Self-preservation Strategies for Navigating the Holidays Amid a Pandemic
It’s hard to believe that the holiday season is here, and Christmas is less than two weeks away. Although many family and holiday traditions will likely resume thanks to COVID-19 vaccinations, it’s still surreal to think that this is our second time celebrating the holidays amid a pandemic.
In 2019, I wrote a column about preparing for the holiday season as a patient living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). At the time, I had been living with this life-threatening, progressive lung disease for three years, and never imagined a pandemic would soon be upon us. While many of my recommendations in that column are still relevant, I want to focus on some additional self-preservation strategies to get us through this unique holiday season.
Christmas can be difficult for patients living with chronic illnesses like IPF. It can be a chaotic time, with disrupted routines, different eating and sleeping habits, and gatherings that increase our risk of exposure to the virus. Respiratory viruses are always dangerous for PF patients, but COVID-19 makes many of us extra anxious about gathering with family and friends.
Last year, my family took all precautions seriously and abided by provincial health guidelines. I only got together with my parents for Christmas; we saw our extended family, including my siblings and their partners, virtually. This year, we’re doing things a little differently. We’ll all be together since we’re all vaccinated, but I’m still thinking about ways to protect both my mental and physical health.
Following are some of the self-preservation strategies I plan to use to get through an abnormal holiday season.
Ask about vaccination status
While it can seem uncomfortable, I have been practicing asking people about their vaccination status. Given my failing lungs and compromised immune system, it’s important for me to know if someone is vaccinated so I can make an informed choice about spending time with them.
At times, it feels like the controversy around COVID-19 vaccinations is polarizing, even among family members and friends. I try to respect everyone’s decision, but with case counts climbing where I live, I will only spend time around those who are vaccinated. I just hope others are respectful and understanding when I ask about their vaccination status.
Limit food and alcohol consumption
During the holiday season, we may indulge in treats and a little more alcohol than usual. However, certain foods that are common at Christmastime can increase inflammation, which can exacerbate IPF symptoms like breathlessness or fatigue. Monitoring our food and alcohol consumption can help us manage our symptoms.
Maintain healthy sleep habits
Many IPF patients struggle with both mental and physical fatigue, which can increase with the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Earlier this week, I was listening to a podcast about the importance of maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, even during the holidays. This allows us to transition back to work or school more easily. Plus, consistent sleeping habits contribute to better overall health outcomes.
I haven’t been able to identify the reason for this, but since my IPF diagnosis, I’ve been less tolerant and increasingly irritable. My pulmonologist says this could be linked to medication side effects. Regardless, I know lack of sleep makes it worse. It is important for me to get enough sleep, especially amid the chaos of the holidays, to reduce my irritability.
Ask for help
The importance of asking for help to conserve my energy has been one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned while living with IPF. When it comes to physical chores, such as carrying gifts or food platters, or moving furniture to accommodate large dinners, please don’t hesitate to ask others for help this holiday season.
What self-preservation strategies do you plan to practice amid the pandemic this holiday season? Please share in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.
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.