Posted by Madeleine Speed, the Pelvic Partnership, December 2015
With the beginning of December, we start the inevitable advent countdown and time seems to go far too fast to make room for all the usual seasonal events and activities. This should be a time of Christmas cheer and goodwill but the run up to the big day can easily degenerate into a period of stress, difficulty and expense. Sometimes staying positive and upbeat can be an enormous uphill struggle and particularly if you are battling with symptoms of pain and discomfort which are typical in pregnancy-related pelvic girdle (PGP) pain. So what can you do to cope?
If you are starting to feel stressed, it may be reassuring to know that you are not alone. We've canvassed some of our members to see what strategies have worked to keep them focused and cheerful...
1. Getting down to it. Open a bar of chocolate, perhaps pour yourself a glass of wine and find a notebook or your iPad to draw up a plan. Putting this off can make you feel guilty or panicky. List tasks and chores that you don’t want to forget; sometimes it helps to work backwards from Christmas to give yourself time to organise what needs to be done and when so you can avoid a rush. Transfer these priorities into your calendar and be realistic about what really needs to be done and how long tasks should take - don't be over-ambitious!
2. Don't try to do it all yourself. Get friends and family on board. Remind them about your PGP so that they understand you'll need their help and support now as much as ever! Ask family members what jobs and treats they would like included in the run up to Christmas and add them to yours. If you are hosting at your house, ask family and friends to come with a dish to contribute or at least the willingness to take on some of the preparations. Praise, encouragement and the odd bribe can go down very well in accomplishing a team effort ahead of the day and on it.
3. Save your feet and conserve your energy. Use any internet access you have, whether it is your iPad, PC or your smart phone to help with shopping. It can really take the pressure off browsing for gifts and then getting down to the serious task of shopping for presents, food and the household necessities (without getting up from the sofa). Those in the family under 12 are often the most knowledgeable about showing the quickest way to great websites and online services. Even if you like to look around the supermarket for your fresh fruit or meat, you can still use the delivery services that supermarkets provide to get the bulky items: tins, soap powder, pet food, etc.
4. Plan in some treats. To help you manage the tasks in the run up to Christmas, plan some treats in between the chores, for example, take fifteen minutes here and there during the day to help you relax so you can take everything in your stride. You might need the help of others in your family to enable you to have time for a relaxing bath, read a book, sit with your feet up, eat some chocolate, phone a friend or whatever else helps you to chill. Don't forget to include festive treats and events that you enjoy and not just those of the children or your partner. Some 'me time' is important and not selfish, because you need to keep your batteries charged up in order to manage your PGP, family and household. If you are having fun, others in the family will feel more relaxed, too.
5. Keep it real. It is well worth avoiding unrealistic ideas of what a family Christmas should entail. Avoid situations that wind you up or you don't enjoy. Sometimes it can be better to be honest about not wanting to go to see Auntie Flo as well as all the other relations. It's hard being happy and upbeat if you are exhausted. Remember you are only human and that PGP takes time to manage and can make you tired. Keep your standards realistic: it may be better to do three tasks 'well enough' than one to perfection.
6. Share chores. Ask a friend to team up with you to help with a particular task that you find hard will be easier and more fun if you face it together. Ask your friend to help you and maybe reward them with tea and cake. Alternatively, perhaps return the favour by doing a chore they loathe that you can do sitting down.
7. Little and often. Breaking larger tasks into smaller ones and doing these in short bursts can help. Trying to wrap all the presents on Christmas Eve can be a big mistake as it becomes a chore rather than fun (and it takes hours). Similarly, doing some cooking ahead to pop in the freezer. It's always useful to delegate some tasks to children or adults in the family.
8. Slow down and rest. This time of year can make you want to rush through the day as quickly as possible to get things done before Christmas. Resist the temptation to do too much and pace yourself so you don’t hurt your pelvis or wear yourself out. Make sure you are eating well, resting and getting enough sleep.
9. Count to ten. If you start to feel stressed and that you are losing it, count to ten or back away from a difficult situation. It won't help to react there and then if you are cross or upset. Anticipate the things that might wind you up and see if you can manage your way through them to avoid confrontation or upset.
10. A sense of humour. It isn’t always possible to see the funny side of things when you are tired or in pain. However, when you relax and laugh, everything feels a little easier. Find some programmes over Christmas that will make you laugh out loud. Ask the family or any guests to pick comedy or funny films in the run up to Christmas and try to watch something funny each day.
We hope these suggestions are useful and that there are a few ideas that might work for you. At very least, these could be a starting place and a catalyst for helping you to work out how best plan and manage your approach to Christmas - so that instead of wishing the whole thing was over, you can relax and enjoy the festive period. Wishing you and your family a very Happy Christmas.