With Christmas coming up I’ve decided to do a blog post about surviving Christmas when you have a chronic illness. It can be difficult just getting through each day without the stress of Christmas and worrying about spending time with family and how exhausted we are going to get. Although this time is a very special time of the year and it’s about spending time with our family, when you have a chronic illness it makes it very difficult to be able to deal with everything that is going on in our surroundings, being around lots of people can be extremely tiring and the noise can really affect us.
I get very anxious when it comes to Christmas, I get very stressed about worrying if I’m going to get all of my Christmas cards written or if I’m going to get all of the Christmas presents wrapped in time and then there’s the worry that I won’t be well enough to enjoy Christmas properly. I myself struggle with even having a friend over for half an hour, it leaves me completely flat out exhausted. To manage things I try and prioritise the things that need doing and make myself a list so that when I complete something I can take it off and not have to worry about it any more and know that it will be ready in time for Christmas and everything will be done. All I then have to focus on is getting through Christmas and making sure that I rest lots and I look after myself to be able to have a really good time with my friends and family.
I try to do my Christmas shopping throughout the year so that I don’t have to worry as much in the run up to Christmas. One thing I have already done in preparation for Christmas, even though it was the middle of November when I started I have nearly written all of my Christmas cards, I can only write three or four at a time so it’s important that I start early so that I can send them off around the middle of December. That gives me about a month to get them written. I have also started to wrap a couple of Christmas presents every few days when I feel well enough. I find that I get exhausted after just wrapping one present so it’s important that I start early but also when I start to feel worn out I have to stop because otherwise I will be unable to do anything for the rest of that day/ the one or two following because I will have overdone it and my body will hate me for it. Today is one of those days, I wrapped a few too many presents and consequently I slept for the next 6 hours following, I now don’t feel well and I know that tomorrow I’m going to really be paying for it. You have to remember to pace yourself and do things in tiny steps. I know that it can be hard though when all you want to do is get it all done and out the way. Remember it’s okay to ask for help.
In terms of getting through all of the Christmas festivities, the family gatherings, meeting with friends and then Christmas Day I have done a list of things to help you to get through these below. It can be incredibly hard for those of us with chronic illnesses to be able to manage getting through these things which is why it’s important to do all that we can to not let ourselves flare up too much so that we can enjoy Christmas, and the special time spent with our family.
6 tips on helping you get through Christmas when you have a chronic illness
It’s hard for us with chronic illnesses to do things as fast as others who aren’t ill which means that starting things early is really important. Getting your cards written, even if you can only write 3 or 4 a day, the same with wrapping your presents will mean that you are more likely to get everything done on time. I started to write my cards in the middle of November just to give me some extra time to get them done. Remember if you need to, ask for help.
Take frequent rest breaks!
It’s incredibly important to take rest breaks when you start to get worn out and tired or if your pain gets bad because otherwise we end up overdoing it which means we are likely to have to spend a couple of days in bed as payback for pushing our bodies too hard and that’s the last thing we want! Just make sure you have a room in your home or wherever you are staying that is quiet and you can just go to relax and recharge a bit. Being around lots of people can be incredibly draining. If you have to have a little nap then nap. You have to listen to your body.
The 3 P’s – Plan, Pace and Prioritise
The 3 P’s, Plan, Pace and prioritise. Planning is important so that we know what we will be expected to do, some days will be harder than others so pacing is also very important. Take frequent rest breaks and do things only at your own pace, you don’t want to use up all of your energy in the first 10 mins and then end up spending the rest of the day in bed. Living with a chronic illness makes it impossible to be able to do everything that our friends and family without illness can do. We have to prioritise what things are most important to us and the activities that we definitely want to do because we have to accept that we can’t do everything. For me I have been invited out for lunch on Christmas Eve which is lovely and I’d love to go but I know that if I go I will probably spend the majority of Christmas Day in bed which I don’t want. I have had to say that I can’t go because I’d rather enjoy Christmas Day more and not feel really poorly because I went out on Christmas Eve. I will still have to make sure that I pace myself and rest on Christmas Day too.
Accept your limitations
Understanding your limitations is really important, if you push yourself more than you can handle then you will make things much harder to deal with. I know how hard it is to accept that you can only do little things at a time but for those of us with chronic illnesses we have to accept that it’s all we can do. Pushing ourselves will just set us back more. Remember we can only do our best.
Ask for help
Remember that asking for help is okay. Don’t be afraid about asking because most of the time people will understand and will want to help you. We can’t help it that we can’t do everything we want to do all the time. I know asking for help can be hard sometimes but we have to think about ourselves and if something is going to be too much for us to do then that’s where we should stop and just ask for a bit of help. It’s going to be better in the long run as we will have conserved that tiny bit more energy and will have made life a whole lot easier for ourselves. You should never feel ashamed for asking for help.
Lastly, just embrace the moment and enjoy yourself! Find the good in everyday, spend time with your friends and family and just do things at your own pace. Christmas only comes once a year so just have fun! I know it can be daunting and hard when you have a chronic illness but there’s always something to be thankful for, even if it’s just being around your friends and family. Just do what you have to do and remember to pace and look after yourself.
Everyone has their own coping methods and tips on how to get through the Christmas season with a chronic illness so I’d love it if you shared them in the comments as they may help some of us!
Christmas is always going to be difficult for those of us with chronic illnesses and will likely set us back but I hope this blog post has given you some helpful tips about how to manage it even a tiny bit better.
All my love,