The Mighty Logo

5 Tips to Survive the Holidays With a Chronic Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Most people walk into the holidays happy, festive and looking forward to eating all the things. However, with a chronic illness it’s slightly more complicated. Traveling can wreak havoc on the body and lead to exhaustion, while Aunty Joe’s pie that is supposed to be “allergen friendly” can create flares so bad you can’t function for a week.

Holidays are like jumping from one rock to another hoping you don’t fall into a pit of lava. So, here are a few tips I’ve found helpful to make the holidays a bit less stressful and painful so you can enjoy them as much as the next person (ish).

1. Organize in advance.

Seriously, it helps a lot! If you have a ton of relatives to see in multiple places, try to create a schedule of times and days that work best for you in order to not be running around all over the place and overbooking yourself using up a ton of spoons (check out the spoon theory).

2. It is OK to say no.

You are not obligated to do or eat something to please another person. Your health should be your top priority. So it’s OK to pass up on staying up until midnight because “everyone else is doing it,” or eating a dairy-filled pastry because it was “made with love” if you know it will hurt you more in the end.

3. Be gentle on yourself.

Prioritize self-care. The holidays are a time for giving and it is so important to give back to yourself as well. It could be as simple as ordering take-in, running a bath or painting a picture. As long as you’re giving back to your mind and body that is what matters most. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

4. Bring your own food to get-togethers.

I’ve been to so many parties and get-togethers where I cannot eat anything — it’s not rude to bring your own if you’re going to go hungry. Bringing your own food will also relieve some stress knowing you can have at least one thing that won’t cause you discomfort. And if you make extra, share it around! It’ll help make you feel more included.

5. Remember it is OK to cancel plans.

If you’re having a flare-up emotionally or physically then you won’t be able to enjoy the festivities to all it’s worth. If the people around you love you and care (which I hope they do because you deserve it), then they will understand and you can celebrate another day.

In all, you are a rock star for getting through all the holiday kerfuffle. Be proud of yourself. You are strong and loved, and not defined by your illness. I hope these tips are helpful to you in any way. Have a happy holiday loves and stay brave.

Photo credit: nicoletaionescu/Getty Images

Originally published: December 3, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home