to forget these days in our commercial, ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ society.


      • Julie, I have one more but it is harder because it’s Christmas so may not be practical for those with small children. I’m 60 and had my children 6 years apart they are no 32, 26 and the youngest will be 20 this month. When the reached 6th grade it was time to give them the sad news about Santa. They all did pretty well the the biggest surprise was my baby almost 12 at the time she had just watched a kids news story on Nickelodeon about AIDS in africa then saw a story about The Heifer Project. She came running out of her room and declared that she felt we had enough stuff and wondered if instead of presents we send a Cow to someone who needed it. I pondered and went to the rest of the family and low and behold they agreed. Then extended family was told and we asked that they take the $’s and donate themselves or spend what they had budgeted for our family and spend it on themselves. Sent donation cards to our clients and friends with Cards. No shopping…now stress and we had the best Christmas ever.

      • Another great idea :). Thanks, Gloria!

  3. I am so sorry that I have not responded earlier to your message, but I just now read it…..I read what you wrote and I could have easily written it myself! I know that probably sounds strange, but so little is known about this illness…and thus so many people just don’t connect to the problems people with ET have.

    I hope your New Year is better than you could have ever hoped. God bless.

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