Monday, 4 December 2017

:: COLUMN :: Surviving the holidays with chronic illness

Image courtesy of http://bit.ly/2AwAmel

:: This column was originally posted on Endometriosis News ::


It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but the holidays can be a particularly difficult time if you have a chronic illness. Stress, exhaustion, generally feeling frazzled; it tends to set me on edge before I’ve even begun. December is my favourite month of the year, but, over the years, with my health declining, I’ve had to change a few things around and let go of unimportant expectations to just get me through to the other side.

Here are few tips that might help you survive the holidays...

Get organised
They say ‘preparation is key’ and it really is. Make a list of everything that needs to be done - from gifts that need to be bought, cards that need to be sent, food that needs to be bought and prepared, decorating that needs to be done; everything.

Don’t feel flustered that there is so much to be done. Once you have written your lists, you can prioritise what needs to be done first, delegate tasks to others and schedule things to certain days. Making lists is an important step for anyone trying to organise, but especially for those of us who suffer from the dreaded ‘brain fog’.

Start preparing in advance
Ignore all the odd looks and people exclaiming “Christmas!? But it’s only [insert month]!”. I start my Christmas planning as soon as Autumn comes around. It not only gives me plenty of time, but it also helps to spread the cost. If everything is left to the last-minute then it can add a lot of stress onto an already demanding time of year. Get writing those lists and have a think what needs to be worked on first. I like to start my shopping first because you can usually find quite a few sales happening in the shops between the end of summer and the beginning of the festive period which means you can save even more pennies.

Rest
It’s so important for those of us with chronic illnesses to take time out for ourselves and rest. This doesn’t have to mean days on end. It can be as little as sitting down with a cup of tea before attacking more of the ‘to do list’. Try and pace yourself, you have plenty of time after all. Take breaks in between tasks, maybe get out of the house if you can, have a nap - anything to take your mind off the matter in hand.

Remember to also try to factor in time to rest when you have something exertive coming up. Whether it be shopping or visiting family, it can take up a lot of that much-needed energy.

Simplify everything
Do you need to cook a big dinner if there is only you and your partner eating it? Try having something that you both really enjoy eating and that is easier to prepare instead of something you think you should be eating like a big roast dinner with all the trimmings. Does the whole house have to be decorated? Will people see those decorations? Try concentrating those decorations in the room you spend the most time in. Does the gift wrapping have to be so elaborate? Gifts bags are a much easier way of wrapping presents but can still look just as nice. Have a think about what is important and prioritise your energy into that task.

Break tradition
Christmas is full of traditions passed on down through families. Some of them can be quite energy-consuming. Have a think about what traditions are important to you. If it’s not meaningful, try breaking tradition and start new ones of your own. If you usually have family over for a home cooked meal, why not try going out to a restaurant for a meal instead.

Ask for help
It’s not solely down to you to do everything for Christmas. Ask for help and let people know if you are struggling or not feeling well. Some people have ‘decorating parties’ where friends and family gather to decorate the house for Christmas. If you have people coming over for dinner, ask them to prepare an item of food to bring with them, that way you won’t have as much to cook.

Do your shopping online
If you can’t easily get out of the house or if hoards of people send your anxiety sky-high, do your shopping online. You can quite often find discounts for online shops too.

Most importantly, enjoy!
Don’t let your health spoil this lovely time of year and precious memories with loved ones.

Have a wonderful Christmas!

You can follow my Endometriosis News column here.

S.
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