Managing Holiday Stress with IBD

Elizabeth Roberts Health Guide
  • If you are anything like me then you have big dreams for all that you want to get accomplished for the holiday season. In my mind I see myself as Martha Stewart - baking oodles of delicious holiday treats for friends and family, decorating my home top to bottom, inside and out with cheery holiday lights and evergreen swags, and having the perfectly wrapped gift for every one from the mail man to my friends and family.


    While in my mind all these wonderful things happen, in reality I've come to realize and accept that all of it just won't get done. Mostly because Martha Stewart has a staff of hundreds of people helping her out and I don't. But also because I know I'm not super human and my energy level is limited.

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    There are a few tricks, though, that I've learned over the past ten years of living with IBD that help me to keep my sanity and have a happy and successful holiday.


    First, and I think most important, is to know your limitations and accept them. We can all wish that we didn't have IBD and the associated lack of energy that often comes with it but being able to listen to our body and hear and accept what it needs to be healthy is a sign of strength - embrace it.


    Second, prioritize. I used to be one of those people who needed to get it all done. Doing only certain things and not others just wasn't enough and would leave me feeling like a failure. But I quickly learned that I simply can not do everything that I might want to do, at least not without exhausting myself and possibly sending my gut into a flare-up. Now, I make a list of all the things I would like to accomplish. Then, and this is the most important part, I prioritize them and pick only those things that I know I can get done.


    Third, and this will help with #2, learn to delegate. If you're like me you might find delegating a difficult skill to embrace. But, when you learn to delegate you'll love it and how it helps you to accomplish those goals that are most important to you. Don't be bossy about it, but ask nicely for help. I tend to pick two, three, or four items that I could use help on and then ask my husband to pick which ones are of interest to him. I've found that if he gets to pick the task he does it much more happily than if I assign him a task.


    Fourth, remember that the true spirit of the holiday season isn't how much money you spend, how many gifts you give, how elaborately your house is decorated, or whether you've baked the perfect cookie or holiday dinner. This season is about appreciating family and friends. The best gift you could probably give is simply to tell your loved ones how much their love, friendship, and understanding mean to you.


    My fifth tip goes straight back to my first tip - accept your body and your limitations. Be appreciative for those things that you are able to get accomplished, even if it is just sending out your holiday cards. Be gentle with yourself and know that whatever you can accomplish is enough. My family's holiday tradition is to gather at my parent's house in the Midwest. But, since moving to the West Coast there are years when I just don't feel energetic enough to battle holiday airline travel. The first year I decided not to join the family gathering I felt a little guilty and a little sad at missing out on the family celebration. But, I had a great time spending the holiday in my home with my husband, step-son, and local friends. On Christmas day I called my family, wished them well, and had a wonderful, well-rounded holiday without exhausting myself.

Published On: December 10, 2007