How to Survive Christmas While Chronically Ill

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A cartoon reindeer is sat next to a present. The title says, 'How to surivive Christmas while chronically ill'

hristmas is coming! I don't know about you, but that suddenly makes me feel very, very tired. I mean, don't get me wrong, in theory I love Christmas, you get to eat good food, spend time with family and friends, snow, presents… what's not to love?

Title 'Christmas (or any holiday) can be great but it also takes a lot out of you when you are chronically ill' below a cartoon man is holding presents and looking stressed, he's saying 'there is so much to do and so many events!' and below it says, 'So how do we avoid burn out?'

The reality for chronically ill people

A purple banner with pink text that says 'bring back the joy' underneath is a pink shop now button. To the right hand side there is a pair of space compression socks and in a circle around them the text says 'compression socks do't have to be boring'

The energy, the sheer energy of it all. A billion parties a week, that seemingly never-ending pile of presents to wrap (seriously, wrapping is an Olympic sport when you are chronically ill) and the decorating involves yuletide cheer that I just don’t have the energy to muster most of the time. Even non-disabled people moan about their Christmas workload so if you’re disabled or chronically ill you’re definitely allowed to feel the pressure! It’s enough to make you want to slap on the Grinch hat and tell everyone to find you after New Year’s.

A festive balancing act

So, how do those of us in the chronic illness community actually survive? And maybe even enjoy it a little bit? First up, you are going to have to get organised. I know that might feel like taking a bit of the fun out of it, especially when your chronic illness does not work to a schedule, but it will help you with the dreaded pacing so it’s kind of mandatory.

I tend to write a list of all the things I *have* to do (buying presents, wrapping the damn things, etc, etc) and then I write a list of things I would like to do (build a gingerbread house, leave my house, avoid aunt Maude).

I then get everything I can do on the *have* to do list done as early as possible. And remember, sometimes the things we think we have to do are just our own expectations of how something should be or even someone else’s expectations of us. Make sure to ask yourself ‘do I really have to do this and do I want to do it?’ a lot during this process.

Also breaking these tasks down into smaller steps makes them more manageable. Wrap one present a day, put the tree in its stand but actually decorate it the day after. Break it all down into the smallest parts and cut corners where you can.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Think A Bad Moms Christmas. Half arse it and actually have fun. It’s amazing how many of the ‘essential’ parts of Christmas preparation and planning turn out not to be that essential when you choose to let them go.

Sometimes the things we think we have to do are just our own expectations of how something should be or even someone else's expectations of us. Make sure to ask yourself 'do I really have to do this and do I want to do it?' a lot during this process.

For example, food is such a huge part of Christmas for many people, but with so many pre-prepared and easy cook options available in the shops now why waste hours faffing about with a whole fresh Turkey bigger than your head when there are ready to cook options in most supermarkets. Even veggies and cocktails can be found pre-peeled or pre-mixed, so don’t feel guilty at all about handing guests a ‘tin and tonic’ or supermarket ready food if it’s going to save you a world of stress (or not inviting the guests at all if you’d rather rest).

Prioritise yours-elf

Then make room for the things you do want to do with lots of movie rest days in between. Christmas movies are great for getting you in the spirit without actually having to use energy! Enjoy a bonus hot chocolate and tasty mince pie while watching the movies and you’re basically a real-life Christmas movie yourself.

And finally, as always, just be kind to yourself. Christmas can be on your own terms. So have fun!