Chronic Disease: How to do the Holidays

There’s something about this time of year …

It’s the crispness of the air, the smell of pine needles, the cheery multi-coloured lights. Of course, there’s another way of looking at it: the cold and bitter snow, the slippery and invisible ice, the rushing and irritated people everywhere.

No doubt about it, for every person that happily dances in the snow, you’re going to find a person that complains and curses the wet stuff. And, it’s the same with every other aspect during this holiday time.

Is it because some people enjoy the hustle and bustle while others do not?

Is it because some people enjoy seeing people, exchanging well wishes and gifts while others do not?

Is it because some people enjoy being in this moment, while others because of their circumstances can not?

I won’t answer for everyone, but I can tell you it isn’t easy finding enjoyment in a moment that holds worry, fatigue, and pain. That doesn’t mean a person with a chronic disease can’t enjoy themselves; it just takes a little more … and less … everything.

I can enjoy socializing … if I don’t do all the hosting.

I can enjoy exchanging well wishes and gifts … if I don’t do all the shopping and wrapping.

I can enjoy all the moments of the holiday … if I catch up on sleep and remember to eat regularly.

(Okay, that last one isn’t usually a problem when there’s food in front of me.)

Much of the advice a physician gives to a person with a chronic disease is equally good for the healthy privileged. There are, however, a couple things to keep in mind.

First, know your limits. Everyone has a limit to what they can do physically, mentally, emotionally. My limits may be less, may be more, but they’re likely not the same as anyone else’s … that’s why they’re mine. For me, when I start to feel weak, start to shake, change colour … that’s when I have to stop, sit down, maybe have a nap.

Second, set your boundaries. Simply put, you have to make it clear to everyone around you what you are prepared to do and what happens if you are pushed. For me, I’ve set an activity each day with down-time to prepare and recover. Anything more and I will say no. The trick is to mean it when you say it.

Third, don’t forget the fun. We try to make everyone happy, be “fair” and see everyone that asks, try to make everyone feel special … but if that just sounds like work, then you’re doing something wrong. For me, I know the people I want to see, arrange a date, activity for each, and then let the fun happen. I have to remember this is not just fun for others, but fun for me … if it isn’t then why do it?

There is always the possibility I’ll be in too much pain, too tired, too sick.

There is always the possibility I’ll get pressure to do more than I can or want.

There is always the possibility of disappointment, frustration, and sadness.

I don’t have all the answers; I just know that if I make the plans like anyone else would do for the holidays, but with my energy levels, my wants, needs, and preferences in mind, then I’m much more likely to have the holiday I hope for.

Now if I can only follow my own advice ….

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