Episode 22: Your Fibro Holiday Survival Guide

Your Fibro Holiday Survival Guide

Five Tips to Help Fibromyalgia Bodies Get Through the Holidays With a Little More Energy and a Little Less Pain

The holidays can be super challenging, no matter who you are. Often we invest so much of our time and moxie into the holidays that the celebration begins to feel more like obligation. Add fibromyalgia to that picture, and it’s even more tiring and stressful, because we have limited energy to begin with. There is a way to make the holidays meaningful without all of the overwhelm. Follow the tips in this episode and see how your holiday season can a little richer, a little calmer, and a little less painful and exhausting.

Key Points

  • With fibromyalgia, the biggest way that you can improve your holidays is to feel better.
  • Is your family already over-stuffed? Here’s how you can honor the season and the spirit of giving without accumulating even more stuff.
  • Think about setting new traditions or doing things a little differently. Stepping outside of our normal way of doing things can actually make it easier for us.
  • Don’t end up over-committed to things that are less important. Focus on what really matters to you, and make time for that first.
  • Learn the warning signs that your body is going into a fibro flare, and give your loved ones concrete ways that they can help you.

Links & Resources

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You’re listening to the Fibromyalgia Podcast, Episode 22. 

Welcome to the Fibromyalgia Podcast! I’m your Coach, Tami Stackelhouse. 

In today’s episode, I’m going to be giving you your Holiday Survival Guide. Before we dive into today’s episode, however, I want to give a quick shout out to another listener. 

Jamie posted this on my Facebook page and said, “I am so deeply grateful that I found your podcast. There are so few positive public resources and support options for fibromyalgia. Thank you, Tami for being light and inspiring me that I can and will get better.”

Thank you so much for sharing that, Jamie. That is absolutely what I discovered when I started researching for this podcast. At the time I was doing my research, which was about a year ago now, there weren’t very many options. I am so excited that we have been able to put this resource together for folks.

[01:52] As I’m recording this, which is right at the beginning of October, our podcast has exceeded so many expectations. We have over 22,000 listeners with our podcast, and we are pretty much averaging about 1100 downloads per episode — which honestly puts us in the top 20% of all podcasts, which just blows my mind, much less the fact that it’s a 100% fibromyalgia-specific podcast. I just want to thank each and every one of you who’s listening right now because of course without you, none of that would have happened. Thank you all so much and please keep sending in your love notes. It definitely encourages us, and it helps us keep going, because this is a lot of hard work. 

[02:58] Alright, you guys, I also wanted to give you a quick update. A couple of episodes ago, in Episode 19, I did an interview with Greg Houlgate, the founder of Oska Wellness, and I interviewed him about the Oska Pulse and using it to manage fibromyalgia pain.

[03:18] Right after I recorded that episode, that interview with him, my Oska Pulse arrived in the mail. Since then, I think it’s been a little over a month now, I have been using the Oska Pulse myself. I did add a few notes on the show notes page of Episode 19 when we published that, just because of the gap between when I recorded the episode and when it was published. I was able to share a little bit of my experience at the end of the transcript of that particular show. If you want to read what I had to say about the Oska Pulse, you can find that interview, the transcript and a little bit of my experience at FibromyalgiaPodcast.com/19. That is the full interview with Greg. I also wanted to share here on this episode, because I’ve discovered a few things since then, and also understanding that not all of you are going to be able to go to the website and read that.

When I first started using the Oska Pulse, when I first got it, I sort of ignored what Greg had said about fibromyalgia bodies needing to get used to the device. The device, by the way, for those of you who haven’t had a chance to listen to Episode 19, the Oska Pulse uses pulsed electromagnetic fields to help with inflammation, pain, all kinds of other things. Now go listen to that if you want more information. 

[05:02] I started using it pretty much right away. You know how it is, right? You have a brand new toy. You want to play with it. I used it that whole evening; I slept with it under my pillow; like all the things, right? The next day I had the worst headache. Sometimes, I forget that… because I don’t really have very many fibromyalgia symptoms anymore — I pretty much never have fibromyalgia body pain — I sometimes forget that those things still apply to me.

