Christmas 2020 will likely look rather different for many of us in some way. Mix chronic illness and chronic pain with Covid and there’s a potential recipe for disaster. Whether you’re hoping for a cheery Christmas or you simply wanting to survive it in one piece, here are a few tips to help you through and to make the most of the festive holidays.
Personal Update : My apologies for dropping off the planet for a short while. Those of you that follow InvisiblyMe on social media may have seen I had to go to A&E on Thursday, and I’ve been poorly in hospital since for what was a nightmarish stay. Damn, my insides like to dance the Twist! I managed to avoid another surgery so I escaped today and have just got home this afternoon to a ridiculous amount of things to do & I feel rough as hell. I’m posting this now but it may be another day or so before I get fully into the swing of reading & commenting fully on other blogs. Sending love to you all.x
???? ???? ????
Shop Early & Off-Peak
Last minute shopping is always manic, but this year there’s a good reason to want to avoid the crowds. If you can, get organised and shop earlier, finishing the Christmas present purchases within the first two weeks of December at the latest if possible. This will also leave you the time to clean or ‘quarantine’ the items so that they’re Covid-safe, as well as wrap them and post them if required. Many people will be going online for the bulk of their shopping as this is the safest option, especially if you’re in an at-risk group or are still shielding. It’s still a wise idea to get things done a little earlier in case there are any hiccups along the way, like out of stock products or delivery delays.
When it comes to groceries, while there are some fresh and short-dated items that can’t be bought until closer to Christmas, you could look to get other cupboard essentials, drinks and frozen foods now. Make lists and check things off as you get them so you can keep track of what you’ve got and what’s left to get.
Some stores in the UK are reportedly opening for longer hours, some even for 24 hours, to increase footfall and spread out customers. This might be a good way to shop during the off-peak hours when there are likely to be less people to navigate, allowing you to browse more safely.
Pacing is as vital as it can be frustrating sometimes. It’s an important element in self-management of pain and fatigue, yet it can go a little haywire when times get busy and the stress amps up. Take a moment to breathe and remind yourself of how crucial pacing is, and that some things on your to-do list can wait.
Pacing will make your efforts more effective in the long-run and help prevent early burnout that you’ll otherwise be paying for in the days to come.
Surveys are perhaps unsurprisingly showing levels of loneliness are increasing during the pandemic among all age groups. This is on top of how many people feel the pain of loneliness around Christmas ordinarily, as well as those that have felt isolated because of illness or disability. With many people lonely together, please know that you’re not as alone as you may feel.
If you don’t have friends and family to see in person, or there are people you can’t see because of the risk of Covid, reach out online. Emails, ecards, Facebook, video chat, WhatsApp, postal letters, phone calls, social media groups, forums are all good places to start. Feel yourself connecting with the wider world, grounded and tethered no matter how chaotic the times become.
Mind Your Meds
Now is the time to think about your schedule for prescription medications, medical supplies and supplements. Will any of your medications need reviewing and renewing by a pharmacist? My routine review was required recently, and it was a 3 week wait to get a telephone appointment for someone to do it. Don’t get caught out.
Do you need to order prescriptions or other supplies? If you have a stoma, your supply company should be able to provide you with the cut-off date for ordering in time for Christmas delivery. Don’t forget that New Year is just around the corner after the big day and further days can happen then too.
Christmas is always a good excuse to practice gratitude, to slow down and give thanks as we consider the big and the teeny tiny things we’re grateful for. No matter how dark everything feels, you should be able to find some goodness, even if you have to search a little harder for it. Let these things warm you and comfort you.
Ditch The Grinch
What can you do with a Covid Christmas? I’m close to saying ‘you can shove it up your arse’, but that’s just my inner Grinch talking. It’s been very rough lately and thinking of celebrating can seem wrong somehow, especially while so many have died from the virus. It’s a personal decision, but we can be empathic and mindful of the events in the world and considerate of what others are going through, while also looking after ourselves and our families and trying to have an enjoyable time during the festive season.
