A woman draws a circle around her with a cane as people approach with various holiday activities

Life with Psoriatic Arthritis: Setting Boundaries During The Holidays

Last updated: December 2022

The holidays bring time with loved ones, gift exchanges, warm feelings, and over-commitments. If there is anything those with psoriatic arthritis are good at - it's pushing ourselves, and the holiday season presents the time to do just that.

Managing life with a chronic condition, we must know our body's limitations throughout the year, especially during the holidays.

Tis this season to set boundaries!

While magic may be in the air, it doesn't change our reality. Twenty years ago, I could manage my symptoms and still participate in all the holiday festivities like I used to. Well, I was wrong. I've since learned that certain boundaries must be set to stay healthy and sane during the holiday season.

Here are the three boundary tips that have helped me over the years:

  • Do no more than my body allows.
  • Accept that this year may differ from last.
  • Let go of unrealistic expectations from myself and others.

I hope these tips bring you comfort and confidence, knowing someone else has set them before. You know your limitations better than anyone else, and while guilt is inevitable, a little self-compassion will remind you that putting your health first is never wrong.

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Boundary #1: Don't push your body more than its used to!

After years of trial and error, I've learned that it's important to listen to my body and not push myself beyond my limits β€” especially during the holidays. While the holiday season should be joyful, it is usually when stress levels are high and there's so much to do.

If I start to feel pain or fatigue, I take a step back and rest. Participating in every holiday event is not worth making me sick. One trick that helps me stick to this boundary is to plan half or at least no more than what I accomplished during my worst month of the year.

Why the worst? Because, whether I am flaring or not, the holidays are already filled with stress before they begin. Plans based on my worst month usually equal what my body will allow during the holiday season.

Boundary #2: Find acceptance that each year will be different!

The holidays are a time for family, friends, and traditions. But sometimes, unexpected things happen that can cause our plans to change. Maybe a family member gets sick, or we're not feeling well.

Whatever the case, it's important to accept that things may not always go as planned and be flexible accordingly. Trying to force things to happen will only add unnecessary stress to an already hectic time of year.

Also, try to remember that acceptance doesn't come easy. Give yourself space and grace to grieve, reflect and simply be sad about it. Your feelings are valid, and when we recognize that, we can sometimes let go of the pressure of perfection and let things be. If PsA has taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected.

Boundary #3: Let go of unrealistic holiday expectations!

The holiday season is notorious for being a time of overindulgence, which can lead to feelings of guilt and inadequacy. But guess what? It's okay to indulge every once in a while! And if you happen to overeat or miss a workout, cut yourself some slack β€” you can get back on track after the holidays.

Similarly, don't put pressure on yourself to make everything perfect or expect others to do the same. We're all human, after all!

Don't feel pressured to travel if you are not ready. There is nothing more that I would like to do than to travel to visit family that I haven't seen in years this holiday season. But with my current state of pain and weakness from psoriatic arthritis and other conditions, it isn't realistic.

Give yourself the gift of self-compassion

I understand boundary setting isn't easy, but it will set you free. The art of saying no can weigh heavily, and the desire to push your body is difficult to quiet. Self-compassion and self-talk can save you in those trying moments.

This holiday season, do yourself a favor by setting some boundaries and standing firm in them. Remember to take things slow, listen to your body, communicate with loved ones, and let go of unrealistic expectations. Your body - and mind - will thank you later! Please know I wish you all a very happy and peaceful holiday season!

You hold the key to your physical and mental health. What boundaries will you set this holiday season?

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