Avoiding Holiday Flare

Flare — dramatic worsening of RA symptoms — seems to occur at the worst possible times. That’s because triggers include stress and overwork.  We have two weeks until Thanksgiving, so unless our goal is to flare badly and miss out on all the festivities, a bit of advance planning is needed. Don’t wait until the last minute; start the work now.

Menu Planning

Write out your menu.  A few years ago, I realized that our menu was way more food than what we really needed.  I have no idea why it took me so long to recognize that we were serving two full feasts. My pared-down menu requires about half the work. Nobody feels deprived (that’s why there are still rolls on the menu) and it’s way less work to clean up.  Do whatever works for your situation.


Next list all the ingredients that will be needed to prepare your menu.  This should eliminate running out of ingredients and needing to make an emergency run to the store.  Here is my list; you’ll generate your own based on your specific menu.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Make things easy for next year!  Type your list and save it in your computer; you’ll be able to find it next year. You can even slip a holiday notebook onto your cookbook shelves so that the same menu and grocery list can be used every Thanksgiving (and Christmas, if you’re like me).

Check this required-ingredient list against your pantry to determine what you need to get at the grocery store. Don’t wait until next week.  Now is a good time to take care of getting your menu planned and your grocery list made.  Obviously you won’t want to buy vegetables this soon, but everything else can be done now.  Spreading out the work a little-bit-at-a-time helps to minimize RA flares.

Menu Prep

Delegate!  Just because you’re hosting an event does not mean you have to provide all the food and do all the work.  My mom is diabetic, so she is in charge of bringing the cranberry relish that she loves and wants instead of my cranberry sauce.  The person who’s celiac is in charge of the GF dinner rolls so that she knows they are safe for her to eat.  Another person is asked to bring drinks.  Green salad is another thing that’s easy to delegate.

Copy your menu, then work out a schedule of when those things should be prepared.  Mine is provided below as an example.  How much can be done in advance? The turkey needs to be roasted on Thanksgiving day, but almost everything else can be done ahead.



Everyone’s standards of cleanliness are different. Mine are generally, “clean enough to be healthy; messy enough to be happy,” so I do a little extra right before the holidays. No matter what your personal standards are, if you try to clean your entire house the day before company comes, you’re going to flare and miss out on the fun of having people over.  Spread the work out over the next two weeks so that everything gets done without you wearing yourself out. I do a scaled-down spring-cleaning in the fall to get ready for holiday company.


Getting it All Done

Choosing a couple jobs a day makes all the cleaning and meal prep realistic instead of flare-inducing.  Make yourself a little calendar and spread the jobs out over the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.  Here’s my plan:


Click to enlarge

This lets me do just a few jobs each day so that I’m not too tired, and it gets things done Thursday morning with minimal effort. I’m able to sit and visit with family and friends instead of rushing around, stressed about getting everything done.

Serving the Meal

Gone are the days of multiple serving dishes so that both tables are set completely.  Gone are the days of taking forever to fill everyone’s glasses.  Gone are the days of taking two hours to clean up after dinner.  Life is so much easier now!  I serve Thanksgiving dinner buffet-style.  The plates go in a pile on the counter. People get their own drinks. The food is arranged so that everyone can walk through the kitchen to fill their plates, then head to a table to sit and eat.  The table isn’t too crowded; there isn’t a side-board set up to hold the salad and dressings that won’t fit on the table.  Cleanup goes much faster with half the serving dishes.  It’s much less work this way and everyone still enjoys a nice meal together.

Thanksgiving, like the rest of life with RA, goes much more smoothly when we learn to pace ourselves.


9 thoughts on “Avoiding Holiday Flare

  1. You are just amazing! Not only are you getting yourself organized, you care enough about the rest of us to try to get us through the holidays as well. It sounds like a wonderful holiday season at your house (wish you were close enough I could invite myself over!). I’ve never heard of corn gravy. Sounds delish! Hope you and yours have a love-filled, flare free holiday.

  2. I realize I’ve been quiet lately. Life has been crazy busy, and I’m still fighting with my insurance over my biologic. Just thinking about it takes all my spare energy.

    Carla, I had never heard of it before getting married, but mother-in-law makes dried-corn gravy and everyone loves it. In September she cuts corn off the cob and dehydrates it. Then for holidays, she rehydrates it. I skip the dehydrate/rehydrate steps and just pour frozen bagged corn into a big pot, cover with cream, add some honey, and simmer a few hours 🙂

  3. Love all these ideas! My mom always made way more food than we could ever eat and she had little time to spend with us. One happy memory though was helping in the kitchen. Delegating isn’t only helpful but can provide great memories. Thanks for sharing so much of your day!

  4. I don’t have RA. I have psoriasis, chronic bursitis, and chronic tendinitis. But I love your blog. So much truth here. Keep up the great teaching! I’m having my worst holiday flare ever from a 5 hour plane trip, and I’m only 34. I will be back to learn more from you!

    • With chronic bursitis and tendinitis, plus psoriasis, it would not be surprising if you have psoriatic arthritis. PsA should be treated every bit as aggressively as RA. I’m sorry about the travel-induced flare 😦 Have you seen a rheumatologist?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s