One of the hardest aspects of surviving the holidays when you’re chronically ill can be the simple task of
FIGURING OUT HOW TO DO IT.
How does one care for their sick self while still enjoying and engaging in the holiday season? How do we manage expectations, both our own and those of family/friends? Where do set our boundaries?
I’m sure we can all agree on this one point: this is going to be different for each of us. We all have our own unique limitations, abilities, personal expectations and individual family dynamics and traditions that will all play a part in how we best navigate this time of year.
But to get the wheels turning, I invited three lovely ladies to share their perspective, tips and any advice they have to share. And, my friend: their words are TRUTH.
Navigating regular day to day tasks can be difficult on anyone with a chronic illness, but managing your symptoms during the holidays can be much worse. There are just so many unspoken requirements and expectations that it can be hard both physically and emotionally.
For me, this is the first holiday season after receiving a majority of my diagnoses. So, not only am I going to have to deal with my conditions, but I’m going to have to talk about them too. And since I’ll be expected to attend back to back holiday soirees and remain joyful during the process, I’ve picked up a few tips over the course of the last year.
Prepare, prepare, prepare! Before any appointment or outing, I always try to make sure that I’ve gotten enough sleep, I’ve eaten, and I’ve kept up with my medicine schedule.
Listen to your body! No matter how much you prepare, there will still be moments when you’re just not feeling like yourself. Our bodies are unpredictable and no one knows your body better than you. So, if it’s telling you to go home early or cancel your plans all together, listen to it!
Enjoy each moment that you’re given! Truly joyful moments can be few and far between when dealing with chronic pain and illness, so if you get one, enjoy it! Drink it up!
Make time to relax! Going out can be exhausting and your body is already fighting a tough battle. So, you need to remember to schedule in a little you time! Plan to read a book, get a massage, or binge watch your favorite show while you relax and recoup.
My first Christmas after getting diagnosed with cervical dystonia in 2010 was devastating. I couldn’t really do anything and had to watch my family do everything from the couch, where I lay in excruciating pain.
Things have improved for me since then and I’m able to participate more fully in holiday celebrations. However, I really have to pace myself according to how I’m feeling that particular day.
For one thing, we don’t have the most elaborate Christmas decorations. I put the tree up in the living room, decorate the mantel and dining room. That’s it.
I’ve had to let go of traditions I did with ease when my kids were younger. One of them was rolling out cookies. I just don’t do it any more. If I’m going to bake, drop cookies are perfectly acceptable and if I can’t do that, store bought items will have to do. It’s really okay.
Planning a schedule with margin is also important. I can’t handle back-to-back commitments without becoming completely exhausted. Not only that, I can always count on getting sick (or someone else in the house will!)
I’ve also stopped wrapping presents unless absolutely necessary and have really come to appreciate the convenience of gift bags.
My past few Christmases have been spent this way and I’m perfectly okay with it as long as I don’t compare myself with other mothers and accept the blessings that are in front of me for today.
I am a celebrator of all things, big and small. Did you get the job of your dreams? Let’s celebrate. Did you pass the big exam? It’s party time. Did you get through the day without losing your shine? Worthy of celebration in my book.
Yes, I am one of those annoying people with a box of decorations for every holiday, real or imagined. Buying presents, making presents, giving presents- these things are my jam. Or more correctly said, were my jam, before chronic illness took over.
The holidays were once the pinnacle of my celebration loving existence. They now feel like stress. To combat this, I’ve learned to reset my expectations. It’s taken a tremendous amount of time and trial and error. While I once approached the holiday season expecting magical holiday bliss, I now approach the season with the full knowledge my season will look much differently than others. I will not attend every party I would like to. In fact, I will not attend most parties or school plays or special holiday gatherings. Instead of beating myself up over this, I’ve learned to celebrate the “wins.”
When I do make it? I live fully in the holiday moment. I shake off any guilt about the present I didn’t have time to wrap (or buy) and I simply enjoy the moment. I am here, and that is lovely. There are many reasons the holidays may not look or feel the way we’d hoped but I think one way we can prevent disappointment is a simple realignment of expectations. The holidays will not be perfect, but they can be beautiful.