7 Easy Tips To Get Through Christmas With Chronic Illness in 2023

The Holiday Season is around the corner and, even though it is a wonderful time for celebration, gratitude and enjoyment, as Spoonies we might experience it a bit differently. Christmas with chronic illness can be a struggle! Of what I hear from you within the community, it usually brings an extra amount of stress, flare-ups and fewer spoons. 

So that is why I have created this blog post: 7 Easy Tips To Get Through Christmas With Chronic Illness! 

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There is a blurred Christmas Tree in the background, with green, red & yellow lights. On the left there's a brown/white cat chilling on a white blanket. You see feet of someone putting their feet up on the right. Definitely a Christmas with chronic illness vibe!
Christmas with Chronic Illness means resting, napping and chilling with your cat on the sofa

1 ~ Plan Ahead

And with that I don’t only mean “plan for all your social activities”. No. Plan your downtime. I put big crosses in my agenda in between the social activities where I am off my phone, off my laptop, by myself. Especially during the months of November and December I find this extremely important. If I don’t have that down time, I cannot get through the holidays.

Make sure you plan your downtime before and after activities!

Another thing to plan: your “exit-plan”. Give yourself the freedom to know what your exit plan is, in case you need it. Having an exit plan available gives your mind some sense of peace and control. It will really help! Ask a buddy (maybe your partner, mom, best friend, your dog) and give them a heads up of what you might need. Communicate it clearly and on time. Trust me, this will make a massive difference!

2 ~ “No” Is A Full Sentence

Setting boundaries goes hand in hand with the “plan ahead”. People often confuse down time as “time off”. It is not! Us spoonies need the down time in order to wind down, recharge and let our bodies and nervous system rest. Don’t forget that!

And to help with this: “No” is a full sentence. You don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why you are not able to meet or why you have that big red cross in your agenda. It takes some practicing, but it’s quite a fun exercise to do. Maybe start with other situations first. If someone is asking if you would like another drink for example. Instead of saying “Hm, maybe I’m not sure, I think I’m alright thank you.” Just say, “nope, I’m good!” 

And then take it that step further, when someone is asking you if you can meet on that day/evening. Instead of starting a sentence with “shit, sorry, yeah maybe I can do that, but I’m not sure”, be very clear in your communication. I just say “No I can’t meet that day”. Literally that. Why? Because it is concise. It is clear. And it needs no further explanation.

want MORE ADVICE ON HOW TO GET THROUGH THE DAY WITH CHRONIC ILLNESS? CLICK HERE

3 ~ Find Ways To Block Out Extra Stimulation

One great way to do that is to use these Loop Earplugs. With these earplugs, you block out the extra noise that can be so overwhelming.

Just the other day I was in a restaurant with many kids. It was warm. I was in the back. I felt I couldn’t get out. I couldn’t focus on any conversation and the only thing my brain was focusing on was ALL the sounds around me. Including the noise of ALL the children around.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love kids. But this was just completely overwhelming. I get that sometimes, mainly when I’m tired. And these Loop Earplugs saved the day. They blocked out the extra noise coming in, which made me able to focus on the conversation again.

I do the same with sunglasses when the light is too bright. Even in winter, I use those sunglasses! 

Loop Earplugs would be great to use for Christmas with chronic illness. You see a mum with a baby in her hand on the left and a student learning on the right, both using the earplugs.
Using these Loop Earplugs can really make a difference

4 ~ Up Your “Nap” Game

With these busy times, I find it very important to up my nap game. And that doesn’t mean that I always sleep. But being in the bedroom by myself, curtains closed, no phone in the room, by myself, allows me to rest up quicker. And will allow you to enjoy those moments that you really don’t want to miss.

I’d prefer to miss the meal prep part over the actual dinner part for example. So I would use the meal prepping part as my nap time, so I can be 100% there during the dinner!

5 ~ Allow Yourself Some Outside Time To Get Through Christmas With Chronic Illness

Allow yourself some time to be outside, getting some fresh air. Even if you don’t have a chronic illness, this is key to busy holiday times! Being outside, in natural light, will help with your sleep-awake cycle, it reduces feelings of stress & anxiety and also gives you a chance to escape the big-family-conversations at the dinner table for a bit. I usually ask Marcus to take me out for a walk, just in silence, so I get a chance to focus on my breathing, calm down my nervous system again and recharge. Even if it is just the tiniest bit.

You see me in a wheelchair, with my family behind me outside in Amsterdam. We're carrying hot chocolate and are all smiling
Make sure to go outside and get some fresh air

6 ~ Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Unfortunately people can’t smell how you are feeling. So please, TALK. Talk to your loved ones about what you need and what you want. Do you need to do a lunch instead of a dinner? Do you need to rest instead of help/socialise before you sit down at the table? Do you need to put a certain timeframe in the invite? (I usually tell people they’re welcome from X hour to X hour, so for example: from 1 pm – 3 pm. With the emphasis that, due to energy levels, it really is until 3pm and not later).

What I usually do before the busy Christmas period is the following exercise. 

Write down an answer to the following questions:

  • Which times of the day are you most likely to have most energy/least amount of pain, etc?
  • How long am I able to socialise on a good day? And how long on a bad day?
  • What is my escape or exit plan?
  • What kind of dietary restrictions do I have that I want people to take into account?
  • If I were the only person in the room to keep in mind, What would my perfect Christmas look like?

With these questions in mind, it is a lot easier to communicate with your family and friends about what your needs and wishes are.

7 ~ Stick To Your Routines

Our bodies like routine, so it isn’t wrong to put your foot down and stick to them as much as you can. I make sure I don’t drink necessarily more alcohol, I keep on eating healthily (and gluten free) and be very conscious of not over-eating, go outside (as mentioned at number 5) and don’t go to bed too late (or get out of bed too late). 

Write down 3 routines that are very important to you and put them as sticky notes on your mirror, next to your bed, wherever you see them often!

Don’t know how to stick to routines? Check out the Morning Routine Guide including a check box list! If you’re anything like me (and I know you are), then you’ll love ticking off boxes. Well, this is your perfect guide for that!

~ Some Of Your Life Hacks To Get Through Christmas With Chronic Illness

I asked on the socials earlier this week about some of your own life hacks and this is a snippet of the things that were said:

“Put yourself first, especially these days. I organise a lunch instead of dinner!”

– Annemarieke

“I make a lunch, meal prep everything in advance so I only have to heat it up!”

– Rico

I hope this has helped you all and above all, I wish you a very Happy Holidays and all the best wishes for the New Year!

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