18 Ways People With Chronic Conditions Can Simplify Gift-Giving This Christmas


This is my sixth Christmas living with dysautonomia.* Technically, it is the seventh year with this crazy condition that has turned my life upside down. On December 26, 2010, I woke up feeling weak and it took all my might to stand up from the couch. My heart was screaming as it was beating so quickly. That day I experienced my first of many intravenous therapies. I was dehydrated after dealing with the flu earlier in December and had a month-long migraine.

I recall Christmas shopping was difficult that year, as my body was not operating normally. My doctors had the idea I might have dysautonomia, but neither they nor I really knew how disabling this condition would become. The year 2011 proved a year of discovery, challenges and loss.

Christmas shopping can become a Herculean task for those with chronic conditions. I have gotten better at preparing and enjoying the holidays. Here are a few suggestions to help those living with chronic illness simplify the gift-giving process.

1. If you send Christmas cards, use an online version. And if that seems too impersonal, have a photo card made with a personalized message. All you need to do is address the envelopes, add a label and stamp and mail.

2. Find a gift that will please several people and purchase in quantities. Last year I bought fun socks for relatives and friends. These socks had things such as animals, sayings and hobbies on them.

3. Online shop as much as possible. If you shop on Amazon.com, go to dysautonomiainternational.org, find the Amazon store and click. Now you have a search bar to find presents on Amazon. Six percent of all purchases is donated to Dysautonomia International.

4. Gift cards are easy and many can be ordered online or bought at a local drug store or supermarket. Sure, gift cards may seem impersonal, but it is very easy and most people enjoy a card for their favorite store.

5. Make personal items for people. Perhaps you knit, paint or create homemade cards. These are lovely gifts. A friend sent me a beautiful homemade basket for Christmas last year. I treasure it as it is beautiful and made with love.

6. Pick up things throughout the year. Keep in a special bin for gifts. This way you will have things on hand as needed for Christmas.

7. Forgive yourself if you don’t find the perfect gift. It is energy-consuming to shop; add chronic illness, and symptoms are multiplied. It is acceptable to cut corners.

8. Pick names in a family instead of buying for everyone. This will save energy and time.

9. Find time to help a needy child/family with a gift, cash or food. Helping others typically makes us feel better, too.

10. Use a wheelchair or scooter as needed to shop. Sure, dysautonomia is more of an invisible illness, but shopping, standing and walking get exhausting quickly. Make sure to take rests and hydrate.

11. Use an accessible parking space if you have the proper placard. This will conserve some energy.

12. Bring a friend or relative with you for fun and security.

13. Ask for help. If you need a few things but cannot get them, a friend or relative may be able to assist. In 2010, at my earliest point in this illness process, my sister bought all the stocking stuffers and last-minute gifts for me. It was a huge help and very appreciated.

14. Scale back. No one needs a pile of presents, and the true meaning of the holiday could get lost in shopping.

15. Enjoy your relationships. Tell friends and family members how important they are to you. This is more valuable than a new sweater.

16. Use a free or low-cost wrapping service at the store. Or buy gift bags and tissue paper to package the gifts.

17. Accept that you may need to rest and/or skip some holiday activities. Prioritize and plan some downtime.

18. Remember that while your holiday may not be perfect, you should still sit back and enjoy the blessings of life.

* “Dysautonomia is an umbrella term used to describe different medical conditions that cause a deregulation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS controls such body functions as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature regulation, digestion and breathing.” –Dysautonomia International

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