Friday, December 2, 2011

Facing the Holidays with Fatigue

Rheumatoid Arthritis and the accompanying autoimmune diseases cause severe fatigue. This lack of energy is more than just feeling tired. It causes a debilitating fatigue that is often worse upon waking up from a full-night's sleep.

RA can also cause anemia, adding to the fatigue that makes daily life difficult and when when the holidays roll around, trying to complete the cooking, decorating and Christmas shopping may be overwhelming.

Some ways to cope around the holidays and everyday:

  1. Prioritize - think about which things are the most important to you and do those first.
  2. Ask for help -It's difficult for those without RA to understand the fatigue but once you explain it to them, many will be more than willing to help. Ask them to assist with specific things. If your friend is going to the store, ask her to pick up something for you while she's there. Ask family members, to help with the housework, laundry, etc.
  3. Eat a well-balanced diet - Divide your plate in half and then divide one of the sides into fourths. Half of the plate should be vegetables, one-fourth meat and one-fourth carbohydrate. For snacks, try to stick to fruits and vegetables.
  4. Exercise - It's difficult to exercise when you feel exhausted but lack of exercise creates a vicious cycle. After checking with your physician to ensure you are healthy enough to exercise, begin small, walk in place during commercials while watching TV and slowly build until you can walk around the block.
  5. Rest - Get plenty of sleep. People with RA need at least ten hours of sleep per night. An afternoon nap of thirty-minutes to one hour will help re-energize you also.
  6. Take medication - Take your medications to keep the inflammation in check. When you have increased inflammation, your fatigue will be worse.
  7. Decorating - When decorating for Christmas, don't go all out. Put out a few of your favorite things, buy a small tree and just enjoy the season without pushing yourself to the point that exhaustion overwhelms you.
  8. Meals - Allow others to cook Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. If you choose to prepare part of the meal, have other family members bring side dishes. Or for a totally different twist, have sandwiches or finger foods. Purchasing a pre-cooked meal is another option. Many restaurants will prepare the entire dinner for you and all you must do is pick it up. Or ask a family member pick up it up.
  9. Shopping - Try cyber shopping. There are some great sites out there and many of them will even send your gifts directly to the recipient - Amazon will even gift-wrap for you.
  10. Wrapping  - instead of going all out making the packages look just perfect, opt for gift bags or have the store do the gift wrapping.
  11. Christmas Cards - If you feel the need to send Christmas cards, order pre-printed ones so you don't have to write out each one. If you order photo cards from Snapfish, you can upload your mailing list, and they will address them and send them out for you.
The main thing to remember during the holiday season, is not to over extend yourself. It's very easy to want to do all of the special things this time of year and attend all of the Christmas parties and fun functions but balancing these desires with your energy level is imperative in order to enjoy the Christmas season.

1) Adapted from the West Texas Cancer Center Patient Education Handbook


  1. Some great ideas Marcy, I hope your planning to practice what you preach!