Managing the Stress of the Holidays With Chronic Illness


This quote has become my mantra for dealing with many of life’s situations:

“Not my circus. Not my monkeys.”

Although many people will tell you that positive thinking will solve all your problems, it won’t. What it will do however is train your brain to discover a new perspective on the events of your life, and this new perspective will prompt you to respond differently to situations that come up. We cannot control events or the behavior of others. That’s obvious. What is less commonly accepted is that we can control how we react to whatever is happening in our life.

I’ve heard much criticism about the power of positive thinking; people saying they’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. There’s the problem. There is much more to positive thinking than telling yourself a few words to “erase” the almost constant turmoil going on in your head causing you pain, stress or sorrow. It is not something you “try” – it is a way of life you embrace because you have had enough of dealing with the same upsetting situations over and over. You want change! Just think about all the years of negative thoughts that went through your mind; do you really think you can change the nature of your relationship to yourself, to others, to life… with a little try? Of course not. It takes awareness, or in other words: presence.

It is simple. It is easy. It takes practice. It does take work and a real commitment to self-care!

During the coming holiday season, you will almost certainly have an abundance of opportunities to be kind to yourself at an essential level. You can make a commitment right now to have a “better” time this year even if you have to be present at family gatherings that often inflict sensory overload on our delicate nervous system. Go ahead. What do you have to lose? OK then. Here’s my plan of action as far as my thoughts are concerned: You can tweak it to your preference and use it as your lifeline.

1. When I feel upsetting emotions rising up, I stop and ask myself: “Is what I am thinking true?” Do not believe everything you think! (Ex: Is my father always picking on me, or is this present situation just getting to me right now?)

2. Acknowledge and embrace what you are feeling. Repressing emotions does not serve you.

3. Breathe! A few “cleansing breaths” will help you focus. On what? On your mantra!

4. Repeat your mantra until you calm down. You’ll be surprised to see how fast this happens.

I chose “Not my circus. Not my monkeys” because it reminds me that what others do or say or even think about me, is none of my business. It has to do with them, not me. If someone says or does something that upsets me, I help myself with those four steps. I leave the room if I have to, so I can find my balance again and feel at peace.

You can see the holidays as disastrous or pretty good, all things considered. You are in control of your own vision on life. If you choose wisely what you focus on,  you can open your heart to the love you give yourself and then, spread it around!

Love and light,

Marianne

Follow this journey on the author’s website.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Rawpixel.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

painting of a woman lying down with her hands on her body

Cultivating Self-Compassion When You Live With Chronic Illness

Living with chronic illness can feel like a rollercoaster ride you’ve been shoved on that never ends. Riding its ebbs and flows is an art, and learning to cultivate self-compassion along the way is too. It’s not uncommon to have feelings of resentment, anger, fear, “not enough-ness” or shame towards your body. Especially when we [...]

15 Tips for Eating Healthily With Chronic Illness

Editor’s note: The following is based on an individual’s experience and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice.  When it comes to eating healthily when living with a chronic illness, you may find yourself in a bit of a quandary. We know that eating healthily can help us feel somewhat better, but we simply don’t have the [...]
stuart murdoch talking about me/cfs

Why I'm Thankful to Musician Stuart Murdoch for Sharing His Experiences With ME/CFS

Songwriter and frontman of Belle and Sebastian, Stuart Murdoch, opened up about living with ME/CFS in a 2015 interview. Being a fan of the band, and having ME/CFS, this was big news for me. It meant our community welcomed a new face. A face that has a platform to reach many, many people. A platform that brings exposure to [...]
painting of a woman sitting cross-legged and holding flowers to her chest

5 Things I Had to Let Go of When I Stopped Working

When illness makes you unable to work, you learn to let go of so much more than just your job. These are the layers of letting go I experienced when I had to take a step back from the world. Each required a paradigm shift to help me process them. 1. Letting go of striving. Being [...]