Tips for a Happy, Balanced Holiday Season When Chronically Ill
My twelve year old son reminded me this morning that there are a mere seventeen days until Christmas. Wow! Things get rolling right about now with shopping, parties, decorating, and baking.
Chronic illness, whether it be Lyme disease and tick-borne infections or another debilitating, fatigue scenario, can make the holiday season challenging. I could write a book on past Decembers alone at this point. If there is a time of year that your limitations are staring you in the face, this is it folks. Hopefully you are not like I used to be; making sure to maintain holiday status quo, striving to be supermom and wife. Parties? Bring-em on because I am sure my hubby wants to go. “I am great!”
Talk about being out of alignment!
From my own hard-won wisdom, I am sharing some tips here that will hopefully make your December fulfilling, meaningful, peaceful, and not leaving you unable to participate in Christmas Eve, or in a bathtub at 2:30 a.m on Christmas morning with a fried nervous system, or crying on a bench in a ski resort locker room on a sunny, crisp New Years morning because you really, really, want to be with your family today but are too dizzy to walk.
My first tip, and one of the most important, is to learn and enact self-compassion. If your child or spouse told you they were sick would you tell them to go to work or school and clean the house that day? Of course not. You would tuck them into bed, ask them what they need, and kiss them on the forehead. You need to do this for yourself. Instead of judging yourself harshly for not being able to hit the mall, feel for yourself. Self love and compassion are key to being in balance and we as humans overlook this. Having a hard time invoking this feeling? In your mind, imagine giving yourself a hug.
Practice mindfulness. I cannot tell you how many times I have rushed around to stop, breathe, and tune in to how I am feeling to realize that my head hurts to a pain level of an eight and my thoughts are all over the place. Being in the present moment; paying attention to how your body and mind are feeling, allows you to take better care of yourself. Get present and ask yourself what you need in that moment. Wiggling your toes, feeling your feet on the floor, and feeling your breath go in and out of your nose are ways to become present in your body.
Know that you will have ups and downs, a.k.a acceptance and plan accordingly. Acknowledging that it won’t be one big holiday fiesta for you can be freeing and minimize last minute decision making and stress. I know that multiple nights out socializing does not work for me. I can get myself there, look good and feel good, but what follows in the ensuing days is a crash. To prevent the crash which is physically tough and mentally discouraging, I plan accordingly and know my limits. This is good and as far as I am concerned, a really mature, aligned, responsible place to be and applies to all areas in life. Grace abounds from this place! One day of shopping is great, two or three in a row is a stretch. Who knows, you might not have any bad days but best to set realistic expectations.
Plan some stress relieving activities into your week. When your sympathetic nervous system is enacted, stress hormones (cortisol) run rampant though your body causing inflammation, damage to our gut linings, and general immune deficiency. Not good folks because the healing your body is trying to do cannot happen in this state. A hot epsom salt bath right before bed, a walk or yoga class, conscious breathing or meditation, a tea date with a friend, or a funny movie (who doesn’t love Christmas Vacation), are some simple options.
Pick and choose when you will stretch your food requirements. If you are headed to a cocktail party and know their won’t be many gluten, dairy, sugar free options, eat ahead of time or bring a dish to share that you can eat. If you know Christmas Eve dinner will involve a few bites of stuffing and pie, be diligent with healthy eating around that.
Get tasks done in small batches. Don’t save gift wrapping and cookie baking for one day and if you are cooking a holiday meal, start shopping ahead of time for the non-perishable items. Shop for gifts online if needed (this can be a lifesaver of epic proportions) or hit one or two stores on days you feel good, preferably avoiding crowds.
If you are sad, allow yourself to feel sad. Tired? Go to sleep.
With all of this this said, I can tell you that more peace and joy will come forth in your days when you nurture yourself. Not only will you be allowing your body, mind, and spirit to heal, and will you feel good; avoiding crashes and bad days, you will be living in alignment meaning that you are honoring your bodies needs. You might not be living in the same way that you used to but it will be a more fulfilling and truthful life and this a gift that comes from having a chronic health challenge.
You will learn how much joy exists in the small things such as watching your children decorate the Christmas tree, getting to hang out by a fire on a snowy night, and sharing precious moments with your loved ones in general. These are things that are meaningful that you will remember down the road and that I am eternally grateful to have realized.
I hope that you will enact some of these suggestions for a more balanced holiday season and carry them forth into your life. My sincerest wishes to you all a for a wonderful, happy, holiday season!