Now that we’re in the week of Thanksgiving, we are fully in the holiday season. This is my favorite time of year because of everything going on, but also there are a lot of things going on. This can make it a difficult time of year for people with chronic illnesses. You want to enjoy the season like everyone else, but your body can make it harder for you to that. In order to help, I’ve pulled together my chronic illness hacks that I’ve come up with after 16 years of chronic health problems.
Pick the most comfortable outfit you can – If you have chronic pain as part of your chronic illness, you know how much a comfortable outfit can impact your pain levels. And maybe play an even more comfortable backup outfit ahead of time in case the day of the event (Thanksgiving, a holiday party, Christmas Eve, Hanukkah celebration, etc.) you feel worse than you expected. If your outfit is comfortable, your pain will hopefully not escalate too much.
Plan your responses to questions about your health in advance – If your health is well-known among the people you’ll be interacting with, try to come up with an answer to questions ahead of time. This way, you can find a way to share what you want without it becoming a big thing if you don’t want it to be. I know that I never want to say exactly how I’m feeling because a) half the time people are asking to be polite and b) if they do really care, I don’t want to upset them if I’m not doing amazingly. By planning my answer ahead of time, I don’t feel anxious when someone asks me and I’m able to give a succinct answer before moving the conversation to something else.
Try to make plans for times or days when you know you’ll be feeling better – This isn’t always possible, but if you can, try to have plans when you’re best. In my case, this is earlier in the day. Every year, my family goes to some sort of Christmas performance (last year it was The Nutcracker). We go to a matinee performance because I am pretty much guaranteed to be unable to go in the evening. Additionally, last year we went on a Saturday because I was on methotrexate, a weekly medication I took on Sunday nights, and I always felt worst on Sundays because of this. If you have any control over your holiday plans, figure out if you’re best (or at least not worst) on certain days or at certain times.
Traveling? Look at your schedule and when your medications will run out – The last thing you want is to run out of a medication when you’re out of town, so check if you need to refill any before you leave. This is especially important if you are on medications that need to be delivered by special pharmacy (like Humira) because that will need to be ordered with plenty of time in advance.
Talk to your family about ingredients in holiday meals – This is super important if you have food sensitivities or allergies. If there are foods that you can’t eat, talk to whoever is cooking about that several days in advance. If they’re making something that can’t be made without the problem food, you have plenty of time to buy or make your own version of it.
Have an emergency kit – If you’re going somewhere for a day or evening, create a kit of things for any chronic illness emergencies. This includes your emergency meds (what type they are depends on the type of chronic illness), emergency food just in case you can’t eat where you’re going, extra water, and something to entertain yourself if you need to leave your event but can’t leave for good because your family and/or friends are staying behind. My personal emergency kit has pain meds, anxiety meds, nausea meds, granola bars or crackers, water, and headphones and phone charger. If you’re going somewhere for a few days or a week, you should also include heating pads and/or ice packs, depending on where your pain is; computer; and comfortable clothes.
Have a detailed gift shopping plan – Does your holiday season involve gift giving? Plan, plan, plan ahead! If you can order things online, do that so you don’t have to go out to stores. If you have to go to stores, figure out where exactly you’re going and for what so you can limit your time spent in the fatiguing and painful activity of shopping. You should also start shopping as early as possible so if life happens closer to the holidays you celebrate and you’re unable to go shopping later, you have it done already. (PS – check out my gift guides here)
Figure out what events are most important to you – One of the worst things about having chronic illnesses is it can make us miss events. There are some things we can’t control, like the days we feel terrible. But we can (sometimes) control if we overdue it, so it might be good to decide what events the holiday season are most important to you. You might need to decline other events around it so that you are well enough to go.
What are your chronic illness hacks for the holidays?
Like this post? Check out:
Tools for Pain Management That Aren’t Medication, So You Were Diagnosed with a Chronic Illness: What You Should Do Next, Beginner’s Guide: Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis, A Complete Guide to Advocating for Patients