Helping Friends and Family with Chronic Pain Enjoy the Holidays
For the average American, preparations for the perfect holiday can be quite stressful. For those living with chronic pain, the demands of the holiday season, coupled with the shorter days and colder weather, can bring on feelings of anxiety, dread, and depression.
An invisible fallout for people living with chronic pain is how it impacts relationships with families, friends and the community. We’ve seen many marriages and partnerships end due to one of the partners living with an under-treated or mistreated chronic pain condition. Sometimes family members and significant others develop their own healthcare problems while trying to help someone they love cope with chronic pain.
Family and significant others often get burned out, or they become frustrated and resentful towards the person living with chronic pain. A spouse can become just as hopeless and helpless as their family member who is suffering with pain and may even develop a severe depression or sleep problem. This is often amplified during the Holiday Season.
According to the American Pain Foundation, 77% of people living with chronic pain report feeling symptoms of depression even without the additional stresses of the holiday season. This raises the question, “How can you help your loved one their maximize enjoyment of the holiday season in the face of chronic pain?” Below is the perfect G.I.F.T. for those who have a loved one that is living from chronic pain. But remember, you need to take care of yourself first before being able to adequately help your loved one.
Related: If you are the one living with chronic pain, be sure to check out Part One of this article, Enjoying the Holidays with Chronic Pain.
Get To Understand And Appreciate Limitations. Everyone has their work cut out for them during the holidays. Chronic pain, however, can impact an individual’s ability to travel, decorate, shop, bake, attend parties and family gatherings, as well as spiritual/religious ceremonies. These holiday rituals are at the core of the holiday season and being unable to participate in these events can create a disconnect and potential resentment toward the holiday season.
Start a conversation with your loved one to gain a better understanding of what their limitations are. Be sure to find out what events or activities are the most important for them to be included in so you can ensure their participation in those events. The more you know about their condition, limitations, and best ways for managing pain, both you and your loved one will feel a greater sense of empowerment around accomplishing holiday tasks and keeping your commitments.
Inspire Positivity Staying positive can be downright difficult for someone living with a chronic condition – it can also be challenging for their family and friends. Often times, your loved one may feel as if the world is passing by without missing a beat while they are confined by their limitations. Connect with them, and help them process their thoughts and emotions regarding their limitations. Help them find the silver lining in every situation to perpetuate feelings of positivity; and above all, let them know they are loved and supported.
If you know they have a desire to participate in holiday traditions around the house or within the community, help them satisfy their need to contribute. People feel their best when they feel needed, it is human nature. The Dalai Lama was featured in a New York Times Op-Ed piece titled Behind Our Anxiety, The Fear of Being Uneeded. Within the article he states…
“Being ‘needed’ does not entail selfish pride or unhealthy attachment to the worldy esteem of others. Rather, it consists of a natural human hunger to serve our fellow men and women. As the 13th-century Buddhist sages taught, ‘If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way’”
Support their efforts of involvement, and extend an invitation for them to confide in you if a situation becomes too difficult to continue. If this becomes the case, bring peace and positivity back into the situation by practicing self help and coping techniques.
Family Time Psychological torment is as real as the pain for those living with chronic pain. The low energy associated with chronic pain may tempt someone to sleep the season away. Chronic pain compounded with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorders) may result in your loved one feeling social withdrawal, trouble sleeping or oversleeping, tiredness and low-energy, as well as feeling agitated or depressed. Bring other members up to speed and encourage them to appreciate the circumstances that surround your loved one.
Getting an individual out of the “chronic pain trance” is much easier if they are engaging with others and shifting environments. During family time, encourage fun physical activity as long as they follow their activity pacing plan. Take short walks, decorate the tree together, sing carols to neighbors, and any other form of entertainment that involves light physical activity. However, it is important to have these events scheduled in advance with your loved one. They will be more willing and capable of participating if they are pacing their activities appropriately. This prevents overexertion, and ends each activity on a positive note. They just need to do something – Not Everything!
Timing Is Key As stated above, activity pacing is an effective strategy for dealing with chronic pain during the holiday season. It involves scheduling activities in a manner that will encourage physical activity without exacerbating the pain further. Here is a step by step guide on implementing an activity pacing schedule.
- Set an achievable goal that involves light to moderate physical activity. Break this goal out into achievable steps.
- Discover or set baseline thresholds. If your loved one cannot be one their feet for more than a half hour, take this into consideration with your holiday activities. Find out how long your loved one can be active, and determine how much rest is required before readdressing the task at hand.
- Throughout the activity, monitor – but do not overly fixate on – your loved one’s pain levels. To reiterate, the goal is to participate without overexertion.
- Repeat! The more you and your loved one understand about pain influencers, the more empowered you both will be to manage them.
We hope this G.I.F.T. guide provided some helpful insight on helping your loved one enjoy the holidays with chronic pain! Happy holidays from all of us at A Healing Place – The Estates!
At A Healing Place – The Estates, we are committed to ending the suffering associated with chronic pain and chronic illness. We are the experts in triple diagnosis treatment for people with chronic pain, medication misuse issues (up to and including addictive disorders), and coexisting mental health issues that commonly occur.
We have a solution. To learn more about treatment options, call our admissions department at 844-388-4100 x6.