Living with chronic illness is often a complicated and stressful business but living with chronic illness during the holidays is basically a nightmare.
The long list of social functions, endless trigger foods and people everywhere threaten our physical well-being and emotional peace.
Christmas can be a beautiful time to reflect on the gift of Jesus Christ but it’s easy to lose sight of that gift when you’re too busy trying to explain to Aunt Karen that yes, you’re still sick.
The holidays are hard with chronic illness, but it is possible to survive and thrive this Christmas. Here are my five best tips to take care of yourself so that you can spend more time enjoying yourself this Christmas.
1. Listen to your body.
This is an important skill for anyone to learn, but it becomes exponentially more important for someone with a chronic illness. The importance of this skill is especially clear at Christmas. Friend, listen to your body. When you feel tired, rest. When you feel hungry, eat. Overdoing it will only make your holiday horrible, which leads into my next point.
2. Pace yourself.
As you’re planning Christmas outings, family time, church services and Christmas parties, make sure you’re also planning time to rest. Being intentional about pacing yourself and giving yourself time to recover will mean the difference between overwhelming yourself and genuinely enjoying yourself. Prioritize rest and learn your body’s needs. Budget your energy and use it carefully.
3. Advocate for yourself.
For many of us, Christmas means seeing family and friends we don’t see very often. You will likely be subject to people doubting your illness, giving you unsolicited advice and making your health an inappropriate and unwelcome topic of conversation. You need to be ready to advocate for yourself and stand up for yourself when no one else will. You are free to shut down any conversation that makes you uncomfortable. You are free to share as much or as little about your health as you want to. You don’t owe anyone anything. Keep that in mind this Christmas.
4. Have an escape plan.
When you’re doing physically or emotionally exhausting things this Christmas, make sure you have an escape plan. Have someone ready to drive you home from the party or know where the closest comfy couch is where you can crash and fall asleep. Having a plan b like this takes so much stress off my shoulders about events. Leave anxiety at the door. There’s no shame in having an escape plan when your body is constantly betraying you.
5. Enjoy yourself.
Last but not least, enjoy yourself. I know, this is waaay easier said than done. But sometimes when you struggle with pain on a daily basis, you actually have to make a conscious effort to enjoy yourself. When you know you are listening to your body, pacing yourself, advocating for yourself, and you have an escape plan, you are doing everything you can to enjoy yourself even though you’re living in a body that isn’t predictable. That’s pretty brave of you. So, enjoy yourself. Enjoy your hard work of preparation to survive the holidays.
Enjoying Christmas with chronic illness isn’t easy, but it is possible. I hope these tips help you really enjoy this holiday season.
What are your best tips to survive the holiday season?
Let me know in the comments!