[05:35] As soon as I woke up the next day and had a headache, I’m like, “Oh, that’s right! He told me that fibro bodies need time to get used to this.” If you are looking for a device to help you manage your fibro pain, I do highly recommend the Oska Pulse. I also highly recommend that you take that warning to heart and ease into it gradually. Greg’s suggestion was to have it a little ways away from your body as you’re starting to get used to it. You might not want to sleep with it under your pillow the very first night. 

[06:13] The other thing that I noticed in the first week or two was that my head and my neck were way more sensitive than the rest of my body. Not only [do I have] fibromyalgia, but I have a lot of migraines, and a lot of headaches. I actually have had those longer than I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I noticed that when I would use the Oska Pulse next to my neck and my head, like from the shoulders up, I did have more headaches. But ,I kept using it, just from shoulders down. I found that it worked really well for lots of different things. When it was that time of the month and I had cramps, it worked really well for that. I had some muscle pain, we get random pains here and there. I had a big bruise on my shoulder where I accidentally ran into the door. I used it there and the bruise went away super quick.

[07:19] I have found over the last month that the more I’ve used it — you know, making sure that I was easing into it and using it from the shoulders down — as my body has gotten used to it, I’ve been able to use it more and in other places. The last week or two, I’ve noticed, you might even be able to hear it a little bit in my voice, that I’ve had a little bit more nasal congestion. It’s that time of the year, right? My doctor even said, “Oh, your lymph nodes, they feel a little congested. You might be fighting something off.” I actually used the Oska Pulse on my forehead and on the top of my head to hopefully see, just as a trial, to see if it would help clear my sinuses, help things drain out. It seemed to help quite a bit actually, and didn’t give me a headache.

[08:14] If you are considering the Oska Pulse, if you listened to Episode 19 and you’re considering it, I think it’s great. It’s something that I’m going to be continuing to use a lot. Do take the warning to heart, that you need to ease into it if you have fibromyalgia. For those of you who are hearing me talk about this and don’t really know what I’m talking about, please go listen to Episode 19. It’s a very cool device. A lot of my students and clients use it. There’s even a discount code if you want to purchase one. You can use the code FIBROCOACH — all one word — on their website to get a $55 discount off the device, and we’ve got the link for purchasing that. We’ll have that in today’s show notes, but we also have it in Episode 19’s show notes. All right. Just wanted to give you that little update, because I’ve gotten a few emails from people asking about it. 

On to our Holiday Survival Guide…

This time of year… It can be super challenging, no matter who you are, right? There’s always so much to do and so many obligations. You know, just so much going on that it can be a challenge. It can be tiring. It can be stressful, even if you don’t have fibromyalgia. Of course, you add fibromyalgia to that picture, and it’s even more tiring and more stressful, because we have limited energy. I’m going to give you a few tips to help you get through the holiday season with a little bit more grace and a little bit more energy — and hopefully get to the other side feeling a little bit better than you do most years.

[10:13] Of course, the biggest way that you can improve your holidays is to just feel better. I’m going to give you some tips that are going to help you no matter where you’re at right now. If you also want to explore how you can literally feel better, how you can change your symptoms, increase your energy, get better sleep, reduce your pain, we would love to talk with you about that. That’s something we help our clients with all the time. You can go to FibromyalgiaPodcast.com and in the Contact Menu you’ll see the Find a Coach option. We would love to schedule a complimentary consultation for you, for us to be able to talk with you about your symptoms, about what your needs and challenges are, what your goals are, and maybe give you some new ideas on how you can feel better.

[11:12] In the meantime, go ahead and use these tips and see if it doesn’t help make your holiday season a little bit richer and calmer, and not quite so tiring.

