I don’t obsess about my asthma unless it’s time to blow up a balloon (can’t do), run to my airport gate, or if friends want to go hiking.
But during the holidays, I am a little more aware of my breathing as folks start slicing turkey, making lists, checking them twice, and then toasting to new beginnings. It is typically one of my favorite times of the year, but it is not without complications if you have asthma.
Santa’s got eight reindeer (and I still can’t name them all), and I have eight tips that have helped me navigate the holidays with asthma.
1. I keep warm. This sounds very cliché, but it helps. The moment the temperatures begin to drop, so does my time outside. I like a little chill in the air, but my lungs don’t. I do my “outside stuff” when it’s the warmest part of the day, and when I’m out, I layer or bundle up.
2. I blow out candles. Ohhhh. I love candles – especially during the holidays. I love the light and the scent! But the smoke from candles or a fireplace can irritate my lungs, so I’ll limit myself to one real candle and then a bunch of battery-operated ones. If I’m at someone’s house who has gone a little candle crazy, I’ll sit a little way off from them.
3. I stay well. Getting sick is inevitable for most of us, but I do my absolute best to prevent colds, flu, and respiratory infections during this time of year. I wash my hands regularly, try to find out if anyone I’m expected to be around has been sick, wear a mask in crowded places, and I use a humidifier. Without knowing it, many of us give each other the gift of germs during this time of year. The best defense is offense.
4. I clean like it’s spring. I never understood “spring cleaning” because my parents had us clean like it was spring every weekend! Complaints aside, it’s served me well. I still keep up with dusting, vacuuming, and the like in between baking pies and wrapping gifts. Dust and dirt can kick off allergies for me, which can trigger an asthma attack.
5. I rest and then rest some more. For me, resting often means transitioning from one activity to another. When I’m on vacation, I typically have a host of “projects” to do. Unfortunately, being drained (even from fun stuff) has not been good for my asthma.
6. I do a dramatic scarf wrap. Like in the movies, I toss my scarf around my nose and mouth if I’m going out during really cold weather. Visits to family and friends mean getting in and out of the car – often in brisk weather. I read that warming the air (by breathing through a mask or warm scarf) can prevent cold air from getting into your lungs.
7. I prioritize yoga time. I’ve found some great yoga and deep-breathing videos on YouTube. If I only have a short amount of time, I’ll do a few stretches and some breathing before starting or ending my day. Some yoga also helps me prepare for those not-so-fun-to-be-around relatives during the holidays!
8. I believe in self-care and pre-care. After battling asthma and migraine for years, I’ve picked up a thing or two about self-care. I budget for massages, acupuncture, and mani/pedis. However, recently, one of my favorite therapists/authors (Nedra Glover Tawwab) talked about the importance of pre-care. That means anticipating a potentially hectic season and doing the things to take care of yourself in advance. For me, it’s saying no to things now for the energy I’ll need tomorrow.
During the holidays, I make it my business to take care of myself while spreading holiday cheer and all that jazz to others.
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Photo Credit: Klaus Vedfelt via Getty Images