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How to Enjoy the Holidays with a Chronic Illness

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marshmallows in red mug

Dear chronic illness warrior,

Today, I’m talking to YOU with a very important, essential message. We’re going to have a heart-to-heart today about how to enjoy the holidays with a chronic illness. I know you want to have the most magical, amazing Christmas, despite your chronic illness. You want the dream we all crave, time spent with loved ones, taking part in all the cherished holiday traditions, and participating in the hustle and bustle of the season. You want to have a truly magical, perfect Christmas just like everyone else. However, you cannot burn the candle at both ends! I think we all have experienced those Christmases where we pushed too hard, we committed to one too many Christmas gatherings, and we burned ourselves out. The body keeps score, and as a result, we missed out on the true point of Christmas – making memories and spending time with loved ones. This year let’s make a commitment NOT to overdo it! Here are my best tips and tricks to survive the holidays with a chronic illness!

Don’t overcommit yourself

If you’re looking to enjoy the holidays when you’re chronically ill, you absolutely must be careful with your “yes” this Christmas season. I know you want to participate in every Christmas event, social gathering, and holiday festival; however, we simply MUST acknowledge that we have limits, and do our very best to honor and take care of our bodies. Yet, at the same time, we don’t want to decline every event and end up lonely, depressed and left out while all our friends enjoy those merry activities we were looking forward to! My best piece of advice is to build in time before the commitment! Don’t immediately respond with a “yes” or “no” to any invite. Take time to consider what is needed from you in order to commit to the event. Evaluate if this will fill up your soul or be draining to you. Is this going to leave your body exhausted or is it a good choice physically? Spend time considering these items before you provide your answer to the invite!

Shop online

While I love a trip to the mall for Christmas shopping (I mean, who doesn’t love the mall decorations and festive music?!), we need to at least be open to the idea of shopping online. This is especially important on those days when you aren’t feeling too well physically. Shopping online is one of those easy switches that can make the world of a difference in taking care of yourself this Christmas!

Simplify when you can

When we are trying to enjoy the holidays with a chronic illness, we need to get creative and try to simplify when we can. For example, if your friend group exchanges gifts each year, instead of taxing yourself by shopping and purchasing a different gift for each friend, get them all the same thing! You could personalize the gift with their name or monogram, or you could literally just purchase something that you know they all would enjoy! Ideas include candles, jewelry boxes, homemade cookies, coffee gift cards, or wine subscriptions.

Another easy way to simplify your Christmas with a chronic illness revolves around events! Instead of attending 10 holiday gatherings with different friends and family in attendance at each one, you could host a gathering yourself and invite all your friends and family to one place on the same day. You could even further simplify this by making the event a potluck instead of hosting the entire meal yourself. You could supply the main dish, and have each guest bring a side to share!

Don’t apologize

As a person with a chronic illness, you have unique needs that others simply do not have, and you need to be communicating this with your loved ones! Easier said than done, I know from personal experience, but sometimes you simply must say no to preserve your energy. It’s so easy to let the guilt and people-pleasing mentality take over in these instances, but it is NOT your fault, and you absolutely should not apologize for doing what’s best for you to survive the holidays with a chronic illness. You are taking care of yourself and doing what’s best for you; now is not the time for comparison or the blame-game. It’s your loved ones, and they care about you! They want you to take care of yourself, so they should be understanding when you ask for what you need to participate, or simply decline an event.

Don’t burn yourself out trying to make every tradition happen

As a perfectionist with a chronic illness and a love for Christmas, I often forget why I take part in Christmas traditions in the first place – to make memories with the people I love! If certain traditions are too hard this year, create a new memory instead! For instance, if you can’t participate in the Christmas hike you look forward to every year, try a Christmas movie marathon instead! Keep your eye on the prize!

Watch your diet

Listen, I know we all want to indulge in our favorite holiday treats but be careful not to over-do it! Here, it’s all about balance. If you know you’re going out for holiday cocktails after work tonight, make sure you’re keeping hydrated during the day. If you feel extra bloated after baking Christmas cookies and eating all the batter (guilty as charged), opt for a healthy dinner afterwards! If you want to enjoy the holiday season with a chronic illness, do your absolute best to find a balanced diet this year.

Check in with yourself often

I think it’s clear by now that we need to take care of ourselves, and this is more important for those with chronic illnesses. Check in with yourself daily. Here are 5 questions you can ask to check in with yourself:

  • How am I feeling emotionally right now? Do I feel exhausted and tense, or am I feeling excited and grateful?
  • How am I feeling physically right now? On a scale of 1-10, where is my pain today?
  • How have my habits been? Are my actions supporting the priorities I had for this holiday season?
  • Am I taking care of myself today in the way I know I should, or am I burning the candle at both ends, denying what I need for myself? What is one thing I can do today to take care of myself?
  • Are there any boundaries I need to put in place to take care of myself this holiday season?

Check in with yourself and then make any necessary changes so you can truly enjoy the holiday season.

Schedule time to treat yourself

Let’s be honest, Christmas with a chronic illness can be tricky! This is why I want you to plan something on your calendar this holiday season that is JUST FOR YOU. Yes, you heard me right, not for your spouse, not for your in-laws, not for your parents, or your BFF, for YOU! I’m talking about something truly special that you can treat yourself with, that shows self-care, and most importantly, is fun!

Maybe it’s treating yourself to that massage or facial you’ve been wanting. Maybe you need to get a reservation with your girlfriend at that fancy restaurant you’ve always wanted to try. Or maybe schedule a spa night in, complete with a cozy bubble bath, a Christmas candle, a nice book, scrub and a face mask! Whatever it might be for you, make sure it fills you up and isn’t taxing on your body, SCHEDULE IT, and make sure it happens! Do not quit on yourself!


Lastly, to survive the holidays with a chronic illness, I want you to protect your peace. Nothing is more important this Christmas season than you taking care of yourself and staying out of the drama. We all know on a personal level just how badly stress can affect our illness, so don’t get involved! Do everything in your power to avoid the stress and protect your peace. You are worth it, and your body deserves it! Christmas is such a festive, merry time; let’s keep it that way by doing everything we can to take care of our chronic illnesses this year. Now tell me, which of these resonated with you must? Let me know in the comments below!

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  1. Pingback: How to Get Organized This Christmas - Val's Magical Life

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