Living with pulmonary hypertension (PH) may change your holidays, but you can still have enjoyable and meaningful celebrations. Although PH may make some holiday traditions challenging, it doesn't mean you can't enjoy connecting with friends and family during the holiday season. By communicating your limitations due to PH, being flexible, and adjusting your expectations, you can help make sure the holidays are happy and memorable.
Communicate Your Needs
Let your loved ones know that connecting with them over the holidays is as important as ever to you, but PH is making it hard to plan as usual due to difficulty breathing, chest pain, and fatigue. You need to put your health first or risk worsening your condition.
- Don't be afraid to say no.
- It can help to use direct "I" statements. For instance, "I am not feeling well enough to host this year" is better than "Having everyone over is just too stressful." Communicating in this way makes your needs clear without making others feel accused or burdensome.
- Even if you usually maintain healthy boundaries, the holidays are a time when they may be tested. If a friend or family member tries to make you feel guilty for setting your boundaries, gently remind them that PH doesn't take the holidays off, as much as you wish it did.
Be FlexibleInstead of saying "no," say "yes" to something else. If a family tradition no longer works for you since you developed PH, it may be time to suggest an update.
- If you can't travel as usual, consider offering to host. Ask others to bring potluck dishes and help clean up so you don't wind up overdoing it.
- If air travel is too challenging because you require oxygen therapy, talk to your family about meeting in a more central location. Maybe a family member who lives within driving or train distance can host this year instead. If you do choose to fly, consult your airline to determine what kind of oxygen can be brought on board and your doctor to discuss any health concerns related to flying.
- If you know the traditional family meal is high in sodium, ask those cooking to refrain from adding salt and let each person add salt to their own plate. You can also offer to bring a few dishes that will be safe for you to eat.
- If you usually host the gathering but can't do it this year, encourage someone else to host instead. They may be delighted to welcome everyone to their home for a change.
- If you always bring a beloved dish, pass the treasured recipe on to a loved one like you would a family heirloom, or shine the limelight on another chef in the family and invite them to bring their favorite dish.
- If you can't bring yourself to give up the party, think of ways to save time and energy. Use paper plates, plastic flatware, and disposable tablecloths for easy cleanup. Make decorating (or de-decorating) part of the event and get everyone to help. Plan a low-impact meal such as a stew that simmers all day in the crock pot with little prep work or tending.
If it's just not possible to get together in one place this year, consider using a video chat service such as Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime to have a special holiday call on a smartphone or laptop. During a video chat, you can:
- Watch family open gifts
- Have them show you the decorations around the house
- Read a holiday story or poem to the children
- Sing favorite holiday songs together
Adjust Your Expectations
Even without a chronic illness like PH, holidays often come with high expectations that lead to disappointment and stress. Letting go of the illusion of a "perfect" holiday can help you keep expectations realistic and focus on what's most important about the holidays. For many people, that means connecting with loved ones, being thankful for what you have, and finding hope for the new year.
Here are some mindful tips from Johns Hopkins Medicine for adjusting holiday expectations:
- Accept that your holidays won't be perfect and will be different from celebrations in years past.
- Focus on what really counts. Find things to be grateful for and look for new ways to connect with loved ones.
- If you get into a conflict with someone over the holidays, take a few breaths before you react. Try to stay compassionate and react with kindness.
- As you reflect on last year, be kind to yourself and let go of any negativity. As you look forward to next year, make smaller, gradual resolutions rather than huge goals that will be difficult to achieve.
During the holidays and year-round, the members of myPHteam are here for each other. Joining myPHteam means gaining a support group of thousands of others with PH who understand exactly what you're going through.
Here are some conversations from myPHteam members about navigating the holiday season with pulmonary hypertension:
Have you found ways to celebrate the holidays despite PH?
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