[11:25] [Tip one!] First off, what I want you to do is think about what you want your holiday season to be like. What is it that you want? What do you want Christmas to be like? What do you want for Thanksgiving? How do you want New Year’s to go? There are so many holidays. I’m, of course, going to talk from my Christian tradition, but I realize there are lots of holidays happening this time of year. You can just substitute in your brain. When I talk about Christmas, if you don’t celebrate Christmas but you celebrate something else, that’s totally fine. Think about what it is that you want.

What is the focus that you want to have? What is the outcome that you want to have? How do you want to feel? Do you have little kids at home, and do you want to create certain traditions for them?

[12:21] Several years ago — gosh, let’s say 16 years ago — I was getting ready to buy a house. My sister was going back to school. My grandmother was moving in with my aunt. And my parents…. I can’t remember what their thing was, but we all had stuff going on, and we all realized that we didn’t actually need more stuff. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to buy presents for each other. We actually didn’t want to receive them, simply because [we had too much stuff]! When my grandma was moving in with my aunt, she was actually giving back some of the gifts that we had given to her, because she couldn’t take it all with her. Rather than just get rid of it, she gave the gifts back to the people who had given them to her. It was obvious. She didn’t need anything more. I’m buying and moving into a new house. I don’t need more stuff. The last thing we all needed was more STUFF. 

[13:30] As a family, we decided that we wanted to honor the season, to have the spirit of giving gifts, but we didn’t necessarily need to give gifts to each other. What we decided to do was take the money that we would have spent on each other buying gifts and spend it on someone else, something else. We have done lots of different things as a family. My parents quite often will take names from Giving Trees, particularly if there are kids looking for gifts. Both my parents were teachers. They are huge on supporting children, so they will often take names from trees and go shopping for kids. 

My sister’s office sponsored a family through the Salvation Army. She used the money she would’ve spent on gifts for the family on someone else’s family. One year my husband and I bought a water buffalo — not for us, of course. We sponsored a water buffalo through Heifer International and gave it to a family somewhere. I can’t remember what country it was, because it was a long time ago now, but a family in another country received a water buffalo from us for Christmas, to help them work in the fields and give them milk to drink. 

[15:06] There are lots of ways that you can honor the spirit of the season in unique ways. Let’s just put it that way. You can be creative. Think about what it is that you want for the season. What feelings you want to have. What messages are important to you. What things are important to you. What values are important to you. Focus in around those, and then think of some new, unique, creative ways of meeting those feelings and having those values and beliefs, once you have decided what you want.

I would decide what you want first, before you start asking the rest of your family what they want. It can even be a powerful exercise to do as a family, but I think each person needs to be clear themselves first, before you bring it all together, because often what we want can be swayed by other people. I would encourage you to figure out what it is that you want first. Have each person in your family figure that out, and then bring it together. You might find super surprising things, like your family all deciding you don’t want to give presents anymore because you don’t need more stuff. It was also really cool because the company I was working for at the time had a gift exchange. A friend of mine also had come to the same conclusion that I did, and what she asked for with the gift exchange at the office was that a donation be made to a couple of different charities, which was really cool. Decide what you want, then come together and decide together what it is that you want. 

​[17:11] ​Some of you know, my sister passed away from cancer about three years ago, and over the last three years our holidays have been different than they were when she was still around. We have purposefully done things differently, just because it’s made it easier. This year we’re actually going to the beach, and we’re staying in a hotel by the beach. By stepping outside of our normal way of doing things, it actually makes it easier for us.

​[17:46] ​You can think about setting new traditions like that or doing things differently. Really think about what is most important. 

[Tip two!] As you’re looking at what it is that you want, you also have to realize that, of course, you have a limited amount of energy. You can only do so much. What are the things that are most important? It potentially could even be really good for you to rank the things that you want to do, so that you do the most important things first. If you run out of energy, it’s the lesser important things that get cut, instead of doing less important things first, and then the important things get cut.

If you haven’t picked up on it by now, Episode 22, one of the things that I really believe about living your best life with fibromyalgia is that it’s all about planning, and it’s all about making choices. We have to be more purposeful with our choices, simply because we have less energy. We have to, right? It’s like a person who has less money has to be more purposeful about the choices that they make with their money. Just make sure that you’re making your choices count. We have limited energy. We have to be smart about the choices that we make. Decide what you want. Decide what’s important.

