Tips to Conserve Energy During Holiday Gatherings

Charlene Marshall avatar

by Charlene Marshall |

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With the holiday season upon us, the social gatherings have begun. An unofficial start to the holidays for me is attending my family Christmas dinner, which occurs on the last Saturday of November. Our extended family is too large to bring everyone together in December, so we hold the event early in the season. My cousins and I call the celebration our “Grammie Christmas.”

This is my third family Christmas since my diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in early 2016, and thankfully, my family is supportive of my needs during the day. Whether it’s not expecting me to bring my “fair share” of food for our massive dinner due to the effort of carrying it, or being understanding when I spend more time seated than in the kitchen preparing food, I am grateful my family is considerate about my limitations. I appreciate that they encourage me to do whatever I need to stay happy, healthy, and safe.

Socializing with large groups of people amid the chaos that often accompanies the holiday season can be exhausting. However, I realize that not every extended family or social network is as supportive as mine, so I thought it would be helpful to discuss ways to help conserve our energy during holiday gatherings.

Following are some of the ways you can save energy during holiday gatherings:

  • Sit to socialize: At our recent family Christmas event, I noticed that many of our group stood together in small circles while catching up. Despite having a large table set up for dinner and lots of chairs, few people sat down to talk with one another, and I found standing like this to be very tiring. At one point, I sat down to rock my cousin’s baby to sleep and wondered why we were standing around talking instead of sitting comfortably.
  • Take small breaks: Regardless of whether or not you’re living with IPF, large holiday gatherings can be exhausting, especially when you add in the excitement of several children together in the same room. At our recent family event, I took small breaks away from the gathering. These timeouts allowed me to stay focused on what people were saying and take a few minutes of quiet for myself.
  • Ensure reciprocal conversation: While this should be something that comes naturally, allowing others to talk allows me to rest. Reciprocal conversation means one person shares, then stops and lets the other person respond with their thoughts. Each person feels heard and it gives those of us with a chronic lung condition the opportunity to focus on our breathing while the other person is talking. Talking for long periods at a time can trigger a pesky cough.
  • Use your oxygen: Have your portable oxygen concentrator or tank by your side during holiday gatherings. If you use supplemental oxygen, your doctor prescribed it, so it is important to use it when necessary. While I’m often reluctant to wear my oxygen during social events, I know it will help me to avoid breathlessness, persistent coughing, and fatigue. Wearing my oxygen boosts my energy levels, letting me socialize for longer and not be so exhausted after a large event.

 Do you have any advice on conserving energy during social gatherings this holiday season?


Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Sandy vanZyl avatar

Sandy vanZyl

As the Christmas Season arrives I really appreciate this article, I am on oxygen 24/7 since January of 2018, socializing is pretty daunting to me , I will spend Christmas day with my husband, and we will travel to two daughters homes to share gifts ...Christmas Eve will be spent with our youngest who is having Christmas Dinner at her BF's parents, we will do our gift giving with her on Christmas Eve ......we've decided we will have a quiet roast turkey breast ourselves for Christmas dinner ...I'm sure I will be pretty ' tired' from visiting 3 homes . This coming Sunday they are all coming to our house to decorate Gingerbread Houses (this year my hubby bought then at Bulk Barn , every other year we have made them from scratch ....everyone will be gone by 6:30 -7:00 with tummys full from our buffet and the kids are all helping with that. It will be a different Christmas this year but then I am a different person than I was last year . Wishing all who are reading this a Merry Christmas and may everyone Enjoy all the Festivities even if we watch from the couch !

Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Sandy,

Thanks for reading my columns and getting in touch via the comments. As always, I appreciate hearing from you! Socializing can be overwhelming for those of us with IPF, isn't it? It is so important to be gentle with ourselves, and to balance out all the socializing and hustling that comes with the holiday season but that is also hard to do because we thoroughly want to enjoy it with the ones we love. Last year, I really noticed a difference in my ability to tolerate long socializing hours. I completely agree with you that I am a different person this year than last as well and kudos to you for adjusting your plans based on what you need. I hope you enjoy the holiday season surrounded by those you love, and that you also get a chance to build in some time to rest and relax during all the festivities.
Warmest regards,

Michelle Harms avatar

Michelle Harms

While this is my second Christmas with a diagnosis(the first my family is aware of the diagnosis,) I have been having a rough time with holiday gatherings for quite a while. I didn't quite understand why doing Christmas things, like making candy and sugar cookies, decorating the tree and house, putting up lights and fixing the meal always put me down for several days after. I thought it was just my fibromyalgia and I would have to learn how to deal with it. This year, I am taking care of me. My husband is amazing and loves to do all of the Christmas stuff with our youngest granddaughter so that helps but I still feel extremely guilty for not doing it all myself. I have never put myself first so it is taking some getting used to. I would love to hear any ideas everyone has to help me get through this first year!!!!
Like stated above, Merry Chirstmas or whatever you celebrate to everyone reading this. Prayers for a wonderful, memory making, healthy season for all. God Bless!

Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Michelle,

Thanks for reading my columns, and for getting in touch via the comments. I always love hearing from others, although I certainly wish it wasn't this cruel disease that brought us all together. I am glad you are prioritizing your needs this holiday season, as Christmas time is always filled with so much hustle and bustle, and some of it isn't necessary, especially when the trade off is exhausting those of us living with a chronic lung disease such as IPF. Its really important to put yourself first, although it certainly can be tough. I am hoping you can set aside the guilt from that and just enjoy as much of this Christmas as you can, helping wherever it is possible. I am currently reading a really helpful book actually, its basically on removing excessive mental clutter from our lives (including the feelings of guilt when we can't do what we used to be able to do). It's a practical parody, so its giving me a laugh too. If you're interested, I'd be happy to share the title with you!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you!

Katherine avatar


I had to call my son at the last minute to drive the mile to my place to load my gifts for me. It would take me two trips to my car to do it and I knew I only had one trip in me. He was here in no time and figured I very well would need help. I felt a bit like a 'sissy' but quickly talked myself down. He says one reason I live close by is for them to help me. How blessed I am and not only at Christmas.

Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Katherine,

Thanks so much for reading my columns and for getting in touch via the comments. What a wonderful story to read about - I am so thankful your son came to help you when you needed, and that you were able to talk yourself down from feeling like a 'sissy'. So important that we don't let our thoughts get away from us when we need help, and that we ask/accept it when we need to. Good for you! So glad they're there to help you. Happy holidays and best wishes for 2019!


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