Holidays can bring about a lot stress. It is the time that we visit people outside of our normal inner circles, as well as family and close friends. And although our family and friends are filled with people with good intentions, they may not know exactly how to handle those with chronic illness during the holiday season. For this reason, sharing a guide on how to survive, and thrive, during the holidays is important. Here a few tips to help get through the next few weeks!

Communicate Your Needs
Strategies to deal with chronic illness vary depending on the day, the weather, and the season. Even the surroundings can have an impact on the way our body reacts, requiring a change in plans or even cancelations. These needs and changes will have to be considered by the people we visit. While friends in our outer circle may not necessarily be aware of your specific health situation, communicating your needs ahead of time can set expectations for the visit. This allows those preparing events, food or accommodations to set aside extra time or planning to assure you have a joyful and comfortable experience.

The act of communicating all of those needs can be tiresome, The benefit of close friends and family is to act as ambassadors on your behalf, especially those who understand the difficulties of living with chronic illness. Having a friend or family member that can act as a personal advocate at something like a holiday office party can reduce the potential for misinterpreting chronic illness needs for something else.

Preparing Your Meals Ahead Of Time And Bringing Your Own Food
Probably the easiest way to avoid issues involving food is to prepare your meals ahead of time. Chronic illness does not make this any easier, as pain, fatigue and other symptoms can be exhausting. However, consider supplementing your usual meal-preparation activities with enough food to make an extra meal.

Whether preparing food at home or ordering your meals, it can be helpful to consider ordering an extra meal before that holiday party or family gathering. This way you have a backup plan in case someone forgot to relay the message that you have several food allergies or intolerances. This can alleviate quite a bit of stress knowing that you will have something you can eat and not feel ill from it.

If a party’s host is asking about food preferences upfront, get in contact as early as possible and be clear about what you can and cannot have.

It Is Okay To Leave Early, Or Not Even Go
Self-care is absolutely crucial when dealing with a chronic illness. Parties and celebrations are abundant this time of year. If going to specific gatherings with people who may not be so pleasant for you will cause you more stress, then creating distance between you and these situations may be your best option.

If the risk is staying too long, eating unhealthy food, or encountering toxic people at the gathering, put some distance between those risks and opt for leaving the party earlier or perhaps, not even attending at all. Remember that both your physical & mental health is a priority!

If delaying or avoiding seeing people will give you an opportunity to feel rested and less stressed, then everyone benefits. The first person to enjoy your healthier self will be you. Don’t be afraid to say no, even if it means you have to sacrifice a party for your health.

If You Can’t Visit
Check in with your friends and family members before your arrival. Sometimes it might not be possible to visit them, but a rich conversation through a phone call, letter/card or even a text, can let them know you are thinking about them and are grateful for your relationship with them.

Rest And Enjoy Yourself!
Much about the holidays is focused around being with people you care about, but do not forget to take care of yourself. Remember that balancing sleep and nutrition along with all of life’s other demands at this time of year requires careful planning and listening to your body.

Wishing you a healthy, happy and thriving holiday!