Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Five Ways to Be Festive When You Don't Feel Well

“Don’t cry on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God— it is a time to celebrate with a hearty meal and to send presents to those in need, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:9-10

I thought this year would be different. It would be the year I would have the energy for all I wanted to do, rather than creeping along with a companion of constant fatigue. The year I would be able to enjoy every holiday moment with a smile on my face, rather than feeling I was running an endurance race, wincing with every step. The year I would forget about my chronic illness and celebrate the Christmas season like a “normal” person.

Alas, it is not.

Living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is often described like being on a roller coaster. While getting on a DMARD (disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug) this past year has definitely given me the gifts of more energy and less pain overall (thus the reason for my hopeful outlook towards the holidays), it comes with one teeny tiny drawback: a lowered immune system.  It keeps my body from attacking itself constantly over nothing (the very definition of an autoimmune disease), but when a real threat – aka a cold, flu bug, or any other type of illness – comes around, I don’t have what it takes to fight it off very well.

So here it is, the holiday season, and I’m sick. I had a fabulous weekend. I dressed to the nines for a Christmas party, we put up our outside lights, and I even entertained thoughts of holiday baking. Then last night, it hit. Aches. Chills. Fatigue so extreme that the dinner I had planned to cook for my family was scrapped in favor of microwaved packaged meals and breakfast cereal, and I was in bed by 7:45. So much for putting up the Christmas tree.

I know whatever is ailing me isn’t serious. It’s my faulty immune system going into what’s called a “flare.” Maybe it’s a delayed reaction to the flu shot I got last week. Perhaps I have picked up my daughter’s cold. My symptoms don’t warrant going to the doctor. The over-the-counter cough medicine is working, and tiny doses of lemon sorbet and lactose-free ice cream are soothing my scratchy throat. But I still don’t feel well. A part of me would like to hide away for the rest of the holiday season, while another part wants to scream “but it’s Christmas!!”

So what is there to do?

If you’re like me and have a chronic illness, or perhaps you’ve just got the holiday blues or a case of the flu, you need to know this: we have a choice. We can focus on what pains us, or we can try and make the best of a bad situation. Even though I don’t feel very festive right now, I refuse to let the holidays go by without me! So here are some ideas that perhaps we can try together:

Make Merry with Music
I have a confession to make: I have been known to pull out my Christmas music CDs in July … and any other time of the year.

Whether it’s nativity-focused hymns that warm the soul or jolly songs about Santa Claus, Christmas music has a way of making us feel the holiday spirit. It can bring back favorite childhood memories or just provide a backdrop of happy tunes for while we work. And, scientifically, it is proven to make us feel better! Studies have shown that listening to upbeat music can boost your mood, which in turn can make you physically healthier. This isn’t a new idea, either. In Psalm 28:7, David says “My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him (the Lord).” So let’s get this holiday party started by turning on the tunes!

Don A Santa Hat
Did you know that in the Bible, there was an instance where someone who was going through loss was actually commanded by God to put on a hat, in order to hide his grief? Whereas taking off his hat would have been an appropriate way for him to publicly demonstrate his mourning, God wanted Ezekiel to show the people that he was OK, and his way of doing that was to leave his hat on. These days, most people don’t wear hats that they would need to “leave on” so the best alternative is for us to find a hat to put on!

When we don’t feel like putting on a happy face, a good way to “fake it ‘til you make it” is to put on a Santa hat, or any other festive headgear. Since it’s a traditional sign of merriment – and you have to admit, we all look a little cuter or funnier in it – people are apt to see you in a happier light. And as they offer their smiles and giggles (depending on exactly WHAT you’re wearing on your head), you’ll end up feeling better too.

If your blue feelings get the best of you when you’re alone, grab that hat and a mirror or selfie stick! With a few funny faces, I guarantee you’ll be able to muster up a grin or two, even if you’re just hanging out on the couch.

Accessorize with Shiny Objects
Confession number two: I have been known to leave my Christmas tree up waaaay past New Years! Not only does the task of putting it all away feel a little overwhelming, but when all of the glittering glass balls are removed from my living room, it just feels … plain.

Conversely, decorating the house for Christmas should have the opposite effect, right? Right. There is something about those sparkly Christmas ornaments that dresses up a house like nothing else.

