Clearing’s Holiday Gift Guide
For many of us, December is a gift-giving season, and for some of us, giving those gifts can feel a little stressful. What if we don’t find the “right” thing? What if we can’t afford the things we want to get or what if our gifts don’t capture how we feel about the special people in our lives?
Here at Clearing, we think a lot about chronic pain, including what kinds of presents can best help friends and loved ones who might be hurting. We have a few suggestions about what you might want to get a special person with chronic pain. Or maybe you’re the one who is hurting and would like ideas of what to ask for?
Remember: being together with the right people is the best of all, and that doesn’t need to cost much or cause much stress. That said, here are some starter ideas:
For a better plate
Food is medicine, and food can definitely help you or your special person feel not only fed but actually nurtured, too. See if any of the ideas below sound tasty:
- Vitamins and supplements: sometimes they’re hard to pick, but vitamins, including vitamin C, D, magnesium, calcium and sometimes iron can help give the body everything it needs. Vitamins, if the doctor agrees, may be good stocking stuffers.
- A snack basket: having nuts, dried fruit and popcorn at hand helps turn snack attacks a little healthier. Consider going on a “treasure hunt” to find interesting, unusual flavors to give your person bite-sized reminders of how much you care.
- A home-made meal: polish your knives and your at-home chef skills and do something only you can do: make a special home-made dinner full of both flavor and love. You can increase its healthiness by preparing a low-inflammation meal that can help control your loved one’s pain flares.
- A co-op box or meal service: don’t feel like the kitchen is where you shine? You can still support local farmers and get vitamin-rich veggies delivered straight to your loved one’s door with a co-op box. Or you can get a meal prep or delivery service to speed up making more healthy meals.
- A home herb garden: even a window box is enough to grow some vibrant herbs that can perk meals up while being pretty to look at.
- A spice pack: wrap up a bundle of high-quality spices to make meals more delicious while also lowering inflammation. Turmeric, ginger, garlic, curry, chili, cardamom, black pepper, rosemary and cinnamon can add a special touch to a meal (and they smell delicious, too!)
- Herbal teas: turmeric, cinnamon, ginseng, mint, and other herbal teas can warm up an evening while potentially providing a little pain relief.
- Ginger chews: since ginger is linked to lower inflammation, ginger candies or chews might be good to keep close.
- Dark chocolate: antioxidants can come in the form of dark chocolate, too (happily). So think about getting premium dark chocolate treats or chocolate-covered fruits and nuts as a way to treat your loved one.
- Bottle or jar openers: are not edible, but they are designed for people with challenged grips so opening sealed things can be that much easier.
For staying on the move
Staying active with 30 minutes of daily yoga, stretching, swimming, weight lifting, aerobics or other kinds of exercise is a spectacular way to keep pain at bay. Staying on the move helps muscles support great posture while potentially reducing pain, so here are a few action-based gift ideas:
- Supportive insoles: cut down on how badly chronic pain can impact knees, ankles, arches and all the delicate moving parts in the feet by gifting supportive gel or cushy insoles.
- Yoga or other classes: all kinds of exercise classes led by all kinds of professionals are now online (though in-person classes are still great, too). Think about buying a bundle of class passes to help your person move.
- Specialty equipment: stretchy bands, yoga blocks, ergonomic weights or other exercise aids make it easier to cut down on chronic pain in the gym.
- A trainer or health coach: sometimes the right coach can make moving much, much better. Consider hiring a coach to make home visits or offer in-person coaching at the gym to help boost your person’s confidence and sense of being supported. Plus, these coaches can also teach pain-appropriate exercise moves.
- Offer to drive: maybe you can chauffeur your person so they can complete their errands, or maybe you can buy gift cards for ride services to make getting things done that much easier.
For creating a little peace and quiet
Most of us need peace and quiet once in a while, and those of us with chronic pain particularly need a refuge, whether that’s a calm space to be or simply a tranquil headspace. Help out with that by gifting:
- A meditation subscription: there are meditation coaches or guides online. You can pick a meditation app subscription, or you can even buy a pack of guided meditation cards. Whichever you pick, meditations can truly cut down on chronic pain impacts.
- Headphones: help make a safe, quiet headspace by buying noise-blocking and/or wireless headphones so there’s less chance of getting tangled and more chances of hearing helpful sounds (or no sounds at all!)
