With the holiday season comes a whole load of social obligations. Many people look forward to this time of year and the socializing and hustle and bustle and sparkly décor. For someone with arthritis, while we may enjoy all of those things, it can also be beyond daunting to think of the holiday shopping, the holiday parties, and the social engagements. For some of us, we look at the overflowing calendar and want to take a nap. But living with arthritis doesn’t mean we have to give up the things we want and like. It just means we have to adapt it to what we can manage. Here are my tips to surviving the holidays.

Step One: Holiday Gift Giving

The invention of online shopping has made our lives SO much easier! Amazon and Zulily are my favorite places for holiday shopping. I usually start early, but that’s just because I love buying gifts. But the most wonderful thing is many places who offer online shopping also offer free shipping, guaranteed by Christmas shipping, discount codes, etc. The combination creates wonderful shopping that can be done from your couch!

Then, of course, you have gift wrapping. I love a colorfully wrapped present with bows and all the fun shiny accoutrements. But my arthritis affects my hands. On bad days, wrapping makes me cringe. My solution is that I generally start early. This year I actually had almost all of my gifts wrapped before Thanksgiving. But if you’re not an early bird like me, there are wonderful options that have nothing to do with traditional gift wrapping. Now you can buy beautiful gift boxes that don’t need wrapping. And of course, there are the incredibly beautiful gift bags that can be made even more festive with a bit of colorful tissue paper. You can even purchase giant gift bags for the larger, more cumbersome presents that are so fun to give but so exhausting to wrap. Some people feel like this is a cop out, but seriously, isn’t it better to save your energy for spending time with family and friends? The answer is YES!

Step Two: Social Planning

The holidays tend to fill our calendars with so many wonderful events. From parties to shows and concerts, there are tons of great options to sink yourself into the holidays! The way to survive this is to plan. Try to spread things out where you can. And most importantly, schedule time to rest. You’re not going to enjoy yourself if you’re mid-flare or completely enveloped with fatigue. Remember to continue sleep, hydrate, eat, and exercise the way your body needs you to. It’s the season to be with friends and family. Take care of yourself, enjoy yourself, and maybe let some of the other things that can be put off until the new year go.

Step Three: Surviving the Holiday Parties

One of my favorite things about the holidays are all the parties. It’s a chance to dress up and to see all the people closest to you. But there are a few things about parties that can be difficult: they are usually filled with tons of alcohol, rich foods, and sweet indulgences. And it’s wonderful! But for many people with arthritis, certain foods and alcohol can be major triggers for flare ups. The other thing with holiday parties is that you might feel obligated to bring something (a dish or hostess gift). A great way to survive both of these factors is to bring something that helps you get through the party. This sounds a little selfish, but it’s also self-preservation. Hostesses can’t think of everything for everyone, and we all know how hard they try. I really think of it as us helping them out.

Surviving the Holidays

Surviving the Holidays

Here are some great options for take along dishes/hostess gifts:

Vegetable tray! Grocery stores have precut vegetables trays available for purchase now. It’s wonderful! I’ve heard some people make snide comments along the lines of, “How lazy do you have to be to need your vegetables pre-cut?” It always upsets me, but you know what? I’m not lazy. But I absolutely take advantage of something healthy that’s already put together for me. And almost everyone (not just arthritis sufferers) appreciate having some vegetables to go with all the other decadent foods.

As a slightly sweeter alternative to a vegetable tray, you can always go with a fruit tray. You can also make a super easy dip to go with the fruit. My favorite is half cream cheese (you can use fat free if you’d like) and half marshmallow fluff. Combine and add a dash of cinnamon for a delicious and creamy fruit dip that goes beautifully with any kind of fruit!

Hosts and hostesses generally provide tons of alcohol at parties. Many times, soda is the only other drink option. I don’t know about you, but I don’t drink soda. Sugar is a trigger for me and I don’t want to waste the sugar I can have on a soda. These days there are tons of delicious low alcohol or alcohol free options available. I recently bought a sparkling wine that was cranberry flavored for a holiday party. Things like that are fun and festive. They also can often be mixed with alcohol for delicious cocktails, for those who like to indulge.

I LOVE to bake! Even though I don’t eat much sugar anymore, baking really relaxes me. So, for me, baking something to take to a party presents two benefits: hostess gift and relaxation! Because I also need to be a little more gentle on my hands, I’ve found some wonderfully easy recipes. This year, I’ve been all about cookies. What many people don’t know is that you can take boxed cake mix and turn it into cookie dough! It’s easy, and the dough is fluffy and light, like a cake/cookie hybrid. And you can mix in almost anything! All you do is take the boxed cake mix, add two eggs, ½ cup of oil, and mix. (I’ve tried this with white cake mix and chocolate cake mix so far, and both worked beautifully!) Then mix in whatever you’d like to add, spoon it onto a cookie sheet, and bake for 10-13 minutes (depending on the size of the cookie) at 350 degrees. (Since the dough rises a bit more than regular cookie dough, you need to add about 2 cups of whatever you’d like to the dough. For example, two cups of chocolate chips.) One batch of my cookies (white cake cookies with dark chocolate chips and cranberries) recently got mistaken for being from Harry and David! The finished product is a hit and super easy!

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays!