Making the Holidays Count When You Have a Disability or Illness


When I was growing up, we had a felt advent calendar in our living room to count down the days until Christmas. The first one to wake up in the morning removed the little piece of felt, and a picture as a star or poinsettia and the day’s date became visible. When my niece and nephew were little, I used to buy them the same type of calendar at Trader Joe’s, and each day they could open the tiny door on the box to eat a piece of chocolate hidden inside.

Because December and the holidays can be tough on people, especially those with a physical or mental illness, I try to get myself and my husband through the season in the best state of mind possible. One way I do that is to create a twist on the advent calendar every year.

Last year I put 25 clothespins on a string and hung it across a wall in the living room. I clipped a piece of paper to each pin. On the front of the paper was a number from 1 to 25, and when my husband opened each piece of paper, he found a random act of kindness to complete that day. One day his act was to open the door for a stranger. Another day it was saying “hi” to five people he passed on the street. Another day it was leaving $1.25 in quarters in the laundry room so someone could do a free load of washing.

This year I am going to take 25 envelopes and 25 recipe cards and write an inspirational quote on each one. The same idea can be a self-care routine for someone with a chronic physical or mental illness, but instead of inspirational quotes, there can be a simple action for the person to complete that day. Some of my suggestions for a self-care calendar include: eat one of your favorite foods today, draw a picture or burn your favorite candle. Make yourself a cup of tea and stare out the window while you sip it, take a nap, read at least two articles from your favorite magazine or start a new book. Someone else might like things like call your best friend, take a social media break, watch an episode of your favorite show or one of your favorite movies.

There are endless ideas you can use for this gift to your friend or loved one, and the better you know them, the easier it will be. If you want to make it even more elaborate, on some days you could include a small gift with the self-care suggestion, such as a candle, a book by their favorite author or the latest copy of their favorite magazine. I wouldn’t get carried away though; the beauty of creating this gift is in the thought and time spent putting it together. It’s the thought that counts — and with this gift, your thoughts will count every day.

Getty image by Maxim Fanseco.


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