Tips for Managing A Chronic Christmas

Christmas should be a joyful time, yet for many it can be a time of overwhelm and stress. Add chronic illness and/or chronic pain to the mix, and the whole playing field is changed. It may not be possible to do the things we used to. Christmas no longer looks like it once did.

Don’t let expectations and pressures ruin the festive season. Get organised, readjust your expectations, kick the Grinch to the curb and take care of yourself without the overwhelm and stress that Christmas can cause. Here are a few ways to help you cope and make the most of Christmas this year.

 ♥

C’est La Vie

I can manage to get through almost anything symptom-wise if I have to. But there are some things I just can’t power through: cripplingly bad migraines, and small bowel twisting/stoma problems, for instance. Better make that three: the mysterious days that disappear from my memory where I’m too sick to move. With chronic illness, plans can often go awry or be cancelled at the last minute because we feel dreadful. We then worry more that we’re not going to get things done or that we’re going to let people down. For instance, for me when it comes to the ‘big day’ I worry that I’ll wake up crushed by a migraine or with my insides doing the twist and jive.

These aren’t things we can plan for. We can only prepare in terms of knowing how we could deal with the fallout. Your health comes first. It’s cliche, but it’s not the end of the world if Christmas plans go to pot. It can’t be helped and it’s not your fault. Worrying about this sort of thing happening only makes you feel worse. Try to get go a little. C’est la vie.

Prioritise

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. Make sure self-care and rest get a top spot on your priorities list. 

Gifting & Card Lists

Grab a pen & piece of paper (or new word/spreadsheet document for the more 21st century folk 😉) and write down who you’re buying for this year. Underneath the names, jot down ideas of things you might want to buy or make. Tick them off as you get them, and add anything you randomly purchase. Keep a note of how much you spend to be able to track your budget.

Then write up a list of who you’re sending Christmas cards to, including e-cards and emails. Prioritise any that need to go abroad as they’ll need to be sent a little earlier. Check last posting dates and make a note to make sure you get everything sent on time. Tick them off as they’re posted/emailed.

When it comes to gifts, find inspiration in the shops or do it more comfortably and conveniently online. Check out the InvisiblyMe gift guides for some ideas :

Gift ideas for £15 / $20 and under

Gift ideas between £15-40 / $20-50

Gift ideas for £40 / $50 +

To-Do Lists Are Your Friends

Get organised and draw up some lists and reminders. Figure out what you need to buy in terms of groceries and treats for Christmas. Chocolate tubs, drinks and snacks should all go on there. Shop around and make use of any offers on the run up to Christmas. Online grocery shopping can be fantastic for this, especially if you’re buying a lot of bulk and heavy items that can be challenging to pick up in person.

Write down what you need to get done for Christmas. From de-frosting the freezer to cleaning out the spare bedroom and putting up the Christmas tree. Break things down into more manageable chunks and smaller tasks. You can even set aside small blocks of time for different tasks, like setting yourself 10 or 20 minute periods to work on each thing, taking a rest between and ensuring you don’t get overwhelmed.

Declutter

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.

Delegate & Ask For Help

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.

Say 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.

Simplify

Try to keep things simple, which is a good motto when it comes to both limited ‘spoons’ and 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. ‘Less is more’ is the saying to remember.

Reach Out

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. 

Self-Care & Simple Joys

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. Ensure your basic needs are met. Advocate for yourself, be assertive in what you need. Appreciate how you’re feeling and acknowledge it. Manage difficult people who make you feel bad about yourself in some way; speak up or ignore, it depends on you and the situation, but nobody has the right to make you feel like that.

Work on finding small, simple joys in each day. Get enough rest, do things you enjoy, find time to relax, get some fresh air if you can, try to eat well and stay hydrated, keep on top of taking any meds. Remember to breathe. 

Review Your Meds

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. This is also really important for those with stomas because getting prescriptions from your supplier can take a while, especially with the Christmas rush. Order them any medications, prescriptions and supplies now to make sure there are no last minute hiccups and panic. 

An image of four pills in blue and pink.

Put It Into Perspective

Christmas itself is only one day a year. 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: not all that significant in the grand scheme of things. 

