Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the holidays are here. When I travel home, we don’t have any more tension than the average dysfunctional family. There’s no yelling or alienating political discussion (we all know what to expect from the others). There are small celebrations to suit a small family. Sometimes I even forget to light Hanukkah candles. Because I forget it’s Hanukkah for all eight days. But, I do enjoy the time with my family, usually at Thanksgiving.
It’s complicated, though. My monster is best behaved when I follow a routine. The holidays are anything but. My brother has four kids and my dad is in his 70s, so that means I’m travelling to make it easiest for everyone. I have to leave my comfort zone, the place where I know who to call and where to go in case of emergency. Even my immune system seems less challenged in my own place, even if all six of my brother’s family pile into my one-bedroom condo.
If your body works anything like mine, the only way to get through holiday visits is to plan as if you were going to another planet.
1. Plan for prevention. Bring bottles of medication instead of separating out what you need for the time you will be gone. If you use consumable medical equipment, make sure you have several of whatever you need and check at least twice. Maybe once more before you leave. The last thing you want is to be held up on the way home by weather, traffic, or overbooking and be short.
Start taking vitamin C a few days before you leave (There are tons of immune system boosters that work to varying degrees, but I prefer the classic.). If you don’t get sick, you can stop taking it a couple of days after you get home. If there is anyone in the household you are visiting who is already sick, take as much as you can. You will know when you’ve taken too much vitamin C if you start feeling nauseated.
2. Plan for every possible sickness. I have a whole separate bag to transport my traveling pharmacy. It consists of every over-the-counter and as-needed prescription I have. With suppressed immune systems, fevers, colds, sore throats, and coughs are all significant possibilities from a quick trip home for the holidays.
3. Know what your challenges are likely to be and have a strategy to deal with them. Whether it’s suspending your ‘rules” for the time you’re away, looking for the closest gym to your in-laws’ house to maintain your workout routine, or asking your host for detailed menu plans to help you, make sure you have a plan for every challenge you can think of.
4. Only you know what you can handle, but often doing something that makes you stand out from the rest of the family is difficult, and can seem silly for just a few days. But falling out of your routine for those few days can knock you off track for longer (I’m speaking from experience, like when I let playing with kids replace exercise and not picking it up again even though there aren’t kids to play with in my apartment), so enlist help. Find someone you trust for backup or announce your plan to the whole group. You don’t have to give a reason, just state your desire to accomplish your goal for the time you are there. Sometimes just talking to that person(s) is enough to keep you on track.
I instituted these plans for myself after my first couple of visits with multiple kids. For whatever reason, if a kid has a light cold, I get it 10 times worse. More than a few times I’ve driven home thinking I was fine only to realize I had a fever of 102+ when I got up to my apartment. At this point, I always expect to get sick, and it’s a family joke/congratulations if I don’t (I didn’t this year – yay!). Even if I do get sick now, it’s not nearly as bad as it was. I’ll take that.
We at The Patient Advocate’s Chronicle wish you a happy, healthy, and well-planned holiday!