[Tip three!] Once you’ve done that, the third tip for you is to use the Dream Week Planner to actually plan out what your holiday season is going to look like. Depending on what all you’ve got going on, this may start in mid-November for you and go through, you know, the beginning of August — or not August. Well, if your life is really busy, maybe! — but through January. Use the Dream Week Planner to really plan out, or use a calendar, and really plan out: 

  • What activities are we going to take part in? 
  • What are we doing as a family? Our extended family? 
  • Are we going to see grandparents, aunts, uncles? Like, who all is fitting into this picture? 
  • Are there children’s activities? 
  • Are there school plays or concerts? 
  • Office, business, holiday parties? 

You know, what all is going on that has to fit into your life along with your normal life, right? Taking care of yourself, taking care of your loved ones, going to work, whatever it might be that you’ve got going on. Fitting in physical therapy, acupuncture, the chiropractor, whatever it is. You’ve got all those things you need to do. So, sit down and plan it all out. 

[20:46] If you’re somebody who loves spontaneity, you can actually plan for that too. What that would look like is planning out your week, and then leaving empty spaces where we don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’re going to do something fun. It could look something like that. Take the time to plan ahead of time what it is that you want to do. That way you don’t end up over-committed or committed to things that are less important to you, and then have to say no to things that are more important, either because there just isn’t time on the schedule or because your body says no. So, plan it all out. That’s tip number three, is to use the Dream Week or calendar and plan it.

[21:38] For those of you who aren’t sure what I’m talking about with the Dream Week, this is an activity that is in my first book, Take Back Your Life. You can go to FibromyalgiaPodcast.com — under Books, you will find where you can get that book. We also have the worksheets. For those of you who may be familiar with the exercise but just want the worksheets, you can also get the worksheets. Just go to the show notes for today’s episode and you will be able to download those. FibromyalgiaPodcast.com/22. You’ll be able to get that worksheet.

[22:19] I also have a video where I actually walk people through doing the normal Dream Week exercise. For those of you who are real visual learners, you might find that helpful as well.

[22:32] Once you have done all of that, [1] you have decided what you want for the holidays. [2] You’ve decided what’s important. [3] You’ve taken the time to plan out what it is that you’re going to do.

[22:45] [Tip four!] The fourth piece that I really want to drive home for you guys is: Do not stop doing the things that help you feel your best! It’s going to get crazy. There are going to be choices that you have to make. There may even be some things that you choose to do knowing that it’s going to cause you a fibro flare. That is totally okay. You just have to make sure that you keep doing all the things that are going to help you feel your best. When life gets crazy, when you have more activities, when you’re using more energy, when there’s more stress, that is not the time to cut out your self-care. 

Make sure that you’re still drinking your water and you’re still eating the things that you should eat and avoiding the things that you shouldn’t. Make sure that you’re still taking all of your medications and supplements the way you should be. Make sure that you’re taking time to stop and breathe and calm yourself back down. With fibromyalgia, we so easily flip over into fight or flight. Some of us are permanently stuck there, and so we need to take that moment to just center ourselves again. It’s a good opportunity to try some meditation or prayer or coloring or crafts. I have a lot of clients who are doing things like knitting. Or painting is a real meditative act for them. Do the things that are going to help you feel your best.

It can be so easy to feel like, “Oh, I just don’t have time to _____.” Fill in the blank. Get a massage, go to an acupuncturist, see the chiropractor, taken an Epsom salt bath. “I don’t have time to…”, you know, whatever. Yes, you do! You’ve got to make sure that you keep doing those things. Doing those things is what gives you what you need to GO DO all the other things that you want to do. 

[25:02] Make sure when you are doing your planning and you’re building your Dream Week that you are adding in the things that you need to do to stay feeling your best. That is the last tip that I’m going to give you for your Holiday Survival Guide. 