Readjust Expectations

Redefine Christmas in line with what’s important to you, not what society and the media perpetuate as being important. There’s more to it than everyone is looking gorgeous with an abundance of food, the perfect turkey, the flashiest gifts with a focus on a perfect ‘Instagrammable Christmas’. What’s important to you? Comfort, convenience, friends, family, children, forgetting about pain briefly, having a laugh, being able to be yourself.

It’s also a time to readjust your expectations to fit more in line with your body, your health and your current situation. It can be hard comparing the pre-Chronic Christmas with the Chronic Christmas. It can be heartbreaking. But it’s possible to enjoy at least some parts of the festive season with a change of perspective. Consider what you can physically, mentally and emotionally manage. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. 

Tell The Grinch To Back Off

If you’re like me, there’s a battle with the inner Grinch to contend with. Christmas should be fun, or at the very least not quite the stressful ball of horror that it can become. I can get stressed with a lot, from family stuff to finances and health issues. It can exacerbate anxiety when you’re juggling with all your worries; while you’re busy being busy & busy being stressed, the joy of Christmas can pass you by.

When you look at your own situation and negatively compare to others, it’s an open invitation to the Grinch to take over your brain.

Tell the Grinch to back off. Remove negativity where you can, and fill your life with small simple joys. Remember what matters. Ask your inner child to come out to play.

Let go of the ‘shoulds’ focus on what you do 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.

Practice Gratitude

What are you thankful for? What big, 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. 

Remember : It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

There may be things you’re missing out on at Christmas because of chronic illness and/or pain. There may be things that are incredibly difficult and challenging. Trying to avoid or ignore the negatives doesn’t make them go away. In fact, it can make it worse when we’re push on with a brave face and swallow the pain; it bubbles away under the surface and starts to cause cracks in the hardened exterior we’ve tried so hard to construct.

Sometimes we just need to acknowledge how we’re really feeling. It’s okay not to be okay all of the time. There’s a lot of pressure on being positive and practicing gratitude, and these things are great to an extent – but we still need to acknowledge the things we’re sad about or the aspects we struggle with. We need that time to breathe and to be human.

 ♥

Christmas is a different experience for everyone. Some love it with a sense of happy abandon and glee. Some hate it and see it as commercial nonsense. Others will predominantly feel pain; physical pain, pain of loss, worry for the future, stress, loneliness. Let’s let go of the judgements and the expectations.

Forget what others are doing, forget how Christmas ‘should’ look and what you ‘should’ be doing. Focus on what matters to you and redefine how your Christmas will look based upon your needs and your current situation. Simplify, practice self-care and gratitude, focus on being comfortable and inviting simple pleasures into your life. Live life your way and write your own story this Christmas. 

Caz  ♥

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52 Comments

  1. Benn Bell
    December 11, 2019 / 4:49 pm

    All good tips. Happy Holidays to you Caz! XXOO

    • December 12, 2019 / 4:53 pm

      I’m glad you thought so – thank you, Benn! Happy Holidays to you, too 😊 x

  2. December 11, 2019 / 5:00 pm

    Beautiful Tips !!!!!!

    CAT

    • December 12, 2019 / 4:54 pm

      Glad you liked them, thanks! Hope you’re having a good week, Cat 😊 xx

  3. December 11, 2019 / 5:03 pm

    Christmas is what people make it, everyone’s Christmas is different, some people dread the loneliness while others wish they could have a peaceful day by themselves! It’s not a test to see who does it best, though it often seems like it. Hope all goes smoothly Caz.

    • December 11, 2019 / 5:30 pm

      Like you say it’s one day, two if you count Boxing Day then it’s over 🤯

      • December 12, 2019 / 5:23 pm

        Yep, over before we know it. Hold on to the goodness for as long as we can and ditch the negative parts and stress because it’s just not worth it.xx

    • December 12, 2019 / 5:22 pm

      Absolutely, Janet. Sometimes it does feel like a lot of pressure and there’s less appreciation for how it’s such a different experience for everyone. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I hope the run-up to Christmas is enjoyable for you & not too stress-inducing! xx

  4. Michelle Tikalsky
    December 11, 2019 / 5:33 pm

    I do much of preparing for Christmas other than getting gifts. Just getting myself to go out and shop is difficult enough. I don’t like going and doing it alone but I don’t have anyone to help. I also feel stupid about needing to ask. People just say I don’t need help because I’m old enough to do things alone