- Playlist: speaking of headphones, give your special person something good to listen to by assembling a playlist of thoughtful songs or calming soundscapes. Do they miss the forest? Include tree rustling noises. Are they anxious? Try rhythmic, low-key electronic music or melodic acoustic songs. The great thing about playlists is how personal they can be, so get creative!
- Bath time picks: pad a hard bathtub with a cushion that can stick to the tub. Throw in a colorful rubber duckie for fun, and finish the package off with soothing lavender, peppermint, or rosemary bath salts or gels.
- Sleep aids: since sleep is so important for helping manage pain, think about sleep masks, black-out curtains, mouth guards (for protecting against tooth grinding, which can happen with stress and pain), ear plugs, heated electric blankets or weighted blankets to make sleep feel that much safer and more stable.
For coping with down days
Even people without chronic pain get plenty of stressful, less than A+ days, so imagine what adding pain into the picture can be like. To help with those times, here are some options:
- Podcast lists: you can make a list of podcasts or buy access to them, depending on what your person may want to listen to (which, if they’re open to it, might include something to make them laugh).
- Homemade help: in the form of sewn bags you can fill with rice and microwave for a homemade heat pad, or you can sew eye pillows you can fill with flax seeds and lavender for stress or headache relief.
- Migraine hat: if your person struggles with regular migraines, maybe a migraine hat, a hat with room for soft weights or ice packs, combined with an eye mask, might help.
- Light it up: A light therapy box can beam rays that can help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) could brighten up the short days of the holiday season. On the other hand, maybe your person could better benefit from infrared red light therapy, which may help with circulation and pain reduction.
- Warm water: give the gift people have been enjoying since ancient times: soothing warm water in the form of hot tub sessions or a guest pass to your local health spa for a therapeutic soak. Replicate a little luxury at home with scented bath salts, bubble bath or mugwort (a herb you can soak in the tub, which may help control inflammation).
- Needles or manipulation: acupuncture needles, that is, or manual manipulation by a skilled chiropractor. These health specialists can offer sessions and advanced therapies to help deal with chronic pain.
- Physical therapy: is another option to help the body heal and to learn exercises to manage chronic pain.
- Mental health therapy: therapists are online these days, too, and some of them offer services covered by insurance. See if your person may benefit from extra mental support in the form of therapists who offer cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) or integrative therapies.
For feeling productive
Sometimes it can feel good to handle chronic pain by getting back to work. Chronic pain, remember, doesn’t have to cut someone off from the rest of their life, including their job, hobbies, volunteer work and other pursuits. Help support them with:
- Blue light glasses or migraine glasses: to reduce blue light exposure or curb the photosensitivity that can accompany migraines by giving hard-working eyes a break.
- Wrist braces, neck braces, or other aids: for parts of the body that could use more support.
- Lighting kits: since someone can be in pain and still want to look professional and polished in their online meetings.
- Lap desk: for working ergonomically from the bed or sofa.
- An ergonomic chair: for using an office desk with less pain.
- Cervical pillows, bed wedges, reading pillows, knee pillows: or anything else that can help your person maintain productively good posture while supporting whatever hurts.
- Tech support: maybe you can reconfigure your person’s workspace, optimize their tech setup, install modifications to make their screens easier to use, set up keyboard shortcuts, enable voice commands, or come up with other tweaks to make your person’s workspace serve them better?
- Learning level ups: Certification courses, language learning resources, hobby supplies like knitting kits, puzzles, sudoku books, model airplanes or candle making kits can help keep your person engaged with learning, which can help fight pain and give your person something else to think about . After all, none of us are only our pain; we all have other interests and goals we want to keep pursuing.
For feeling top-notch
Who says people in pain don’t want to look good? Many times, people with chronic pain want to look even better than usual, partly as a way to take care of themselves or to prove that their lives hold more than just pain. Help support your person in looking and feeling their best with some of the following ideas:
- Icy face roller: it may sound small, but it can be mighty...face rollers you can chill in the freezer can tighten skin and give your person's mood a boost, since the cooling sensation can be relieving.
- Nail polish kit or at-home manicure or pedicure: DIY it with polish and a nail kit or hire a professional nail technician who makes house calls, but either way, well-groomed nails can add a dapper note to the day.
- Dry shampoo or beard oil: grooming products like dry shampoo can stretch the time someone can go between (often painful) showers; beard oil can spruce up facial hair.
- Home care product aids: toothbrushes, hairbrushes, scissors and other common items can often be hard to hold for those with arthritis or hand pain. Why not modify these items by adding foam cushioning or special grips so they’re less taxing to use?
