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How to Survive Christmas With Chronic Illness

How to Survive Christmas

With Chronic Illness

If you have a chronic illness, chances are you have gone through one or many Christmases with your chronic illness and/or pain.  I love getting together with friends and family, but it is exhausting.  I fear this will trigger a flair-up or I won’t have the endurance to get through the event.  So, I am going to give you some things that I have learned over the years. 

I realize that if I Plan, Plan and then Plan again – I get a lot of traction.  I know I must start this early.  I love my freezer because it can put a lot of food on “hold”.  If I want to have an assortment of homemade cookies for Christmas, if I wait until Christmas Eve – I am defeated before I even start.  I know that I can’t stand on my feet in one place for more than 10 minutes before my blood pressure will start to drop and I will have other symptoms.  But I can make one batch and sit while they are baking.  I might make two batches and put one batch in the freezer for another day.  If I could plan out for several weeks to make cookies, I can do it.  But it takes planning and pacing out the chores that you want to accomplish to get them done.

Really, planning is such a key for us who have chronic illness and pain.  Usually, Thanksgiving and Christmas ends up at my house and usually we have mostly family and close friends.  In the past, I am or at least was a very social person and would have opened the house for everyone.  I can’t do that anymore.  As I have talked about how important simplicity is, my focus has changed from making sure the house, my outfit and food is just right verses just enjoying the relationships and people around me, and being thankful for Christmas itself – Jesus’ birthday!! 

This Christmas I have planned my meal and told my family what I plan on serving.  I usually ask them to bring like a veggie or a dessert or a bread.  I am very thankful for whatever they bring, and don’t try to dictate that.  If they want to bring anything else, I tell them please do.     

Simplicity needs to be utmost in your mind.  Decorations, polishing silver, using special Christmas plates that have to be washed, etc., etc., etc.. just complicate things.  Keep it Simple!!!!  Make spending time together and connection to others be your priority – not your house, your looks, your meal.  Your house, meal and your looks will not matter by January 3rd, but connecting with your daughter, your son, your family or friends will last a lifetime.  Just remember to keep it simple.  Life is easier if you keep it simple.  Decorating to a tee and a huge meal are optional.  There are other alternatives if you are creative. 

One thing to plan on is rest.  For me, I need a lot of rest.  I can read my body well and I need a lot more rest than I want.  I have a lot of things I want to do, but I know I won’t get to do all the things I want to.  So I pick and choose what is the higher priority……..and I rest.  When I have an event, I rest before the event and after the event, and if I need it- during the event (especially if it is like a holiday where family/friends are here all day).  Some people won’t like it, but they won’t understand chronic illness either.  We can only do what we can.  Again, we are the ones who must educate people about chronic illness and pain.  Some won’t want to learn.  That is OK.  It is not their burden, but it is ours so all we can do it try to help them understand. 

This year for the first time, I broke tradition and sent everyone a Christmas letter by email.  I know I don’t have everyone’s email, and I will probably miss a few people.  I wrote one letter and sent it out to 4 separate groups of people.  I was done.  I gave up writing out a hundred addresses on envelopes, signing and adding a note to each letter, putting stamps on envelopes and bringing them to the post office.  I am realizing that simplicity is one of my new priorities. 

Simplicity, prioritizing and planning for me are three keywords that I use during Christmas, but also really every day.  Seeking how to keep life simple, prioritizing life and issues and plan.  I realize my priorities are relationships with my God, my family and friends, taking care of myself and others.  I have a lot less worries about other things because I realize they just aren’t that important to me.   

So, I hope this helps you this Christmas. These are just some things that have helped make my life more manageable.   May you and your loved ones have a very Merry Christmas!  

-Carol

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