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5 Tips for Having a Stress-Free Holiday Season With Chronic Illness

Around this “most wonderful time of the year,” stress levels can be sky-high, and sometimes no amount of Stevie Wonder Christmas songs can keep you in the holiday spirit (sorry, Stevie). Financial burdens, social obligations and long hours at the office can all add up to feeling overwhelmed and undermotivated. Add the anxiety of having a chronic illness to the mix and it’s tough to enjoy any of the things you used to during this hectic season.

In the weeks leading up to my wedding back in October, the one thing that would constantly occupy my mind besides menu details, table assignments and dress fittings was whether or not I was going to feel OK physically. Would I be able to indulge in a few cocktails without spending half the reception in the bathroom? Would I need to wear a heating pad under my dress? Would I be able to eat and drink the night away without having to pop Tums like candy?

Holidays and special occasions are some of the best times in our lives and we deserve to be able to enjoy them to the fullest like anyone else! Here’s a list of ways you can keep yourself feeling good and keep the stress at bay so you can seize the (holi)day:

1. Have a plan B.

Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about some additional or alternative options to keep you feeling great leading up to that office holiday party or winter wedding. Maybe it’s a couple rounds of acupuncture, a backup medication to have on hand that day or a minor procedure that will be a semi-permanent or temporary fix. It can really help to alleviate the stress (which we all know can lead to a dreaded flare) if you have a backup plan in case you’re stuck in a less than ideal situation on an important day!

2. Communicate with your friends and family.

Chronic illness is nothing to be ashamed of. The more your loved ones are aware of your physical struggles, the easier it will be on your emotions and insides. It’s extra important to be completely open with whoever is hosting an event you might be attending. If you need to come late, leave early or bring your own snacks, it’s understood and expected ahead of time and the drama is off the table.

3. Talk to a therapist.

It’s important for any of us struggling with chronic illnesses to have an outlet for our emotions. For some people that’s yoga, working out, meditation, traveling, etc. For others it’s necessary to speak to a professional who is a completely unbiased and willing listener. Some therapists specialize in chronic illness and can help to ease the mental burden they can bear. We all know the more mentally fit we are, the more likely it will carry over into our physical selves in a beneficial way.

4. Use food as fuel.

What we put into our bodies is so crucial to our overall health, whether you have a chronic illness or not! In the months and weeks leading up to a special event, be extra careful of what you are eating and drinking. Be sure to fill your diet with lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies, lean proteins and healthy fats. Make an attempt to eat less fried, fattening or heavy foods and limit alcohol. Keep a food diary to make sure you’re staying on track and have friends help hold you accountable. Treat food like medicine and it will act that way!

5. Stay as active as possible.

Although it’s not always easy to stick to a consistent workout schedule when we are feeling sick the majority of the time, staying physically active should be a top priority. It can be anything from short walks during your lunch break to Crossfit, but working out and staying active has been increasingly shown to dramatically reduce the negative effects of chronic illness. Use a fitness tracker, join an affordable gym, try a new sport or join a Zumba class. There’s nothing better than feeling better and exercising is a great way to get there.

Most importantly of all, keep the faith and stay positive! Put good vibes into the universe and remember you are a badass and can get through anything. The steps above should help you get there. Happy Holidays!!!

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Photo via Robert Daly on Getty Images

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