- Massage: help your person feel both pampered and less in pain with a massage, either one you give yourself (if you’re confident in your massage skills) or one provided by a professional trained to deal with patients in pain.
- Go out on a date: people in pain don’t always get to dress up and leave home whenever they’d like. You could offer a standing invitation to a “date night” (which could, of course, be completely platonic!). Just be ready to take your person out on a day that works for them, and build the day’s activities around where they’re at. It could be as posh as an evening at a fancy restaurant (or fancy restaurant food brought straight to them at home) or as simple as a stargazing session with a warm blanket, hot chocolate, and heated car seats. If they’re up for it and don’t feel pressured, a change of pace can work wonders.
- Heavy duty pain help: maybe your person needs access to advanced, non-opioid pain relief? Some people benefit from home TENS units, while others appreciate relief from compounded pain creams.
For making a living space feel right
When people have to spend a lot of time in one space, it’s important for the place to feel as supportive and as little likely to cause pain as possible. Help make that a reality with:
- Fans or space heaters: to adjust the immediate temperature and create a helpful micro-climate (supplement this with an ice maker, if your person wants things cooler, or lotion, to help offset dry skin that may be caused by heat).
- Black-out curtains: to keep away bright, intrusive light that may worsen headaches or cause sleep disturbances.
- Good smells: diffusers and room sprays in cheering scents, which could include citrus, eucalyptus, rosemary, mint, lavender, vanilla or rose help appeal to all senses and make the place feel more like home.
- Betta fish: if your person feels lonely, it may sound silly, but a colorful betta fish in a small tank could provide a little company. Betta fish are usually best kept solo, but are quite intelligent, and can be taught tricks, so they can be surprisingly helpful and amusing pets while also being easy to care for.
- Supportive pillows: bed wedges, reading pillows, firm cervical pillows and body pillows can help keep the body in comfortable positions that can help avoid bed sores and make for better sleeping.
- Safety and stability: is your person’s living space as safe for them as it could be? Check it out and see if adding a grip bar in the shower, a hand-held showerhead for ease of showering, non-slip mats, work mats in the kitchen, or any other fixes might cut down on the chances of them hurting themselves at home.
- An occupational therapist: a professional could visit to safety-proof and optimize the living space for your person’s exact needs.
- House plants: studies show that caring for something, including something as simple as a plant, can boost someone’s sense of engagement and purpose. Plus, houseplants aren’t just pretty — some of them can help purify the air, too.
- Housekeeping or home repairs: hire a maid, housekeeper, jack-of-all-trades or handy-person to help clean the house or make any needed repairs. This may not sound like a glamorous gift, but it can be very helpful, especially for people who live alone.
- Landscaping: surprise your person with a landscaping update to give their surroundings a freshening-up. Yay for something new to look at!
For everyday life
Not every day is consumed by chronic pain, so not every gift has to be about pain. Conversely, if pain truly is part of your person’s “normal,” you could choose presents that make even chronic pain feel a little more manageable.
- Gorgeous art: if you spent a lot of time in one room, wouldn’t you like a beautiful piece of art or a sculpture or piece of meaningful memorabilia to admire?
- Wonderful textures: everyday life can certainly feel a little plusher and more indulgent with luxury fabrics and textures. Think beautiful blankets, cardigans, scarves or pillows made with cashmere, angora, high-quality wool, velvet, chenille, flannel or other fine fabrics.
- A home paraffin kit: warm paraffin can help ease hand and foot pain, so your person may appreciate a home paraffin soaking kit.
- A foot bath: likewise, a foot bath unit for use at home can keep feet warm and a little less painful. Add a bag of scented Epsom salts for even more relief.
- Feet favors: feet have to put up with a lot of pressure, so help them out with gifts like compression tights, heated booties, soft moccasins, or skidless (hospital) socks
- Bathrobes: why not make bathtime better with a big, soft resort-style robe?
- Fine loungewear: in the same vein as bathrobes, people who spend a lot of time at home still like to feel nice. That could mean cute or comfortable pajamas, lounge wear, high-quality sweatpants, yoga wear, or whatever else makes it easy to move around at home. Fabrics such as pima cotton or silk can add a little extra touch of class.
- Pet care: maybe walking your person’s dog, taking their pet to the vet for routine care, picking up after their pets, paying for pet grooming or boarding, or simply thinking to bring pet treats will summon a smile.
