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3 Expert Tips for Coping With IBD During the Holidays

As a clinical health psychologist, I have the privilege of working with patients who live with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). In the past I’ve spoken with The Mighty about using the challenges of IBD to build resilience and thrive despite living with a chronic condition.

As we head into the holidays, The Mighty has been listening closely to the IBD community about their concerns this time of year. On top of increased fatigue, they deal with setting boundaries, canceling plans, and subsequently coping with missing out. Here are a few tips on navigating these three tough topics, which anyone living with a chronic condition may want to keep in mind.

Navigating Boundaries

There is no time like the holiday season where you feel pressured to engage with family, and that means increased pressure to take on their stress! Remember that even though the pressure might increase to get involved in family drama, nothing has changed in terms of your capacity to deal with it. Ask yourself, “Would I be involved in this if it wasn’t for the fact that I will be going to visit family next week?” If no, then set a boundary. I always like to remind myself that “No” is a perfectly sufficient answer.

Canceling Plans

First, as a general rule, I think it’s important to be transparent about your true intention to attend an event. A lot of times we cancel plans because we weren’t that excited to go to begin with, or it’s not a priority such that not feeling well on the day of results in the desire to cancel. My recommendation is to simply say “no” upfront to things that you are ambivalent about, or don’t have a true desire to attend — save up your canceled plans for things that you really wanted to do to begin with. If people feel like it was your authentic intention to attend, it is often easier to get empathy when you must cancel.

Also remember – just because you feel guilty doesn’t mean there is something to be guilty about!

Missing Out

Coping with the feelings of missing out during the holidays is contingent on how connected you feel to the world during this time. There are several ways to savor the little moments that make us feel connected: traditions, smells, favorite foods, notes of gratitude… If you like to sing, setting up a virtual caroling party!

Sharing the little moments, even with a stranger, can be a way to further savor — go out of your way to make conversation in the elevator, make a point to wish people happy holidays. There is a whole science on positive emotions. When you make a concerted effort every day to think about some of the positive emotions you held, encountered, shared, or created, you can offset some of the negative feelings of loneliness, isolation, or guilt – and  feel more connected to humanity.

What are you concerned about this holiday season? Find support from Mighties who get it by writing a post of your own in our Crohn’s & Ulcerative Colitis Support Group or our private Women+ With IBD community.

Getty image by ArtistGNDPhotography.