With less than two weeks to go until Christmas, it’s easy enough for anyone to get stressed out, overwhelmed, fed up and exhausted by it all, let alone when you’re dealing with chronic / invisible illness at the same time. Throw in any personal issues to contend with in terms of family, friends, bereavement, work, eating disorders or finances and it’s harder still to keep your head above water. Don’t let expectations and pressures ruin the festive season. Here are a few ways to help you cope and make the most of Christmas this year.
Lists and post-its are your friends. Make notes, sort out what you need to do, jot down ideas, cards to write, treats and groceries to buy etc. Break things down into more manageable chunks and smaller tasks.
Sort out your living space and declutter, setting aside some extra space for any Christmas supplies. Having a little more space and clarity, mentally and physically, can help reduce stress and anxiety, which is all the more important to do when things can easily get on top of you over the Christmas period.
Still need some last minute Christmas gifting ideas? Check out a few suggestions here.
Tackle the off-putting things and the immediately urgent things first to get them out of the way if you can. You can’t always get everything done, and that’s okay. Other stuff can wait. Pace yourself and what you have to do, and make sure self-care gets a top spot on your priorities list.
Delegate some tasks
If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, are there any things that you could ask for a little help with? Don’t take on a mountain of tasks yourself if you don’t have to.
Practice the power of No
If you don’t want to do something or don’t feel up to it, be assertive and politely decline. If you’ve planned to do something, only to find when the time comes you’re not well enough, say ‘no’ to it, accept that best laid plans often go to pot when dealing with chronic illness, and move on. If you’re feeling pressured by social events or family expectations, calmly explain you’re not up to it; you don’t owe explanations beyond what you wish to give, and you have every right to say no to things.
Try to keep things simple, which is a good motto when it comes to both limited ‘spoons’ or limited finances. It’s also worth remembering that it’s the thought that counts, rather than the expense of a gift or number of gifts. Buy food you know will be eaten but don’t overdo quantities if they may be wasted. Online shopping can be a great help for gifts and groceries to keep the amount of driving or trudging around shops to a necessary minimum.
Don’t suffer in silence. Talk things over. Vent. Ask for help. Tell someone how you feel. Christmas can be difficult, especially when chronic illness comes into the mix. If you’re also dealing with grief, loneliness, eating disorders, depression or anxiety it has the potential to become overwhelming. Reach out, whether that’s to online support or offline friends and family, or a professional, such as Samaritans or Beat in the UK.
Nourish your body
It’s a time of goodwill and giving, and yet going things for others can leave many people neglecting themselves. Self-care is neither selfish nor self-indulgent, it’s a vital necessity. Get enough rest, do things you enjoy, find time to relax, try to eat well, keep on top of taking any meds. Remember to breathe.
Review your medications
With holidays over Christmas and New Year, it’s a good idea to check what meds you have and what you may need to make sure you’re covered throughout this period. Order them now to make sure there are no last minute hiccups and panic.
Put it into perspective
Christmas itself is only one day. The events surrounding it may last a week or a little longer, but that’s still a lot less than the rest of your life. It’ll be over in the blink of an eye. See the little stresses for what they are: insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Redefine Christmas in line with what’s important to you, not what society claims is important (looking good, having an abundance of food, cooking the perfect turkey, buying the best presents, and generally having an ‘Instagrammable Christmas’). What’s important to you? It’s also a time to readjust what you can do and set more realistic, reasonable goals and expectations that fit with your body and your health, and what you can physically, mentally and emotionally manage. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.
Let go of the Grinch
This is one I need to work on. Christmas should be fun, or at the very least not quite the stressful ball of horror that it can become. For me, I get stressed with things at home, the niggles with family, pervasive issues with food and weight that still gnaw my brain, financial worries, anxiety that I can’t quite put a lid on about every tiny thing. And of course there’s looking at what others are doing and the Christmas I ‘should’ be having.
When you look at your own situation and negatively compare to friends or what you see in the films or on social media, it’s an open invitation to the Grinch to take over your brain.
Let go of it all, focus on what you have, and appreciate the small, simple things.
Have a little fun
Fun. That’s part of what Christmas is all about, right? We knew that as children, but many of us lose it along the way and it’s not surprising. Do something you enjoy and surround yourself in little festivities to get you more in the Christmas spirit. Look at Christmas light displays, try some Christmas crafts, browse Pinterest, get a Christmassy desktop wallpaper, sing along like a maniac to cheesy Christmas music, whatever it takes to inject a little lightness and some festive vibes into your bloodstream.
Generate a grateful gracefulness
What are you thankful for? What big or small or tiny things are you grateful for this year, this week, right this moment? Who do you love, who are you glad to have in your life in some way? Are you safe, warm, and fed? Let these things warm your heart.
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Christmas is a different experience for everyone. Some love it with a sense of happy abandon and glee. Others hate it and see it as commercial nonsense. Others still will feel pain; physical pain, pain of loss, worry for the future, stress, loneliness. Forget what others are doing, forget how Christmas ‘should’ look and what you ‘should’ be doing, the crazy fun you ‘should’ be having. Live life your way and write your own story this Christmas.