    • December 12, 2019 / 6:19 pm

      That’s awful, Michelle. I’m so sorry you feel like that and that the people you come into contact with don’t help and don’t think you need help. When you look ‘fine’ and as you say are ‘old enough’, people can judge and make assumptions. Please don’t feel you can’t ask. Online shopping can be a godsend when physically getting out to the shops is challenging. Asking for help isn’t weak and I’m pretty sure you’d happily help others. ♥ xx

  5. December 11, 2019 / 5:59 pm

    This time is stressful for most everyone, but those with chronic illnesses it is even more difficult. You’ve a great plan. Good for you.

    Have a fabulous day, Caz. ♥

    • December 14, 2019 / 4:07 pm

      Thank you, Sandee 🌷 I hope you’re having a lovely weekend! xx

  6. December 11, 2019 / 6:46 pm

    And it’s more than ok to fall apart at Xmas. I’d say holidays are specially convenient for falling apart….nicely…. in pieces.

    Happy holidays, dear.

    • December 14, 2019 / 4:12 pm

      It’s reassuring to read that, because you’re right. Many of us do struggle, illness or not. Of course I’d wish none of us felt that way but it’s more than okay to fall apart, to not deal with your shit all that well, to need a time out. Thank you, Bo. I hope you’re managing as well as possible – Happy holidays to you, too  ♥ xx

  7. Michelle Lee Curtis
    December 11, 2019 / 7:53 pm

    Great tips Caz. Happy Holidays!

    • December 14, 2019 / 4:21 pm

      Thanks, Mykie – glad you liked the tips! Happy Holidays, hope you’re keeping as well as possible this weekend lovely xx

  8. December 11, 2019 / 8:35 pm

    It’s sad though when something you’ve been looking forward to becomes impossible. My husband spent Christmas before last in bed with something he called a cold, but it completely floored him. (We weren’t aware at the time that his heart was about to pack up, or I’d have been even more worried – he’d had a triple bypass before the following Christmas.)
    The sad thing was we’d been due to visit his son that Christmas – we usually spend Christmas with my family. Both his sons would have been there and he rarely gets to see them together. It was a measure of how ill he was that he couldn’t face the journey.

    • December 14, 2019 / 4:26 pm

      I’m so sorry, Cathy. It’s very worrying that this kind of thing can happen as I’ve read about similar in the news before – going to bed with a cold but it’s actually much, much worse. I’m so sorry, for both of you. And you’re right, it adds that extra bit of heartbreak when you have to miss out and not be able to do what you’d wanted to or see your loved ones because physically you can’t manage it. Thank you for sharing this, Cathy  ♥ xx

  9. December 11, 2019 / 9:52 pm

    A great post! I love the idea and cute pic on telling the Grinch to back off… LOL
    I’m still currently using your
    “Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do”
    as my wallpaper on my laptop desktop.
    My whole family sees it as they pass by, and it is such a blessing.
    Lightens burdens and anxiety! Like a good friend with a shoulder to lean on!
    Me and God love you, Caz! And pray for your often! <3

    • Svet
      December 13, 2019 / 3:24 am

      Brilliant tips, Caz. Thank you for sharing!

      • December 14, 2019 / 6:59 pm

        Svet – Thank you, glad you liked the post! Hope you’re having a lovely weekend xx

    • December 14, 2019 / 4:33 pm

      Gail – Aww that’s so cool about you using that pic as your wallpaper still. I hope it’s a good reminder for you. I think at the moment you need one that says “I will rest today” 😉 I’m always here, Gail, so please, any time at all you ever want to talk just get in touch. I just wish I could do something to ease your pain. You’re a trooper for all you go through, and chronic pain is no walk in the park. Sending lots of love your way  ♥ xx

  10. December 11, 2019 / 9:52 pm

    Hi Caz,
    Great advice as always. One step at a time. Baby steps. However you call it – it is vital to well-being.
    Knowing, as you do, that I can have good days suddenly kicked up the backside by a spate of rock-bottomers I am beginning to accept that what I haven’t got done on the high days just stay undone.
    Pay heed to Caz’s advice for your own sanity. It is worth all our weight in gold.
    Have a happy holiday season.
    Maz xxx