[25:19] We’ve got a 4 things so far: 

  1. Deciding what you want. 
  2. Deciding what’s important. 
  3. Planning out your Dream Week, or your “dream holidays”, because it’s going to be more than one week. Planning that out and making a choice up front, how you’re going to spend your time and your energy.
  4. Keep doing all the things you have to do to stay feeling your best. 

[25:47] [Tip five!] Number 5. Is to create your “Flare Survival Kit.” This is something both virtual and real. There’s a worksheet that I have for you, the Flare Survival Kit worksheet, where you actually write down the things that help you in different situations. You may need to put together an actual kit that you can take with you, particularly if you’re traveling over the holidays.

For instance, I’m going to the beach for Christmas. There’s a lot of stuff I’m going to be taking with me, right? I’m going to be taking my heating pad. I’m going to be taking my eye mask. I’m going to take my pain meds, just because I don’t want to be six hours from home and have a problem, right? Have those things with you, just in case. It’s better to be prepared than end up in a situation where you have a flare, and then miss out on what you already decided you wanted to do and what was important to you for the holidays.

[26:55] Make sure that you go to today’s show notes page, FibromyalgiaPodcast.com/22 and look for the bonus resources, which will include a worksheet for your own Flare Survival Kit. It has prompts in there to help you think through things like:

  • What are my warning signs that my body pain is going up? 
  • What are my warning signs for brain fog? 
  • What are my warning signs for fatigue? 
  • What are my emotional warning signs? 

There are also places on there where you can jot down warning signs if you’ve got other conditions that you can keep an eye on.

[27:36] Like for me with my headaches, just to give you an idea of what I mean by warning signs. One of the warning signs for me that my brain is on overload, is if I’m typing or writing, I will actually spell things funny. Instead of spelling things the way they’re really spelled, I will spell them phonetically. That would be phonetically with an F instead of phonetically the way it’s supposed to be with a PH. That’s one of the big clues for me. “Ah, my brain is tired. I need to take a break”. [Another warning sign is] not being able to think of the word that I want to think of. 

[28:16] When it comes to my headaches, I will notice that my neck and my shoulders start creeping up into my ears, and I have no neck. That happens when I have a lot of tension. Sometimes, that happens because I have a low level of pain, and my body is sort of bracing itself against the pain. Like if I’m riding in the car or something, I might tighten up so that I don’t move around as much. It’s a way of protecting yourself. Watch for those kinds of warning signs. 

[28:49] Here’s another funny one: For whatever reason — I still have not been able to find an actual biological reason for this, but — if I’m starting to get hungry, my blood sugar might be dipping, I might need to eat, I will actually sneeze. Don’t know why, but it’s just one of my warning signs. 

[29:13] Emotional warning signs might be things like snapping at people when you don’t mean to, or withdrawing and just wanting to go to bed, take a nap and not be around people. There are lots of different warning signs, and it can be really helpful to have a conversation with the people who are going to be with you. If you’re married, definitely have this conversation with your spouse. Maybe even with your kids or other loved ones or friends, because a lot of times they will notice warning signs that you don’t notice. You might not know that you’re being a little bit cranky, but they notice it, right?

[29:52] If you can plan it out at a time when you feel good and actually outline: “When you see this happen, this is what I need”, then they can help you as well as you helping yourself. 

[30:08] For instance, if I sneeze out of the blue for no reason, or I’m being cranky, my husband might think, “Hmm, maybe she needs to eat,” and he might say, “Hey, do you need a snack?”, or whatever it might be. “Hey, do you need to sit down and rest for a minute? You know, we’ve been going nonstop.” Or, “We’ve been riding in the car for three hours. Do you need to get up and walk around and stretch?” 

[30:38] Having that information actually written down and outlined, shared then with the people who are with you, that actually makes it easier for the people who love you to help you, because there’s actually something concrete they could do — like bring you a snack. It also helps make what you’re going through a little bit more concrete to them rather than just, “I don’t know what the deal is. She’s just tired all the time.” Right? No, there are warning signs. There are things that happen before that. If you have trouble coming up with these things, talking to somebody else is a really great way to get some help with this.

