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5 Ways for Chronic Illness Warriors to Minimize Stress During the Holidays

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The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is fast approaching. Personally, I love this time of year. The lights, the music, the feelings of warmth in the air…it all means so much to me. Some of you may feel the same, and others may feel quite differently. The holidays can create a massive amount of stress for those with a chronic illness. It can be downright exhausting at times. I’ve come up with a list of five tips that have helped me, and will hopefully help you, have a more enjoyable holiday season.

1. Make a list and check it twice: If you plan to travel during the holidays, make a list of items you need to pack to manage your illness. This list will look different for everyone, but some key items to include might be medications and supplements, heating pad, your doctor’s contact information, any comfort items you may need for sleep, etc. Knowing that I’m prepared in travel takes a burden off my shoulders, so I can enjoy time with my family and friends.

2. Fill prescriptions and schedule appointments ahead of time: Make sure you have all your prescriptions up-to-date and refilled in time for the holidays. If you plan to travel, especially longer distances, carry more medication than you may need just in case. You do not want to be stuck somewhere during your travels and possibly run out. Also, schedule any appointments for treatments you may need as close to the holidays as possible. That way, when the festivities begin, you’ll be feeling as good as you possibly can.

3. Food prep: Let’s face it, food plays a huge role during the holidays. If you have a food allergy or sensitivity, be sure to let your family know in advance. If you are able, prepare a dish or two to contribute to the meal. If you’re like me, you may worry about feeling like a burden. Chances are, your family will be more than happy to accommodate and prepare food that is safe for you, just give them plenty of notice. If you’re going to a holiday dinner for work or anything like that, find out the menu and let them know about your needs ahead of time as well.

4. Be present rather than giving presents: When you struggle with a chronic illness, money can be tight. A majority of your income goes toward medical expenses, and you’re not left with much in between. I love giving gifts to others, but the financial burden that goes along with that is the most stressful aspect of the holiday season, at least in my case. Do not be afraid to opt out of the gift exchange if it’s just not in your budget or suggest doing things on a smaller scale. One idea would be to do a Secret Santa gift exchange with a set limit. Another option would be for everyone to pitch in what they could and donate to a charity. You can have meaningful experiences without physical things. And remember, being present with each other is the greatest gift anyone could give or receive.

5. Self-care: Most importantly, do not forget about self-care during the holidays. I know it’s an incredibly busy time, but it is vital to take time-outs during the season to do what you need to do for you. Listen to your body. If you need to skip out on a gathering, do it. You are not being selfish. As much as we would like to just be OK and not have to slow down this time of year, unfortunately, our health and our bodies still need the same amount of attention and care. Your loved ones will understand. Give yourself any physical or mental health breaks you may need. You deserve it.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, filled with comfort and joy.

Getty Image by EarnestTse

Originally published: November 14, 2018
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