I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to having a break. It’s been a long year, and my body and mind are ready for some time to unwind.
I’m sure a lot of kids are also feeling that way, especially this year. Many students are struggling with stress and anxiety during remote or hybrid learning, coupled with other issues such as financial hardships, grief, and isolation. Even without those stresses, end-of-semester projects, tests, and presentations may leave them feeling burnt out.
Everyone needs a break from time to time to rest, do some fun activities, and get ready to get back out there to face the world. But kids with juvenile arthritis and other chronic illnesses may find that breaks are a time when the body cries out for rest. My JA symptoms increase around planned holidays most of the time, leaving me in more pain and feeling more fatigued than usual.
Stress is a trigger
It can be challenging for the body to transition from periods of high stress to low stress. Long-term stress can cause the body to produce a lot of cortisol, which can lead to inflammation. After a while, it may trigger a flare-up for your child.
Stress can also lower the immune system, making it easier to pick up colds. So, while your child may seem fine while wrapping up the semester, they may wake up with a little cold the day of their vacation, which may also bring on a flare. My former teachers reported that they see students get sick immediately after big tests all the time, and they even anticipate it after big projects or standardized testing.
A restful holiday
That’s not to say I don’t do anything during summer or winter breaks. That wouldn’t be any fun! It was just a matter of pacing and being flexible when possible. The first few days were often reserved for watching movies, hanging around the house, and preparing for the holidays. If we have something special planned, like ice skating, it usually occurs toward the end of the break, when I’m a little more rested.
Even when I went away for vacation, we still managed to do a lot while letting me rest. At Disney World, I often use a wheelchair on bad days. Or, during my most recent trip to the lake, it was a nap in the middle of the day most days. We still got to see and do a lot, but I didn’t feel especially burnt out or in pain to achieve it.
It’s a good idea to be a little lenient with your child during breaks, especially after an incredibly stressful semester. Plan for plenty of downtime and rest. Not only will their joints appreciate it, but also your family may enjoy taking life at a slower pace during the holidays.
Note: Juvenile Arthritis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Juvenile Arthritis News, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to juvenile arthritis.
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