    • December 14, 2019 / 4:50 pm

      Aww thanks, Maz! I’m glad you thought the tips were decent, though I’m probably one of those examples of ‘do as I say, not as I do
      It’s great you’re learning to accept that things not done can wait or remain undone, because you’re right about those “good days suddenly kicked up the backside by a spate of rock-bottomers”. It’s not easy with the emotional rollercoaster that comes with it (frustration and guilt especially) but it’s important for our wellbeing in the short term & the long term  ♥ xx

  11. December 11, 2019 / 10:31 pm

    Wonderful list Caz, you’ve thought of everything!

    • December 14, 2019 / 5:02 pm

      Thanks, Marie! I hope you’re well and having a restful weekend lovely 😊 xx

  12. December 12, 2019 / 4:26 am

    And with any luck, we’ll survive!

    • December 14, 2019 / 5:07 pm

      Fingers crossed, I reckon it’s 50/50!! 😂

  13. December 12, 2019 / 12:59 pm

    I love this, Caz. We can all get so caught up in doing what’s expected of us and forgetting about ourselves. Love your ideas about planning and breaking everything down. I need to listen to your advice. I haven’t even written a Christmas card yet. I already have them, so I just need to find them. Lol, that might be a task in itself!

    • December 14, 2019 / 5:09 pm

      You’re not alone there as I’ve not written any cards yet, either. Sometimes I think it would be a good idea to have a master list – you write down the location of everything that’s not blatantly obvious. So Christmas cards & decorations, the old air pump, spare candles, all the stuff you put in a logical safe place that you then can never bloody remember! Deep breath, Liz. Little bits at a time and don’t let it all stress you out too much xx

  14. December 12, 2019 / 1:11 pm

    So much wisdom here, Caz. Most important are your points about self care and sending the Grinch away.

    I’m gathering data about self pain control that I hope will be a helpful post some time soon. Stay tuned!

    Thinking of you and hoping you’re resting comfortably and regaining your strength. Thanks for all your visits, dear Caz.

    Annie xx

    • December 14, 2019 / 5:25 pm

      Absolutely, self-care is so important. Banishing the Grinch isn’t always easy, but we owe ourselves a little happiness, right?
      I’m very curious about your data-gathering – I’ll look forward to checking out that post! Thank you, Annie. I hope you’re keeping as well as possible. Have a restful weekend 🌹 xx

  15. December 12, 2019 / 4:36 pm

    Excellent post! It can be so debilitating this time of year, all the pressure! I, fortunately, do not have to worry about this for this year… but I did have to get my gifts ordered, (Amazon – I love you!) And send out my Christmas Cards… well, a few, I prioritized! Would you mind sharing this with the group? OR I can. Really good post, my friend! ~xoxo

    • December 14, 2019 / 5:26 pm

      Amazon is a life-saver, right?! I’m glad you’re not having to stress too much about things this year. You’re living the RV life, no time for Christmas stress! Aw I’m honoured you’d like this shared to the group. I’ll pop it on now 😊 Have a restful weekend lovely xx

  16. December 12, 2019 / 6:46 pm

    Good tips. I have struggled with chronic illnesses for most of my adult life–but not as invasive as yours. They’re a bit better with new meds coming out.

    • December 14, 2019 / 5:31 pm

      I’m sorry you’ve struggled with chronic illness and know all too well what things are like. I don’t think there’s any way to compare, your experience is just as valid as mine or anyone else’s. I do hope the evolving medication landscape is helpful for you, Jacqui. God bless modern medicine 😊 xx

  17. December 12, 2019 / 9:23 pm

    These are all fabulous tips Caz! It’s so easy to get caught up in the stress and busy-ness of the Christmas season and forget that it should be a time of celebration. As you said, rather than comparing ourselves to others, we should decide what a meaningful celebration means to US. That may look different for each person. Wishing you a very happy and blessed Christmas season!

