3 Tips for Surviving the Holidays
Holidays are meant to be a time of joy and celebration. Unfortunately, the holidays and stress often go hand-in-hand. The traveling, the shopping, the cooking and the family feuds can be enough to make you want to curl up into the fetal position and hide until well into the New Year. When you add chronic illness to the mix, holiday celebrations can often seem unbearable. How do you survive?
Here are some things that I have learned in helping me survive the holidays.
Don’t Put More Pressure On Yourself Than You Have To
People living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) do not have the energy that a normal person does. Our bodies battle themselves constantly leaving you completely depleted. If you do not feel up to making your super-special holiday pudding that takes hours to make, be honest! Explain to your family or friends that your illness is getting the best of you and you need to take time to rest and relax. Perhaps you can offer an alternative. Go to a bakery and pick up a ready-made holiday treat to substitute. You should never feel guilty for needing rest. Exhaustion is your body telling you to rest and you should definitely take heed! You don’t want to end up in the hospital, after all.
Bring Your Safe Foods With You
When you live with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or indeterminate colitis, you have strict dietary needs. Sadly, you cannot make everyone understand this reality. But you can make it easier on yourself by bringing your own safe foods to holiday gatherings! You might even bring extra safe food to share with everyone else to make yourself feel more at ease. If you’re like me, you don’t want to be the only one eating something different. Get your mom, sister or significant other on your side by asking them to have a small helping of your safe food on their plates! Most people will be more than willing to help you out.
Sleep When You Need To
During the holidays families and friends make the most of their time catching up. Sometimes this means staying up late laughing, chatting, playing games or going out for dinner. If you do not feel up for it, be honest! Tell your loved ones that you need your rest so you can be on your A-game the next day. They may or may not understand, but do your best to get them on your side! You might even get your brother or significant other to follow suit and turn in early to. Explain to them that you really would love to stay up late, but you don’t have the energy. Then ask them if they would help you feel less awkward by turning in early, too. In my experience, it never hurts to ask.
Again, the holidays are stressful.
You should never feel pressured to do anything you aren’t comfortable doing. Maybe you have a lot of friends or family members who do not and probably will never understand what it’s like living with a chronic illness. For those who don’t, remember that you are not crazy or lazy. You are sick. When you find someone who does understand in your inner circle, thank them for their support. Get them on your side and ask them to be your advocate during the holidays. It may sound silly at first, but they don’t call them loved ones for nothing. Your advocate can help defend you or be your voice when you aren’t around. They can help explain what life with a chronic illness is like. There are genuinely caring people out there who will do whatever they can to help you have a happy holiday experience. And remember, when you start feeling all alone in your disease battle, know that there are millions more people that are going through the exact same thing. You are NEVER alone.
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