5 Tips for Staying Jolly Through the Holidays When You have Crohn's

Is the hustle and bustle of the holiday season making you stressed and overwhelmed? Chances are, if you have IBD like me, this time of year can be complicated. Whether it’s communicating with family in person that you don't see often, dealing with the financial burden of chronic illness and buying presents, or handling holidays centered around food and eating...the list goes on. There are ways you can make the most of this time of the year, without putting your health, both physically and mentally, at risk.

Ways to make the most of the holidays with Crohn's

Communicate with others

As patients, we can't expect family members and friends who don't have IBD to understand the ins and outs of our disease and our experience. Explain what dietary intolerances you have. Talk about your struggles and trust that everyone in the room most likely has good intentions and cares about your well-being. Knowledge is power. By sharing and opening up about how you feel and what you go through, you are opening yourself up to support and to better understanding.

Dress for success

Bring on the elastic waistbands, leggings, and dresses. If you’re like me, having pants with a button can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to abdominal pain and bloating. Dress comfortably and take one less worry out of the equation. Having a change of clothes in the car can also be comforting if you want to change as the night goes on or if you're worried about having an accident.

Be proactive when traveling

Steer clear of trigger foods the days leading up to travel and pack easily digestible snacks. Some of my favorites are Clif Bars, Lara Bars, OWYN protein drinks/meal replacement drinks, and pretzels. On travel days, no matter how tired I may feel, I always avoid caffeine, as that tends to exacerbate my symptoms. If you’re planning to drive and you're symptomatic, plan out possible pit stops for where you can pull over if need be.

Use time with family to re-fill your love tank

While not everyone has family they are close with, chances are you have someone you connect well with. Use holiday gatherings as a chance to make the most of the day, celebrate, and focus on the most important relationships in your life. While food and holidays go hand in hand, it’s the people around the table who matter most.

Practice gratitude

As chronic illness patients, we often have a love/hate relationship with our bodies and sometimes with the hand of cards we’ve been dealt. Since my Crohn’s diagnosis in 2005, my perspective and mindset have shifted greatly. While Crohn’s continues to challenge me and hurt me more often than I’d like to admit, it’s also provided me with a strength and resilience that never existed prior to my diagnosis. I’m thankful now for every single “feel good” day that I used to take for granted. Take a moment to reflect on all you’ve accomplished, the odds you continue to beat, and what you are capable of despite your disease. If anything, have gratitude for your perseverance to push through the day in and day out when the going gets tough.

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