My Life with a Chronic Illness During the Holidays

While a chronic illness can really slow you down over the holidays, not all is lost. It can also provide the opportunity to slow down and smell the roses a bit more. And those roses really do smell pretty great when you take the time to enjoy them.

The holiday season is a time to reconnect with friends and family we haven’t seen in a while, celebrate the year’s successes, and talk about the coming year.
Enjoy the Season; Avoid the Flare
For those of us with chronic illnesses, the holidays can present a host of challenges though.   One that I find personally challenging is remembering names on-the-spot. My memory loss and slower speed of thinking can sometimes create some anxiety when someone I know I know starts a conversation with me.  Sometimes I’m at a loss in greeting them, or if I do quickly recall their name, I forget where our last life updates have left us. 
I would be horrified if someone thought I wasn’t listening to them during our last conversation or that I simply didn’t care enough to recall.  So, I cover the best I can.   Dare I say this is a skill I have come to master in most such moments?   So yes, my chronic illness has taught me something new:  appropriately bluffing, covering, or whatever you want to call it. I consider it a skill nonetheless.
 
With holidays often also comes the hustle and bustle of activities. Too, too many for me to go to, leaving me feeling guilty for declining invites (hoping they don’t find out I declined simply to lay on the couch for a much-needed rest).   While I know they would understand, I can’t help the guilt I feel.  After struggling for years to learn pacing though I am finally getting better at it.  To be honest I wished I had slowed my life down years ago.  Now when I go out, I’m all in (or as all in as I can be).   I’m with the people that mean the most to me and more fully enjoying their company. I consider this a win in my life. 
 
Ahh… the holidays…  colorful, shiny, bright beautiful colors.   The sounds of laughter and fun in the air.  I love it all.  Yet sometimes it all also hurts me.  Certain sounds, certain volumes instantly trigger a flare-up for me.  Once a flare-up starts, it’s off to the races.  Quickly I must seek out quiet – a quiet room, a soft bed, a set of earplugs...  And the colors, so beautiful but sometimes also too much and too bright.  I need to turn away or find a darker angle within the room.   Never was I so aware of my surroundings, anticipating my triggers, and deciding a potential escape plan. 
If you want someone to notice your holiday efforts (and at least internally enjoy them), I’m your lady!
Tips and Tricks
While triggers can be abundant during the holidays, I do always carry a few tricks up my sleeve. Earplugs are a must for any loud restaurants or parties. Keeping a bottle of water handy is key to keeping me hydrated and alert.  My honed meditation skills have helped me quickly start some deep breathing exercises if I sense a potential flare trigger. Oftentimes that alone can help slow it down or stop it in its tracks.  My yoga skills have also helped me stay in the moment and engaged in conversations. 
I also often pack a protein bar in my bag. While the candy and cookies of the holidays are great, they aren’t the source of energy that my body really needs. Sometimes sneaking a quick protein bar in the bathroom can carry me through the night. Also, identifying my “escape plan,” just in case, (perhaps a little-used bathroom, or better yet, a bed to lie down on) can also provide great relief. A bag of tricks never used to be my plus one but now it’s my must have.  They have allowed me to avoid flare-ups, minimize them or worst case, they’ve helped me quickly get to a place where I can rest and recoup. 
Slowing Down and Smelling the Roses
While the holidays aren’t as full of activities as they were before, I have to say I do enjoy the events I participate in more because I’ve prioritized them and dedicated my best to my best.  Pacing may have come from having a chronic illness but I must say it’s been a blessing in disguise.   As they say, slow down and smell the roses.  While not by choice, I’m glad I’ve made this life change.  Because those roses really do smell pretty great when you take the time to enjoy them.  
Do You Have Personal Challenges that you Encounter Over the Holidays?
Whether a chronic illness or some other challenge, many of us come to the holidays with some extra worries.  How do you handle them?  Any tips or tricks that you can share?

26 thoughts on “My Life with a Chronic Illness During the Holidays

  1. It sounds like you have developed some great coping mechanisms throughout the holidays, and know when you need to take yourself away. I am sure everyone would understand your declining of invites, but I guess it still doesn’t help with the guilty feeling. Take car this holiday season!
    Aimsy xoxo
    https://www.aimsysantics.co.uk

  2. Typically, forcing myself to slow down during the holidays is a challenge. However, the pandemic took care of that this year. Here in southern California, we start a 3, possibly 4 weeks super restricted lockdown. So there will be no place to hustle and bustle and no one to do it with, outside of the family I live with. The trick for me this year will be to spend less time writing as that has been the only thing getting me through all of the lockdowns and restrictions. Wishing you and yours a happy holiday season!

  3. This post has given me a brand new view on Chronic Illnesses. I had no idea that people had to deal with this, so thank you for bringing that to light. And all the tips and tricks you added, will be extremely helpful to people experiencing the same thing. And about the guilt, you owe nothing to anyone but yourself. If you don’t feel up to it, you don’t have to go. I used to feel guilty for not going(even though my reason is no where the same as yours), but the app Motivation has really helped me. (they ask you to pay at first but just press the x on the top right). Happy Holidays Lisa!

  4. It’s amazing how we can apply simple meditation techniques into our everyday lives to help us get through difficult moments! It’s good to hear that these techniques are helping you get through the holidays 🙂

    Happy Holidays <3
    wildrosehealer.com

  5. It was so helpful of you to share your own tips and coping mechanisms that make for an easier Christmas period, I’m sure this would be very useful for anyone with a similar illness.

  6. It’s great that you’ve found these ways to cope, you seem to know what you need to do to keep yourself well. I’m sure the majority of people will understand the need to decline an invite or you needing space though. I hope you have a great, healthy festive season!

    Sophie

  7. A lot of persons may have a challenge during the holidays. It’s really great that you shared your tips, they should really helpful for people who can relate. I hope the holidays for you will be wonderful and happy!

  8. These are some great tips. I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia a couple of weeks ago. So this post was really helpful. Thank you for sharing Lisa.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear that you have been diagnosed with fibro! I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season that is filled with few flares and a lot of laughs

  9. It’s great that you’ve found some good ways to slow down and enjoy the holidays! These are some really helpful tips. Hope you have a great holiday season!

  10. Although we have different conditions, I know what you mean. For me, I can suddenly start to feel dizzy, sick, and struggle to think straight as my hypos hit, which isn’t great when stuck talking to people, especially if you don’t have access to food to make it go away

  11. Great tips. I also try to decline invites if I know it’s just getting too much for me! Although I do find it hard to say no sometimes. I’m quite glad to have a chilled quiet Christmas this year too. Although most of the year has been like that for me! x

  12. It’s great that you’ve discovered all these tips and tricks to help yourself through the festive season. I think this is such an important post, thanks for sharing!

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