The holidays are a time that calls for us to be extra kind to ourselves, especially when a chronic illness like autoimmune disease is in the mix. In the United States alone, there are approximately 54 million individuals living with an autoimmune disease and close to 2 million new cancer diagnoses each year — that struggle certainly doesn’t stop during this whirlwind time of year.
Holly Bertone is an expert in chronic illness, a survivor herself, and the bestselling author of Thriving in the Workplace with Autoimmune Disease. Below, she’s sharing how people dealing with a chronic illness like autoimmunity can enjoy the holiday season with as little extra stress as possible…
Growing up, my holidays were over the top. My parents always went out of their way to make the entire season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day extra special. Fast forward to Christmas 2010, I was in the middle of chemo treatment and flat-out sick over Christmas. After cancer, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and my health and energy plummeted. I couldn’t enjoy the holidays like I used to.
I realized that as much as I love the memories and traditions of the past, the holidays are about being with family and friends and the spirit of the season — not creating Facebook or Pinterest perfection. I’ve kept that same spirit ever since and am sharing my best practices for holiday survival with you today.
How To Manage Stress During The Holiday SeasonThe holidays can be a joyous time — or a time for heartache and struggle. For anyone with a chronic illness, the extra undue stress fuels fire to an already stressful time of year. Here are ten great tips to manage stress and help you enjoy the holidays with your family and friends.
Be Your Own Advocate | It can be difficult to advocate for yourself when you feel like you don’t want to disappoint anyone. You are going to get tired. You will probably have food restrictions. What do you need to communicate? Make a list and do it ahead of time. If you don’t speak up for yourself, don’t expect anyone else to. Especially with family, if you don’t tell them that something needs to be different, they will never know.
Plan | Get out your calendar. Write down all of the known events. Circle the ones you absolutely must or want to go to. Keep in mind your energy level and how many events in a day or week you may be up for.
Manage Expectations | We live in a day and age where we only see the best side on social media. Whatever you go through on a daily basis with your chronic illness (fatigue, pain, food, etc.), keep your expectations in check. And remember, it may be worse over the holidays due to the increased stress. And please, please, please do not compare yourself to anyone else. Not on Pinterest. Not on Facebook. Not your next-door neighbor. Not your sister. Not your best friend. No one.
Find Your Focus | Make a list of what’s really important to you this month. Imagine it’s January 2, 2019. Imagine if you were talking about the holidays to a friend you haven’t seen in a while. What were the highlights? What made you most excited? What were those special moments? When someone asks you, How were your holidays? what is the first thing that comes to mind that brings you joy? That, my friends, is what you want to focus on. Start there. Know your priorities and stand firm.
Bring Your Own Food | It’s a lot more acceptable to bring your own food these days. It seems like everyone has some kind of food allergy or nutrition protocol they are on. I may even go as far as to say it’s trendy. Don’t feel like you have to be polite or hurt anyone’s feelings. Bring your own food. If you are going to a party or to someone’s house, say I have a gluten intolerance so I’m bringing XYZ to ensure I can eat safely and also to share with everyone. Or, Do you prefer I bring ABC or XYZ?
Drink Responsibly | Many individuals with chronic illness choose to not drink alcohol. I always ask for sparkling water in a wine glass so I can still feel festive and not have to drink the token bottled water. When offered alcohol, say No, thank you, or I’m driving, and keep it brief and neutral. There is no need to go into details.
Pack a Handbag Full of Ninja Extras | Activated charcoal and digestive enzymes are good to take before and after you eat as preventative measures in case you ingest something that disagrees with you. Pack some extra snacks in your bag. Also, it’s good to have a small poop-spray on hand in case of an extreme bathroom emergency.
Practice Self-Care | The most important piece of advice for anyone with a chronic illness is to practice self-care. Learn to say no if the event or request is not in alignment with your plan. And literally, carve out time for you. Make sure you eat healthy and exercise, even if it’s a gentle yoga practice or walking. Take a nap. Meditate. Schedule a massage or pedicure. Carve out a few minutes of quiet. Pick up a good book.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up | As much as you plan and try, things do go wrong. It’s a part of life. Your self-worth is not how many cookies you baked or how your home is decorated or how many parties you go to. Your self-worth is in your heart and what you give to yourself and others.
Be Grateful | Don’t get caught up in the craziness of the season. Take a few minutes every morning when waking up and every night before bed to practice gratitude. Either write down or think of ten things you are grateful for. It’s easy to feel down this time of year, especially when dealing with a chronic illness. Take some time each day to remember the good in your life and send your gratitude up to God and out to the universe. It’s amazing how grounded you will feel after being grateful.
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.