Christmas time for most is a time of happiness, good food, family fun and of course holiday cheer. But for us chronically ill it isn’t always as simple as just sitting back and enjoying the festivities. We have so much beyond the fun, so much to plan for, safe foods to think of and escape routes to plan. Self-care during the Christmas period is paramount, but the vast majority of us somehow let this fall to the bottom of our list. This needs to change. You need to come first. This is easier said than done with so much else to think of but here is our advice on how to make this Christmas a little easier for you.
“Self-care is giving yourself a moment to pause” -Cecilia Tran
Firstly, and most importantly, it is okay to say no. So many of us forget that ‘NO’ is a complete sentence and sometimes we really need to use it more often. Over the Christmas period it is so easy to feel obligated to attend every invitation, help out at each family gathering and change your usual routine dramatically. Now we all experience the added pressure of the holidays. In fact often even without the pressure, we naturally want to do more and go out of our way to ease others’ stress. However, you have to learn when it is okay to say no. It is so unbelievably important not only for your physical health, but your mental health too. Don’t be afraid to ask for alone time. Don’t be afraid to put yourself first.
Show your emotions. Christmas isn’t always a happy time for everyone. It is an especially hard time for some. People expect the Christmas period to come with cheer, but sometimes it is filled with sadness and a bundle of other overwhelming emotions. Allow yourself to feel them. Just because people around you are happy and cheerful doesn’t mean you are required to feel this too. Christmas is what you make it. You are not required to patch on a happy face the whole holiday period in order to make those around you feel more comfortable. That is exhausting and only harms you. Christmas doesn’t make all of your struggles go away. Life is still there the day after, so pretending it isn’t is hard for us chronically ill. Especially when we have constant reminders of that very day. Whether it be intense pain, fatigue, being too sick to stomach Christmas dinner or in too much pain to hold a conversation.
Unfortunately, Christmas/any holiday can be a time when even those close to you forget you’re ill, and maybe not having quite as much fun as them. Maybe you need to go to bed early, or skip the games evening, or sit out of helping to cook. Whatever it may be, try and communicate. We are all guilty of feeling like we have ruined the day or that we should push ourselves just that bit too far so as not to rock the boat. Don’t. Be open with how you feel and what you can physically and mentally cope with.
This leads to our next tip. Make clear boundaries. This will help you feel more at ease and will also allow those around you to understand just how much you can cope with. This will help you so much more than you know. It will also allow you to feel less anxious going into family situations or a long day, because you will have already laid out just how much you can deal with. Now people are people, so we can’t promise that you’ll avoid the eye roll from certain family members who just don’t get it. But who cares. Your health is most important. Leave others around you to deal with their own misunderstanding, focus on yourself and how you can have the best day possible.
Lastly and most importantly try and enjoy it. I know Christmas day is just like any other day. Your symptoms don’t go away, your medication is still there and you can’t magically eat gluten. But just try and find at least one moment during the day that you take for yourself. Enjoy the moment, feel it and truly live in it. Despite the pain, the endless doctor’s appointments, the feelings of loneliness, nausea and the never-ending roller coaster of your life. You are here. You made it through another year and you’re alive. That in itself is the biggest gift. Learn to love yourself and show that love to your body, mind, and self. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to your very best friend.
“Give yourself the same care & attention that you give to others and watch yourself bloom.”
Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions, support needed or topics you would like us to discuss on – firstname.lastname@example.org