- Book club subscription or other subscription boxes: let a delivery service drop off books, subscription boxes, or whatever else might brighten your person’s day. Subscription boxes have the advantage of coming more than once a year, so your person will know you’re thinking of them often.
- A decorating service: see if you can hire a professional to change the indoor or outdoor seasonal decorations so your person doesn’t have to.
- Event passes for online events, concerts, museums: just because someone is at home a lot doesn’t mean they wouldn’t enjoy event or venue access. Fortunately, many events, from book readings to concerts, are now online. Why not buy access to an online event or place so your person can feel involved, entertained and comfortable all at the same time? Some places, such as popular gardens or zoos, even have free live webcams, which could give your person a peek into a different landscape.
- Gift cards: many people with chronic pain specifically request gift cards, since this lets them pick whatever works best for them. It’s nice to make your own choices sometimes!
For connecting with the great outdoors
Pain might be keeping your person mostly inside, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring the outdoors indoors instead. Help them experience the healing qualities of exposure to nature with some of these gifts:
- Aromatherapy diffusers: bring a little of the pine forest or a windswept beach in with well-chosen essential oils and aromatherapy diffusers.
- Flower or fruit subscription: order a flower bouquet subscription service or fruit box delivery to gift your person with a little nature on a regular basis.
- Ergonomic gardening tools: let your person loose in the garden with tools that will be kind to their hands and joints so they can be outside longer.
- Bird feeder, hummingbird feeder, bee house or bat box: bring nature a little closer by installing a bird feeder, hummingbird feeder, or other animal house close to a window so your person can keep an eye on what’s going on outside.
- YakTrax: if you live somewhere icy, consider YakTrax or other sole-gripping devices or spiked shoes to lessen the chances of a fall, should your person need to go outside
- Trekking poles: can ease strain on the back and arms while walking and can also help your person keep their balance, so consider trekking poles if they like long walks.
- A portable stool: for carrying along for errands or other times when they might want to sit.
- Access: to streaming nature walks online or nature videos specially made to simulate walking outside, which may not be as good as actually venturing out, but could be much better than no nature at all.
Like we said at the beginning, sometimes the very best gifts of all involve companionship. Here are a few ideas to help make that a reality:
- A hang-out day: come over ready to just be together. If you want, bring along an indoor picnic, cards, a puzzle, a pack of popcorn, or anything else your person might want, and just be prepared to spend some time hanging out. (You can study up on reflective listening techniques ahead of time, if you'd like to include the gift of thoughtful listening.)
- Bring a pet over: some people really miss animals. Could you bring your pet for a visit, or someone else’s? Some non-profits offer therapy animal visits, which might be worth checking out if your person is an animal lover. If animals can’t visit, you could take your person to the zoo or sponsor an animal in their name.
- Streaming subscriptions: pretty much everyone watches a lot of TV these days. Why not get your person a subscription to a TV or gaming service they may not have?
- Video games: not everyone in pain wants to play video games, but some do. It can also be a good way of connecting with others online, so it may prove to be a good surprise gift. Video games are often action-oriented, but don’t forget that many are puzzle solving or world-building games that may give your person somewhere “else” to be for a while.
- Thinking of you lamp: manufacturers make lamps that light up and change colors in your person’s living space when you touch a control in your own home or use an app in your phone. This can be a good way to remind your person that you’re thinking of them even when you’re not right there.
- Invitations: people in pain can stop feeling included, so consider how much of a gift it can be to simply keep extending invitations without expectations. Make sure your person knows you aren’t expecting them to “feel perfect” and that you know they may need to cancel or leave early.
- Ask for their help: sometimes people in pain feel as though they’re always asking for help, and that can feel like a drag. Give them a break and show them you value their contribution by asking them for help for a change. Maybe they are great editors, illustrators, coders, musicians, accountants...many people with chronic pain have incredible skills as well, and they may love to be asked about these instead of about their pain.
- Offer specific help: Instead of asking what they might want, offer specific help that matches your skills instead. Maybe you can do laundry for them, drop off any dry cleaning, pick up groceries for them, arrange childcare or take their kids to lessons or sports, can do yard work or help manage medical information, can make or bring meals or offer portrait photography or haircuts...get creative while remembering that personal gifts from the heart can mean so, so much.
We hope this helps a little. Let us know if you have any suggestions of your own. And know that the holidays don’t have to end after December...what if you tried to spread a little cheer all through the year? Whatever you are and whatever you’re going through, we wish you and the special people in your life the very best this holiday season.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your individual needs and medical conditions.