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12 Tips for Making It Through the Holidays With a Chronic Illness

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The holidays can be a challenging and stressful time of year for just about anyone. If, like me, you have a chronic illness, even plain, non-holiday days can be too much, so just thinking about all the hustle and bustle of the holidays can be overwhelming. Fear not, chronic one — read on for some tips to ensure you make it through the holidays in peace and not pieces.

1. Make A List!

Santa does it, and so should you! By making a comprehensive list of everything that needs to get done, purchased, made, etc., you’ll be prepared even when the worst symptoms strike. Check it more than twice!

2. The All-Important Budget!

Sure, it’s important to budget your finances, but I’m talking about the more important budget for anyone with a chronic illness – spoons! (huh? Spoons?) Spend them wisely! This may mean you pass on an afternoon of Christmas shopping so you can make it to the Christmas party for a few hours.

3. Recruit Some Elves!

Delegate, delegate, delegate! If you know you don’t have enough “spoons” for an afternoon of grocery shopping, send a friend or family member off with your list. If you have loved ones who are always telling you that they wish there was something they could do for you, here is their opportunity!

4. Shop Online!

Avoid the madness of the mall and do your shopping online! You don’t have to fight for a parking spot or stand in long lines at the checkout. And if insomnia strikes at 3 a.m., the online stores are always open! (Also, if you’re an Amazon shopper, check out the Amazon Smile program which allows you to give to a charity of your choosing with your purchases.)

5. Embrace “No”

Be realistic about your limitations and don’t spread yourself too thin. Don’t be afraid to decline some responsibilities or social invitations — and do so without guilt! This is all part of budgeting your time and “spoons.”

6. Market Yourself

The holidays are expensive! For those of us who are on a limited disability income, affording the holidays can be tricky! If you need a bit of extra money for the holiday season, sell what you can do — wrap gifts, knit or crochet, bake, offer to babysit so someone else can get Christmas shopping done, etc. This might require thinking outside the box and payment doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary. What skills and time can you sell or trade?

7. Make New Traditions

If chronic illness has you missing some important holiday traditions, make some new ones that are “chronic illness friendly.” Cuddle up and watch some classic movies or go for a drive to see the Christmas lights. Sometimes, the most treasured moments are the quiet, unassuming ones.

8. Give Back

‘Tis the giving season! Find a way to give back — volunteer, make something for charity, donate to a toy or clothing drive. By participating in something that is larger than yourself, you can gain a sense of purpose and fulfillment that can be lost when you live with a chronic illness.

9. The Importance of Support

If you haven’t already, find a support group. Living with chronic illness presents a unique set of challenges and being able to discuss these with people who understand can be a huge lifeline! Keep your sanity by giving and getting support through the holiday season and beyond.

10. Share Joy

The holidays can be an isolating time for people with chronic illness. Reach out by phone, greeting card, email or in person. Make the effort to share joy and focus on what is really important — connecting with family and friends.

11. Keep It Simple

It’s easy to get caught up in the elaborate decorations, fancy parties and mass-marketing of the holiday season. But all of this just adds unnecessary stress and can trigger chronic illness flares. Don’t be afraid to keep it simple.

12. Practice Self-Care

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it is easy to get overwhelmed and make yourself sick. Be sure to take time for self care. Relax, meditate, keep your eating, sleeping and exercise routines. And if it’s necessary to unplug to recharge, be sure to take the necessary time to do so. You’ll end up much more equipped to deal with whatever the holiday season throws at you.

Well, there you have it. Hopefully these tips allow you to make it through the busy holiday season with spoons to spare and joy to share.

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Originally published: November 23, 2016
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