[31:21] I talk to a lot of people who are single, who are going through this on their own. This is something that we do with our clients as well. That’s actually how the Flare Survival Kit came to be. I had a client who was getting her tonsils out, and she knew she wasn’t going to be able to communicate well with her fiancé. We wanted it all written down before she had her surgery, so that he knew what to do, and she could point to what she needed. That’s how this came about. 

If you ever need any help with figuring out what your Flare Survival Kit needs to be, if you need help planning out your life in a way that you get to do the things you want to do, while also supporting you feeling your best, we would love to help you with that. That is what we do all the time. 

[32:17] The holidays, as wonderful as they are, they’re also hard. They’re hard emotionally. They’re hard physically for those of us with fibromyalgia. A lot of times, there are all kinds of emotional stuff that goes with it, right? Like, if you used to be the person that everybody came over to your house for Thanksgiving dinner, and you made all the things, the proverbial Thanksgiving feast, and you can’t do that anymore, there’s a lot of emotion that goes along with that. There’s a lot of guilt that goes with that. If you ever need someone to talk to, to work through that with, or have support as you go through the holiday season, we would love to help you with that. Just go to FibromyalgiaPodcast.com, and like I said earlier, under the contact menu, you’ll see Find a Coach, and you’ll be able to fill out an application and schedule a consultation. There’s no charge for the first consultation, and we can go from there as to what you need and the best way to help you get there.

All right, you guys, that is it for today’s episode. I’m going to go ahead and wrap it up for you.

[33:33] Next episode, Episode 23, I am hoping if all goes well — fingers crossed — that I will be able to introduce you to a couple of my coaches. We are doing our annual alumni retreat next week, and while I have everybody in the same room, I want to interview a couple of them and share them with you. Hopefully, if all goes well, we’ll get that next week. 

[33:59] Episode 24, which will come out the Tuesday before Thanksgiving — Thanksgiving here in the U.S. — I know there are lots of people listening from all over. That episode I’m going to spend a little time talking about gratitude, and about how cultivating gratitude can be a great tool to help shift your mindset. You may have heard me talk about this in other podcasts, but I feel like there are three main areas you have to really address if you want to live an awesome life with fibromyalgia. 

  1. It’s addressing what’s going wrong in your body, right? You have fibromyalgia. There are things going wrong. We physically have to address those issues. 
  2. Your lifestyle, which are things like self-care and exercise and diet, and how you manage your energy and your sleep habits, and all of those things. 
  3. The third piece is your mindset, and that is all about how you talk to yourself, how you think about your body, how you think about your illness. Gratitude is a huge piece of this, so we are going to be talking about gratitude in Episode 24, in honor of Thanksgiving. It seemed like a good time. 

[35:20] Those are the episodes that I’ve got planned. We also have, coming up in the new year, I have some episodes that are based around all the things we like to kick off in the new year, right? Setting new goals, things like New Year’s Resolutions. We’re going to be talking about that: goal setting, habits, and exercise, and some of those other fun things are coming up in the next few episodes as well. 

[35:51] I know we’re on Episode 22, but as always, each ten episodes is our “Ask the Coach” or our “Dear Tami” episode. The next one will be Episode 30, and I am always looking for good questions. If there is something that you’re wondering, if there’s something you’d like to see me cover in the podcast, please send that to us. Just go to FibromyalgiaPodcast.com, under the contact menu you’ll see Ask the Coach — and send in your question. If it’s chosen or if it’s not chosen, either way, I will send you an answer, but we may choose to answer your question live on the podcast.

[36:34] All right, you guys! Have a great holiday season coming up. Hopefully these tips will help you get through it with a little bit more style and grace and energy, and less pain and all of those things. I will see you back here next time, where hopefully I will get to introduce you to some of my very best coaches. All right, you guys. Bye!

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