5 Tips to Survive Chronically Ill Holidays
The holidays and chronic illness do not mix well on any level, so here are some of my tips on how to survive the holidays without having more physical and mental breakdowns than necessary:
1. Keep in mind that you DO NOT need to celebrate at all. This tip may ruffle some feathers because the holidays have been so deeply ingrained in us as staples of our lives that we often don't even consider the fact that we technically do not have to celebrate at all if we don't want to. Notice I'm not telling you not to celebrate, nor am I even suggesting that you not celebrate. I am focused on the mindset here. Because if you keep telling yourself that you have to do xyz and you have to celebrate in all the ways you did before you got sick, you're gonna have a nervous breakdown (trust me, I've been there, it aint fun). You're setting your expectations too high. BUT if you tell yourself "wow I don't have to celebrate at all" you're setting the bar super low for yourself so that everything you're able to accomplish is a huge victory and what you're not able to do doesn't matter in the big picture because just showing up is an accomplishment in and of itself.
2. Plan everything out ahead of time. If you do decide to celebrate, remember that you know what your body is capable of better than anyone else, so budget your time wisely. For example, if you have Christmas traditions like baking cookies or going to Grandma's house, plan ahead so that you can save up your energy both beforehand and during. Don't use up all your energy on cookies. I personally have like 6 things to bake before Christmas so I've set it up where I can bake every other day and (hopefully) get everything done without being worn out by Christmas.
3. Vocalize your needs to the people you're celebrating with. This one might be hard depending on how understanding people are of your chronic illness. Some people just don't get it, but that shouldn't keep you from standing up for yourself and doing what you need to do to be comfortable. If you need to have the celebration at your home because you're more comfortable there, let people know that. If you can't cook anything, you need help transporting presents, or you need to schedule dinner for 5 o'clock instead of 3 because you need a nap, tell people. If they can't handle your illness needs, that's on them, not you. It's best just to vocalize what you need because you're your own best advocate and it's important to look out for yourself.
4. Don't be afraid to hide somewhere for an extended period of time if you need to. I can't tell you guys how many holidays I've hid in the bathroom for a while (like 30+ minutes) just to give myself a break from people. It helps me keep from being overwhelmed/overstimulated and if I'm feeling really sick the bathroom's kind of the best place for me anyway. You don't have to hide in a bathroom though you can hide in your room, any unoccupied bedroom of a family member's house, or even go hang out in a parked car for a while I won't judge.
5. Take rest breaks and also wear comfy clothes. The holidays are such a go-go-go time of year you need to make sure to rest. I suggest scheduling time to rest on the actual holiday, but also don't be afraid to rest spontaneously. If plans change last minute and you can't go to IHOP on Christmas Eve because you went to church and that took a lot out of you, by all means just go on home to rest. Do what you need to do to not be miserable. In terms of clothes: you don't have to wear jeans if they hurt you, end of story. And if a family member "can't get behind this whole sweater and legging thing you got going on" (yes that is a direct quote that was said to me) kindly tell them to fuck off because comfort is key.
The holidays do not need to be amazing, fantastic, enjoyable for everyone, but I think the least we can do is try to make them tolerable, and I've found that these tips help make them tolerable for me.