Surviving the Holidays with Chronic Illness

Stacy Community Member November 25, 2007
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    The holiday season can be difficult for everyone. It's no surprise that those of us with chronic illnesses may find the demands of shopping for gifts, spending large amounts of money, attending parties and family gatherings, and entertaining house guests stressful. There is good news, though. With a chronic illness, your holiday season can be great. Just take it easy on yourself, and follow these tips.

    Gift Giving & Money Concerns
    • Instead of using an entire day to marathon shop for gifts, pick up a few things each time you go out.
    • Gift certificates are fantastic! There isn't one person that doesn't want a gift certificate to their favorite store.
    • Shop online! You can have the gifts wrapped and delivered straight to the recipient, or wrapped and delivered to your house (or to whoever is hosting Christmas), ready to go under the tree.
    • Pick a spending limit and stick to it.
    • Do things that are free but still fun and in the holiday spirit. Check out your local city's Web site or newspaper for fun free activities like tree lightings, parades, etc.
    • If you have a large family or group of friends, draw names so you do not have to buy a gift for each person.
    • Instead of gift giving, have your family pick a charitable organization to donate to.
    • Make gifts yourself, such as cookie mix in cute jars, packets of mulling spices, or hand warmers.

    Household Chores & Decorating
    • Buy an artificial tree, perhaps already lit. This is less work and better for the environment.
    • If you have an artificial tree, put it away decorated this year. Next year comes sooner than you think!
    • Host a tree trimming party, and have each guest bring an ornament and an hors d'oeuvre.
    • If you must decorate outdoors, have someone else do it or put out a pre-lit decoration such as reindeer.
    Family Get Togethers, Parties, & Food
    • If you must make cookies, buy the refrigerated kind and decorate them. The custom touch is appreciated, but not as hard and time consuming as making cookies from scratch.
    • If it is your turn to host dinner, have your guests bring all of the side dishes. This leaves you with only one entree, and most people just love showing off their specialties!
    • Order a pre-made dinner from your local gourmet store, restaurant, or deli. They are delicious and easy!!
    • Cook foods ahead of time and freeze them. Also, frozen appetizers make a great quick snack for family members or friends who stop by.
    • If you are going to a lot of parties, pick up hostess gifts in bulk. For example, a case of wine (most retailers will give you a discount if you buy more), bulk coffee, chocolate, or high quality nuts that you can put in cute packaging.

    • For most people with a chronic illness, there is a time of day that they feel best. Try and travel during that time. So if you feel best when you wake up, then your travel time should take place mostly in the morning hours.
    • If you are driving, take frequent breaks.
    • Pack light. Send your gifts ahead of time, but make sure to allow extra time for them to arrive, as shipping times are longer during the holidays.
    • Avoid traveling on peak days as they are the most busy and are more likely to have delays. Book flights on the days before and after Christmas and New Years.
    • If you don't send your gifts ahead of time, make sure you do not wrap them, so security personnel can have access to them. Pack collapsible gift bags to wrap with upon arrival to your destination.

  • Health & Medical
    • Check with your doctors to see if and when they are taking off extra time for the Holidays. Be sure that you have enough medication to get you through.
    • Be careful with alcohol. It can often have dangerous interactions with medications, and it never really makes you feel that great anyway.
    • If you are worried about gaining weight over the holidays, donate your leftovers to a homeless shelter, make sure you only eat things that you don't normally have (you can eat potato chips any day, but crab or lobster is different!), and increase your exercise a little over the holiday season.
    • Carry an easily accessible list of your medications with you at all times and make sure you bring your medications in the original bottles or packaging.
    • See the Center for Disease Control's website for recommendations for medical preparations for travel. This contains vaccine recommendations and any notices of disease outbreaks across the world.

    Don't get caught up in doing things just because you have to. Decide what you want from the holiday season, and then make a plan that works for you. Be sure any plans that you make fit into your idea of what you would like from the holiday season or your holiday plan. Consider previous holiday seasons and if you were happy with the way they went. Would you change anything? Would you invest your energy the same way this year?

    And learn to say 'no.' People will understand that you can't do everything!

    The bottom line is that the holidays don't have to be overly stressful or depressing. Don't expect perfection, and remember that even in the best of circumstances, the holidays can trigger depression and anxiety. Don't hesitate to seek professional help if you find yourself persistently sad or anxious, unable to sleep, etc.

    Having a chronic illness does not mean that you can't enjoy the holidays. Keep it simple, take time for yourself, and follow some of these tips and you can have a great holiday season!

  • Betty Boop Too
    Nov. 27, 2007

    Thank you Stacy

    some really great idea's to make the season enjoyable for those of us in pain.

    We've all had to suffer through some of these holidays in pain, it's difficult to get family and friends used to our chronic pain and illness, especially those that don't see us, but once or twice a year.  Try to simplify the title of your illness,...


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    Thank you Stacy

    some really great idea's to make the season enjoyable for those of us in pain.

    We've all had to suffer through some of these holidays in pain, it's difficult to get family and friends used to our chronic pain and illness, especially those that don't see us, but once or twice a year.  Try to simplify the title of your illness, so you don't have to explain the entire thing to every person who ask's.  I sometimes just say, "I have severe arthritis".  It can be exhausting to go through your whole pain story to every person who asks.

    I hope everyone has a wonderful full holiday!  Be kind to yourself!


    Thanks Stacy, great articleWoot!

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