    • December 14, 2019 / 5:51 pm

      Absolutely – Christmas is what we make it, and what’s important may not necessarily be the same as the next person or as what the media portrays as being important. Let’s not forget the things that matter to us and the celebration and small joys that should come with the festive season. Thank you for the great comment, Terri 🌷 Have a restful weekend xx

  18. December 13, 2019 / 1:31 pm

    OMG such great ideas here. Getting myself organized, that is such a relief for me. Although every year no matter how organized I am there’s still always that last minute shopping because I forgot something LOL. I so agree with you, saying NO is such a stress reliever and creates space for what you do want, which always makes me happy. As far as simplicity goes, I now give gift cards to mostly everyone, which cuts all the shopping and thinking of what to get, and I know myself I’d rather get a gift card and pick out what I want  And remembering self-care, it’s so easy to forget ourselves. I love all of the points you brought out here, brilliant. Grateful to know you <3

    • December 14, 2019 / 6:10 pm

      Relief, that’s a good way to put it because that’s the feeling I have of feeling organised. I just feel like no matter how hard I try I never quite manage it! Gift cards are a fantastic idea as they’re so convenient and versatile. I’m glad you liked the tips, Masha – thank you for such a fab comment! I hope you’re remembering to put your own needs first this weekend  ♥ xx

  19. Mama Duck
    December 13, 2019 / 4:36 pm

    Another thoughtful post about how to handle the physical struggles. I wish you a blessed Christmas and hope you feel especially good throughout the holidays!

    • December 14, 2019 / 6:11 pm

      Aww thank you so much, that’s very kind of you! Wishing you a very happy holidays too & I hope you’re having a lovely weekend so far 😊 xx

  20. December 13, 2019 / 10:38 pm

    great tips for anyone to use! am trying to ignore the holidays but am getting dragged in by do-gooder loved ones lol…

    • December 14, 2019 / 6:17 pm

      Damn those festive-fever loved ones.. 😂 I hope you can feel a little merry cheer on the run up to Christmas because I’ve tried the avoidance approach too but it never quite works! Have a lovely weekend, da-AL xx

  21. December 14, 2019 / 2:13 am

    Terrific post – so much useful information – and things to really consider as we get into the heart of the holiday season…

    • December 14, 2019 / 6:19 pm

      Thanks, John, glad you liked the post. Hope you’re having a good weekend, Mr! 😊

  22. December 14, 2019 / 7:43 am

    Brilliant post Caz. Prioritising is vital. I’ve found my to do list a little overwhelming this last week so I’ve focused on the things that I have to do that day and not put myself under too much pressure. And remembering self-care too is so important this time of year. We need to remember not to overdo things and spoil the big day. Great advice – thanks for sharing! x

    • December 14, 2019 / 6:34 pm

      It can be hard to prioritise when we feel everything is important but if we look at the bigger picture we can hopefully see things a little more clearly and push things off the list. It’s just not always possible to do it all, and that’s okay. I’m glad you managed to ease a little pressure off. Keep doing that, moving away from the stress, doing little chunks of tasks and keeping self care at the top of the list. Glad you liked the post, thank you for the comment! xx

  23. December 14, 2019 / 8:27 am

    Great list of tips! Many of them I have been doing for a long time. I too think it’s just one day and if things don’t go to plan it’s not the end of the world. My most important part of Christmas is the time together as a family, even if it may be a day or two later

    • December 14, 2019 / 6:38 pm

      The date itself as our Christmas celebration shouldn’t be set in stone and it’s a shame it feels that way because it’s so much pressure. So what if we do our ‘thing’ a day or two later, or we spread it out and do things a little different to the ‘norm’? Sometimes we have to, things don’t always go to plan. And that’s okay, the world won’t fall apart around us. It’ll be okay.
      You’ve had so much going on at home, with your health, with losing poor little Bruno… The main thing is to focus on what’s important to you for Christmas – like spending time together as a family. Keep prioritising self-care and taking enough time out for yourself, too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kat  ♥ xx

  24. December 15, 2019 / 1:07 am

    Hello Caz I have Tagged you for the December-The Most Wonderful Time of the Year Tag. Just though of you and hope you might like to brighten up your night with thanks to me my good friend x

    • December 15, 2019 / 6:26 pm

      Thank you for the very kind tag, James, much appreciated! I hope you’re keeping as well as possible & having a good weekend so far 😊 x

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