Christmas Dining Room

Chronic Illness: How to Thrive this Holiday Season

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!

New Year Fireworks

Not Just Another Resolution!

The New Year brings a lot of time to reflect. Like most of us, you probably spent a lot of time looking back over the past year and taking stock of what you accomplished and what you had hoped to accomplish, but never quite got around to it. You may have also wondered where all that time and money went. This can be a difficult internal discussion as it is easy to focus on what you wanted to do better and then pledge to make the (often dreaded) New Year's Resolutions.

Good advice is to skip the fluffy resolutions; the ones that are easy to try and even easier to quit. A good resolution is a tangible goal with measurable outcomes and an admission that failure is completely possible and acceptable. But, a good goal can create some benefit or advantage even in the wake of so-called 'failure.'

1. Ditch The New Year's Resolutions.

The myth of the New Year's Resolution is now over-commercialized with fitness companies waiting for you to spend money on "losing weight this way" or "trying this fast and easy trick to long life." Get rid of the concept that a good goal has to be at the New Year. A good goal can start right now, a week from now, or whenever you are ready.

2. Prepare First By Knowing Your Weaknesses

An attainable goal first starts with understanding the potential impacts on the progress towards those goals. Identifying your weaknesses allows you to spot where your progress might be hindered. What weaknesses have particularly affected your normal daily routines? What daily routines take up so much time that they damage or hinder your other daily activities? Naturally, is there a night that you eat or drink so much that your next day is ruined? These kinds of weaknesses are behaviors that can keep you from reaching your goals. Identifying these weaknesses is the first step towards preparation. The next step is to develop methods to avoid or eliminate these behaviors.

3. Distance, Time, and Exposure

Weaknesses disguised as behaviors can be deceptive. You might not know how they impact your progress towards your goals. So it is important to take these 3 considerations. 1) Distance is the process of putting as much emotional, physical, or financial distance that is reasonable between you and your weaknesses. If your behavior of drinking too much is biting into your goals, can you take a different route home so you do not walk or travel past that bar? If you eat too much, is there a way you can budget or limit your money spent on food each day? If you do not feel like exercising right, can you find an emotional motivator to get you moving? 2) Time is the same thing. How can you limit the amount of time that you are near the weaknesses? 3) And limiting exposure means avoiding the media, messages, or ability to access the means towards those weaknesses. Build methods, actions, and functions into your daily habits to innovate your way towards progress to your goals.

4. Identify Measurable Progress Towards Your Goals

Binary goals are dangerous. "I am going to lose 20 pounds" is not the kind of resolution that has good progress. Build your end goal up with small goals that indicate progress. Use a timeline. "I am going to lose 20 pounds in about 6 months" is a better example of a measurable goal, because you can take a certain time period to measure your progress and adjust accordingly. Each month you can track your progress and activity and maybe even alter your end goal because of the progress! Give your goals and progress a numerical, quantitative structure, and make sure that it is realistic and comparable with others goals.

5. Surround Yourself With A Good Support System

Respect, accountability, and positive support are psychologically important towards the well-being of an individual. Goals can improve your well-being, but keeping good counsel is beneficial towards that progress. Share your progress with people who have goals similar to yours. They can help to hold you accountable and might even work with you! This is important because including people in the process helps to make your goal-reaching more fun. Next, your support system should include paid professionals who can provide solid advice. Paying them is important because once you put money into it, you are more likely to follow through and it represents an investment.

There are a lot of ways to develop a strategy towards reaching your goals. Take these into account and use them to build your new healthy lifestyle, not just a temporary resolution!

Woman holding Christmas present

Stress & The Holidays

The holiday season can definitely be a stressful time for many. While it is a time where people come together, often the objective of buying everyone gifts or long distance traveling can put stressors on the body and mind. With the coming winter, Seasonal Affective Disorder can also play a role in the mood or behavior of a person. The holiday season is a time of pure joy, but it can also a time of intense stress.

Research has revealed some links between the holiday season and an increase in psychiatric concerns. There are instances where psychiatric concerns are reduced during the holiday. However, according to empirical research done by Doctors Lori Sansone and Randy Sansone, and published in December 2011 issue of Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, there does appear to be an increase in symptoms regarding the “worsening of mood and alcohol-related” issues.

In one such analysis of a study conducted in 1980, the “three most endorsed study themes were loneliness, anxiety, and helplessness.” Families are diverse sets of people that can grow up in similar circumstances but with varying different experiences. When you mix family with feelings of being lonely, anxious, and helpless, a lot of behaviors come out that may not be beneficial.

Here are some tips to prevent the worst and expect the best:

1.       Surround Yourself With Good People
Good people are whoever make you feel content and whole. It can be a family member or friend. These are the people who understand you and knows your limits and let you stay within those limits. Good people have your respect and, with that respect, can hold you accountable if they think you might be crossing the line behavior-wise. They can drive you home if you have had too much to drink (and they are sober), they can be your wingman or wingwoman for dealing with difficult social situations, and they can be there for you during tough times. The saying “You are who you surround yourself with” is good to remember when you consider this helpful tip. Good people can empower you and help decrease your feelings of anxiety and helplessness. Surrounding yourself with good people can also help reduce the feeling of loneliness.

2.       Set Your Own Personal Limits
During the holidays, we might imbibe a little too much to deal with the stress of being with difficult family members. Other times, we might cross the line when we find ourselves in heated conversations with complicated friends. Avoiding these harmful behaviors and the risks behind them starts with setting personal limits. A personal limit can be simple, like ending a conversation early if you feel yourself getting emotionally turbulent. Realizing that anger clouds rational thinking is important when considering where you set your limits. It is okay to walk away from something that makes you angry. Human beings were not meant to live in a constant state of anger. This is why it is important for the body to recognize the beginnings of anger and remove the opportunity to become angrier.

3.     Personal Limits - Alcohol & Food
There is often an uptick in alcohol consumption during the holidays, and the consequences that result thereafter. Mixing any type of substance to mask emotional turmoil is dangerous, so setting limits of what you put into your body is important. In addition to this, food can also be a problem. When you eat, eat healthy portions. If you drink, drink in a social and supportive environment.

4.       Don’t Go
You know yourself best. The joy you receive from seeing many family members and the hesitancy of seeing a few others. The joy should override the hesitancy when going to an event or gathering. Enthusiasm and good social contact can improve a person’s overall health. Tension and social stress can do the exact opposite. Many people, after an extended period of stress and adrenal overload, tend to get sick. This is because the body finally has time to recover and rest from that period of stress. If you feel like the stress of going to an event can override the joy, then it is time to consider if you should even go. The old saying “The best present is your presence” is important when thinking about this. The holidays might not be the right time to be present, so visiting with family and friends may be better suited once the holidays have passed and you are feeling emotionally better.

There are a lot of stressors during the holidays. While a lot of amazing things happen to bring people together, many individuals still feel like they are alone, anxious, or helpless. Put the power back into your decisions and actions with these simple tips. Being present is the best presence. But self-care is so important for healthy interactions with other people. Take care of your stressors and look forward to your joys. We are all trying to do our best as we go about living in this beautiful world.