It’s official. There’s only 14 days until Christmas, and you’re probably either loving it or hating it. This time of year can come with a lot of stress, responsibilities, pressures and things to do on top of all the usual stuff. It can be an emotional and physically draining time, so it’s extra important to look after yourself when dealing with a chronic/invisible illness at Christmas. Here are just a few basic tips to keep in mind.
Listen to your body rather than to expectations, plans and the clock. Get an idea of what needs to be done by all means, but split projects and tasks down into manageable chunks so that you’re not overdoing things and suffering as a result afterwards.
One pitfall many fall into is doing too much because they feel a bit better. If you’re having a half decent health day, you want to do more so you push yourself. This seems logical, but the problem is you often end up paying for in the day(s) after. Take regular rest breaks and try to strike a balance each day by weighing up what you can realistically manage, and what you may suffer for the next day.
This means proper, total rest. No thinking (especially no overthinking) or stressing. No effortful action, which includes reading and writing. Rest is peace from activity for your brain and body. Listen to calming music (Enya, anyone?), meditate, practice mindfulness, take a gloriously bubbly bath, get a massage. Clear your mind and indulge your senses with some scented body lotions, hand creams and candles.
Focus On Fun
Remember the kid you used to be, the kid that’s still there inside you, even if he/she is hibernating? It’s easier said than done, by try to take a step back… It’s easy to see the sense of joy and lack of stress and worries when you look at kids and even pets when they can enjoy the simple, small things. Let your hair down and laugh a little every day because fun and laughter really are the best medications sometimes.
As part of the above, make time to do the things you want to do. Say yes to some “me” time that makes you laugh, smile or simply relaxes you. Crosswords, cinema, coffee with a friend, board games, snuggling up with Netflix or a good book.
Fresh Air & Exercise
Never underestimate the power of a little walking, even if your Facebook feed is filled with people mapping their 20 mile early morning run or masochistic spin sessions at the gym. A little exercise can improve your physical health, mental health and mood. It’s also good for a break to get some perspective and clear your mind of the clutter.
Don’t try to take on everything by yourself. If you start to feel overwhelmed, you’ll end up in a cycle of stress, illness and burnout. Try to delegate where you can, ask for help and prioritise (because despite how you may feel, some things can wait until another day).
If your memory is anything like mine these days, reminders are essential. I keep the sticky note factory in business. To-do lists in bullet point format are also really handy for keeping on top of things.
Make a list, prioritising what needs to be done that day, and what ‘could’ be done; don’t worry if you don’t get everything ticked off, those less important or urgent things can wait. It can be hard to prioritise when you feel time pressure, but looking at a calendar and working out what could be done and when should help.
Lists and reminders will give you a degree of control and focus back, help stop things from being forgotten, and hopefully quell a little anxiety on the run-up to Christmas.
Streamline & Focus
We all know how quickly Christmas seems to come and go. Christmas also has a way of making many of us feel lonely, like we’re missing out, or sad when we reflect on the past year and our futures. It additionally puts a lot of pressure on expectations, what we ‘should’ be doing at this time of year. Then there’s pressure on gifting, finances, and being a good host or guest when we may not feel up to it. Look at the bigger picture. Remove the unnecessary baggage, stress and expectations. What’s important to you? What matters in your life? How do you want your Christmas to be?
Keep On Top Of Your Health
Don’t let medication, healthy habits and appointments slide. If you may be in need of a new or repeat prescription, check it now and get it ordered. If you’ve got a niggling health concern or are still waiting on test results or appointments, make those calls to chase things up and get checked out. It’s better to get these things sorted now rather than leave them until the last minute or spend Christmas wondering and worrying about them.
Anticipate Potential Problems
Think ahead and consider the possible pitfalls on the run-up to Christmas/New Year. This allows you to prepare yourself with some just-in-case solutions and gives you back a sense of control. However, still go forward with a positive and hopeful mindset, hoping for the best for the upcoming weeks.
Talk It Out
Whether it’s emotional, financial or anything else big or small that’s affecting you, please reach out and talk if you need or want to. Online support groups, friends, family, your GP, Samaritans… Just know that you’re not alone.