By Donna Gregory Burch
Living with a debilitating chronic illness changes everything – even how we celebrate the holidays. This year, I’ll be on my own for Christmas Day because I’m too sick to travel out of state to visit family, but I know I won’t be alone. There are many others in the chronic illness community who will also be separated from their loved ones during the holidays.
Yeah, I’m a little sad about it, but instead of spending the day lying on the couch and feeling sorry for myself, I’ve decided to make a list of all the fun things I can do to celebrate Christmas Day solo. I thought I’d share my list, in case you need a little inspiration, too, so here goes …
- Make a holiday simmer – When I think of Christmases past, I always remember how my mom’s house smelled like those annoyingly strong apple-cinnamon air freshener plugins. I stopped using those years ago after becoming super sensitive to artificial fragrances, but I can create my own natural version by simmering a few simple ingredients on the stove. This holiday kitchen recipe is my favorite!
- Indulge in decadent holiday goodies – Yep, I know sugar aggravates my fibro symptoms, but gosh darn it, it’s Christmas! On the Friday before Christmas, I’m going to my local farmers market and stock up on some Christmas sprinkle cookies – gluten-free, of course!
- Watch Christmas movies – I’m DVRing “Elf,” “Bad Santa” and “The Polar Express,” so they’ll be ready for me on Christmas Day if the mood strikes. After all, there’s nothing like snuggling up on your sofa in your jammies with a warm blanket and a cup of hot cocoa or tea and feeling like a kid again watching holiday movies.
- Empty out the DVR – If I’m not feeling the Christmas movie spirit, then I have two seasons of Downton Abbey that have been cluttering up my DVR for months. It’s time to clean house!
- Watch a Netflix marathon – If I’m too brain fogged to comprehend Downton Abbey’s British accents, then I still have four seasons of “Gilmore Girls” waiting for me in my Netflix queue. I’m guessing I might be able to get through at least two more seasons if I really commit to it.
- Put a jigsaw puzzle together – This was a favorite pastime of mine as a kid, and it’s still a great time killer. Once I slice open the paper seal on the puzzle box, my butt will be glued to the dining-room chair until I position the last piece.
- Catch up on continuing education – I love learning new things, and I spend waytoo much money on online classes that I never finish. Well, Christmas Day is as good a day as any to finally plow through that Pinterest masterclass that I bought six months ago.
- Color – I finally took the plunge and bought my first adult coloring books and markers a few days ago. I even bought a holiday coloring book just for Christmas Day.
- Watch an ASMR video – I’ve written before about how much I enjoy ASMR videos. Yep, I’m fully aware of how weird it is to listen to someone describe an Aldi sales circular to me in a whisper, but it sure does relax my overworked nervous system and helps me to sleep.
- Paint my nails – I’m thinking two festive coats of Santa Claus-suit red!
- Take an Epsom salt bath – The magnesium found in Epsom salt is great for relieving fibro aches and pains!
- Read a good book – I have a stack of books that have been cluttering my side table for the past few months. Christmas Day is a good time to plow through at least one of them.
- Take on an organizing project – My upstairs storage room is a wreck of unused Christmas decorations and stuff I keep meaning to sell on eBay and Craigslist. Maybe Christmas is finally the day to get everything sorted and put away. New Year, new beginnings, right?
- Call (or email or text) family and friends – We may not be able to be with our loved ones on Christmas Day, but it’s still nice to hear their voices. Take a few minutes to reach out to those who are closest to you and wish them a warm holiday.
- Go to the movies – A lot of movie theaters open up on Christmas afternoon or evening. I’ve never done this before, but I know some people purchase a cheaper matinee ticket and spend the day hopping from movie to movie.
- Go ethnic – Pretty much everything is closed on Christmas – except Asian restaurants! Just avoid the MSG because that can flare your fibro symptoms!
- Volunteering – Since the holidays are a time for giving, what about giving of your time by volunteering? A couple of ideas: Homeless shelters and soup kitchens need volunteers to serve their holiday meals. Programs like Meals on Wheels need volunteers to deliver meals to the elderly and disabled.
- Visit your local park – If you never visit your local park because it’s always mobbed with screaming kids and soccer moms pushing mammoth-sized strollers, then today is your day! Most parks are virtually abandoned on Christmas Day, providing a quiet setting for appreciating nature.
- Go to church – I’m not a religious person, but I can definitely appreciate the spirit of the story behind Christmas.
- Tour the Christmas lights – When I lived in Virginia, our city had the “Tacky Lights Tour,” a collection of homes decked out with so many Christmas lights that Santa could see them from the North Pole! Traveling from house-to-house was a fun way to cap off Christmas night.
- Sleep in late, take a nap and go to bed early – When all else fails, sleep it off. After all, tomorrow is a new day …
Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.