But wait, I know what you’re thinking. You’re tired. You’re sick. You have no energy for putting up a Christmas tree, much less the gazillion other decorations there in your attic (which you may or may not be able to get down, depending on your physical condition).

Here’s a tip: A little goes a long way. A handful of gathered pine cones from the back yard in a basket with a ribbon bow makes a beautiful holiday arrangement. Or place some shiny metallic balls in a glass vase or silver bowl. You can even use a potted house plant for a Christmas tree! Hang a few small ornaments on its branches, perhaps add a bow on top, and voila! When it comes to holiday decorating, the “bigger is better” philosophy is not always the case.

Decorate Your Plate
For many people, especially those with chronic illnesses, the idea of preparing a big holiday “feast” or spending hours in the kitchen baking Christmas cookies is intimidating. And if we came from families with these holiday traditions, this can be an especially difficult part of the holidays for us. Trying to keep up may be physically impossible, whereas not doing it may create a sense of guilt.

Once again, the answer is not trying to do it ALL. This past Thanksgiving, we went to Honeybaked Ham for a turkey. Having an already cooked bird – along with canned cranberry sauce and fresh-frozen green beans that could be micro-steamed – took a lot of the legwork out of preparing the holiday meal. We also picked up some themed paper plates and napkins for dessert, which not only added a festive feel to the meal, but reduced the clean-up time.

Another trick, for anytime during the holidays, is to add a little décor to what’s already on your plate. Garnish a piece of purchased cheesecake with cranberries frosted with sugar. Use pomegranate seeds to add a touch of red to a green salad. Use holiday candy sprinkles to dress up store-bought cupcakes and ice cream. Get creative and have fun!

Find Your Inspiration
All of us are inspired in different ways. Seeing the beauty of God’s creation in nature, or in the wonder of a child. Lending a helping hand. Giving to charity. Lighting a candle. Sending a card. Spending time in the Word. Meditating on His love. Even watching movies that embody the Christmas spirit can lift our moods and encourage us to find joy in the holiday season.

For my family, worshiping together keeps us focused on the reason for the season, while hunting daily for our Elf on a Shelf keeps the love and laughter flowing.

Think about what inspires you. What draws you closer to others and closer to God during the holidays? What can you do today to amplify God’s gifts of joy, hope and peace in your own life or in the lives of others? Sometimes a tiny step is all it takes.

What are some things you do to shake off the holiday blues and to add sparkle to your Christmas season? Do you have specific coping strategies for when you’re not feeling up to doing all you’d like to?

Five Ways to Be Festive When You Don't Feel Well originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp,, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday.

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  1. Hi Linda,
    Just wanted to visit you back :) after you left a kind comment on my blog. I'm so sorry that you are sick. I love the hat idea! Your elf pic made me think of yesterday when my son got in the car as he was talking to his teacher. He said, "Yeah, I don't know it's just really weird." I asked him what's weird? He said that our elf never moves or does silly things." Gulp. Yep..half the time we forget to move "Fletcher". These times I just have to laugh it off and say, "Oh well, I'll try again to remember tomorrow." I've been working on "stilling my mind before God" when things get overwhelmingly busy! Merry Christmas Linda! I pray that you can heal quickly!

    1. Thank you, Valerie! Funny, our elf moves by himself! Perhaps Fletch is working on being "still before God" with you. ;-)

  2. Oh, Linda, I pray healing comes quickly. But I love your ideas on finding joy this Christmas season. And whether it's illness or filled-up schedules giving ourselves grace is always a good idea. Thank you, friend, for sharing your heart at #IntentionalTuesday. : )

    1. Thank you so much, Crystal. I appreciate the well wishes and hope you have a most joyful Christmas!

  3. I love this Linda. My sentiments exactly.I just blogged on a similar theme. God bless and Happy Christmas Sam xx

    1. Merry Christmas to you, Sam! I saw your blog post and oh my, you've had a year! I admire your spirit despite it all, though! It reminds me of a woman I met yesterday at my rheumy's office, who had Christmas lights strung on her walker! She was a great inspiration to me, as are you. Thanks so much for stopping by. God bless!