Sun | Feb 5, 2023

Coping with chronic illnesses over the holidays

Published:Wednesday | December 21, 2022 | 1:26 AM

You want it to be the most wonderful time of the year, but issues like fatigue, pain and brain fog, while navigating the holidays safely, could make that difficult.

We also cannot forget the other holiday stressors for persons living with a chronic illness.

Being clear about what you need, what you can realistically expect of yourself and others, and what you can and cannot do this year will help you avoid a lot of stress and pain now and in the days to come.

Here are tips to take to heart this holiday season:

• Set a hard end time for activities

Holiday invitations are often open-ended, allowing celebrations to last well into the night, but they don’t have to. Include an end time along with the start time on the invites and make sure everyone sticks to it.

• Meditate on that for which you are thankful

When you are dealing with a chronic illness, it can be easy to focus on how it is hurting your life, but taking a moment to focus on all the good things you have going on can make a big difference in the way you feel. Taking a few minutes out of your day to meditate can temper your body’s stress response.

• Plan a recovery day into your schedule

If you are planning to travel this year, build rest days into your itinerary. That is, include a full day for napping and recovery the day after you have arrived.

• Keep to your regular sleep schedule

Getting a good night’s sleep should be a top priority for everyone, but for people who already struggle with their health due to a chronic illness, getting enough sleep is non-negotiable. Remember, you don’t have to attend every function. Getting enough sleep can be admittedly hard if you are dealing with pain.

• Practise saying no (and meaning it)

One of the biggest challenges people with chronic illness face during the holidays is saying no to seasonal treats and activities, and staying firm in their answer, even when you know it may hurt some feelings. Be gentle and kind but there is no need to apologise for prioritising your well-being in a social setting.

• Get good at power naps

Sometimes all you need is a 20-minute power nap to be able to feel better.

• Create flexibility in your work schedule

Some holiday experiences or items may be important to you, yet you would rather not be in charge of planning or executing them. For instance, you may enjoy nicely wrapped gifts but wrapping gifts for hours increases your pain. You enjoy eating a traditional thanksgiving meal but cannot stand for hours cooking in the kitchen. Delegate! Find support to make the holiday season meaningful without having to be the one in charge of all the logistics.

Allow yourself to take off your list all the activities and items that you have been doing but that don’t really bring you or your family much joy or meaning. It is not rare that we find ourselves doing things out of habit only to realise that it is not something that speaks to our values.

K.HSOURCE: Ministry of Health and Wellness; National Health Fund