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How to Manage Lymphedema During the Holidays

Published: 11 December, 2023

This is an 11-minute read.

No matter which holidays you celebrate, they can be a chance to visit and spend time with family, friends, and other loved ones. Marked by our favorite traditions, we look forward to the foods, activities, people, and places that make this time of year special. But even the best holiday experiences require additional planning and may cause added stress in your life. 

This can be especially true while trying to manage chronic health needs like those of lymphedema. Here is your guide to planning for and managing your lymphedema while still maximizing the holidays.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Traveling with Lymphedema

For many people, the holiday season means taking a trip. Regardless of how you travel, it usually requires longer periods of sitting, standing, or walking than during a typical day. Without proper planning, these activity demands have the potential to impact lymphedema symptoms, all before your holiday trip has even truly begun. Consider these tips to avoid unnecessary exacerbation caused by travel:

  • Discuss your travel plans with your lymphedema specialist ahead of time to get recommendations on when and how to do your compression wrapping while you are on the go, as well as other general travel recommendations. Also, if you have a special holiday activity planned but are worried about your symptoms or lymphedema routine, your providers can help problem-solve with you.
  • Use transportation resources or ask for assistance to reduce the physical strain of travel. Check your bags curbside, request preboarding or a ride to your terminal, or ask staff to assist with loading your luggage. If you are unsure what resources are available, call the companies directly to ask about the support service they offer. These shortcuts can significantly reduce the physical demands of traveling, prevent injury, or minimize lymphedema exacerbation.
  • Take standing or walking breaks between prolonged periods of sitting. Changing your position and adding in some movement can help prevent or minimize swelling during travel.

4 Tips for Enjoying Your Holidays While Managing Lymphedema 

You can successfully manage your lymphedema during holiday travels by using many of your usual techniques (e.g., compression, staying active, etc.). The key is to plan ahead to consider when and where you can best use these strategies.

Nutritious Choices and Your Favorite Holiday Foods

Food is a major part of socializing with others, keeping traditions, and enjoying the holidays. But balancing your diet can also play a major role in managing lymphedema symptoms. Here are some things to keep in mind while choosing and enjoying special holiday foods.

  • Look for diet-friendly versions of your favorite recipes if you are following a specific nutrition plan with your providers. This will allow you to still eat what you love while staying on track with your nutrition program.
  • Stay hydrated! Remaining properly hydrated can help to manage your appetite, support your metabolism, and even reduce stress. Conversely, dehydration can worsen swelling. Drink water consistently throughout the day to boost and maintain your fluid intake for better lymphedema management.

In general, continuing to eat healthy, well-balanced meals between occasionally indulging in your holiday favorites is ideal. Viewing holiday foods as a treat and eating them in moderation or smaller portions can help you to enjoy your holiday experience without completely upending the healthy habits you worked hard to establish. Staying on track with your nutritional plan can save you the time and discomfort that comes with bouncing back from lymphedema exacerbation. 

Staying Active Between Celebrations

Often, our holiday schedules can become jam-packed with activities to make sure we see and do all of our favorite things. After these long days, we might feel too busy or tired to follow through with the movement or exercise routines that are part of our lymphedema self-care. However, making time for your usual exercises can ensure your lymphedema symptoms remain under control. Here are some suggestions to keep you moving while still enjoying your holiday experiences:

  • Create a travel and holiday-friendly exercise routine with your therapist before the holidays. Remaining realistic and choosing exercises or gentle movement that can fit into your holiday plans will make it easier to stay active.
  • Find an accountability partner to help you stick to your routine. This could be a friend, family member, or peer from a lymphedema support group. No matter who it is, having some social support to share your exercise goals with can help keep you engaged.
  • Choose more active options for holiday activities when possible. For example, go for a walk instead of driving through a neighborhood to see the holiday lights. Naturally building light to moderate activity into your holiday plans when possible will help save time and ease the pressure of finding additional time to exercise.

In general, people with chronic conditions like lymphedema are more likely to stick to an exercise plan if it’s enjoyable, fits into their daily routine, and they have people to share in their success. This is no different around the holidays. The key is to set expectations for staying active that work with your holiday plans.

Packing for Success: Travel-Friendly Lymphedema Tips

Thinking about the climate, planned holiday activities, and your lymphedema care needs are vital when packing your bags. Those environment and recreation considerations will help you decide what to bring. Here are a few things to consider when laying out what you need for your trip.

  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing for long travel days or busy holiday schedules. Plan for clothing and footwear options that protect your skin from blistering, chafing, or other potential discomfort or infection sources. 
  • Pack clothing that is breathable and comfortable enough for you to complete your self-care needs while on the go, such as elevating your legs, staying active, layering to cool down to minimize swelling, etc.
  • Make room for any lymphedema equipment you might need. Even if it means checking an extra bag, bringing your pneumatic compression pump, extra bandages, or other supplies can make a huge difference in managing your symptoms. A little extra packing inconvenience now will keep you comfortable, healthy, and happy with your lymphedema management after the holidays.

For more information on what to pack and travel-friendly lymphedema supplies, browse additional travel resources from Lympha Press.

Don’t Let Holiday Stress Takeover

The holidays can keep us so busy that we forget to take time to rest and take care of ourselves. However, emotional stress can contribute to exacerbations in fluid retention and worsen lymphedema symptoms. Managing stress and taking time for self-care is key to managing your lymphedema during this season. Here are some ways you can take time to relax and reduce stress:

  • Listen to calming music or soundscapes to unwind and alleviate stress. Take 10-15 minutes alone to sit in a comfortable chair or lay down in a peaceful place and listen to your favorite soothing songs or sounds. Instrumental music, beach sounds, or meditation sounds may help to set a calming mood.
  • Get plenty of sleep! Whether taking a daily nap or going to bed early, sleep may support both lymphatic function and good decision-making for managing lymphedema symptoms. It is much easier to stay active, remain consistent with compression, and avoid stress when well-rested.
  • Space out your activities within or across each day to conserve your energy. It is okay to spread out the holiday joy rather than packing it all into one day. You can build in time for resting or schedule small chunks of festivities each day to stay rested while still enjoying the holiday festivities.

It is important to find techniques for de-stressing that work for you! Trying one or more of these strategies can support your lymphedema management by enhancing your mental and physical health throughout the holidays and beyond.

‘Tis the Season for Lymphedema Management

Whether you are celebrating near or far, with family or friends, the holidays naturally bring elements of stress and schedule changes that can affect your usual lymphedema management routine. Using strategies to remain diligent with care during this season can ensure that you enjoy the festivities without sacrificing your future health. Planning and partnering with your care experts are key first steps to take when preparing for your holidays. Ask questions, and seek out resources early to get ahead of the holiday hustle. 

For more information on lymphedema management tools and tips, explore the numerous resources offered by Lympha Press.

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