Following from cultivating that ‘attitude of gratitude’ that we read so much about, think about what you’re appreciate of and thankful for, and let those good things warm your heart. Life is for living and sometimes we need to say c’est la vie. Let go of what you can’t control, loosen your limbs (metaphorically if you’re not physically able) and go with the flow a little more. Laughter is good for the soul so hunt down those funny cat videos, stand-up comedy shows on Netflix or politically incorrect memes on Facebook and have a chuckle. You’ll feel better for the brief reprieve after telling the Grinch to shove it.
Proactively Act To Stay Safe
The pandemic can make us feel as though so much is out of our hands. Take back a little control by being proactive. Don’t let precautionary measures slip in the hubbub of Christmas. Adhere to your country’s Covid regulations, like keeping your distance socially, minimising trips out of the home, wearing a mask and washing hands regularly, but don’t forget the other ways in which you can reduce your risk and keep things as clean and hygienic as possible too.
Personally, I wash my hands a little too excessively, I anti-bac regularly touched surfaces (doorhandles, TV remotes, keyboards, smartphones, kettle, light switches etc) and I clean everything that comes into the house, including wrapped groceries and hand-washing fresh fruit and veg, before putting them away. I’m extra careful when going out and shower later the same day. I use a decent N95 mask, I keep ‘Covid clothes’ I wear outside in a separate plastic bag rather than hanging with regular clothes. I’m forever going around with a wipe in one hand and the Dettol spray in the other.
It’s utterly exhausting but I know I’m doing the best I can and that helps to provide a little peace of mind. You can’t regret doing it, but you could regret not doing it, and that’s not a position you want to be in.
Do whatever it takes to keep you and others safe, while giving you back some sense of control. Remember, we can only do our best and there are never any guarantees.
Unfortunately, the times when we need self-care the most are often the times it goes out the window. I know this is definitely the case for me. When you’ve got so much to do and so much to stress about, the big and small elements of self-care can slip and before you know it you’ve ran yourself into the ground and feel worse than ever.
Self-care can go nicely hand-in-hand with pacing, so factor in time to rest, to look after yourself and to do the things you enjoy, too.
Make time for you, even if that means saying no to a few things or reshuffling the to-do list so that you can get your needs met first. You’ll be no good to yourself or to others, nor will those to-do lists get done, if you’re wound-up, pissed off, resentful and even sicker and more exhausted than usual.
De-Stress The Gifting
When it comes to gifts, think about your budget first and what you can reasonably afford. Don’t add debt to January’s stresses. If you can afford gifts, shop a little earlier and look for sales and discount codes. It really is true when they say it’s the thought that counts, so try not to stress your gifts too much. Think about what your recipient could get good use out of or what they’d enjoy, something personal and thoughtful that will make them smile. Even practical gifts are fantastic to receive, especially as we get older and appreciate the value in fresh, non-hole-ridden socks in the drawer or a working bottle opener.
Pace each step of the way, and don’t forget that includes pacing out the wrapping, which can become a marathon effort on Christmas Eve if you’re not careful. Been there, done that, and no amount of tea (or wine) will make it any easier.
Shift Your Perspective & Expectations
Whether it’s chronic illness, Covid or both that’s shaking up your Christmas, a change of perspective can be a powerful thing. Both can prevent you from doing the things you want to do or having the Christmas you’d envisioned. You might not be able to socialise, travel, see family and friends because of the pandemic, and you may not be able to do those things anyway or even simply stay up all afternoon drinking and playing games because you’re too poorly. You can either get fed up with it all, which is totally fine, or work around it with a new perspective.
I think there’s a good argument for feeling whatever you feel, but at some point you need to decide whether to let yourself be squashed by the frustrations or whether to squash the frustrations. I’m not saying it’s easy, not by a long shot, but it’s worth trying to change your perspective and see how it feels.
Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, look at what you can do. Instead of thinking about the ways in which Christmas is ruined, re-adjust your expectations in line with Christmas looks like this year. There’s no right or wrong way for Christmas to go. Be realistic in your goals and take some time to think about what’s important to you.
Focus on what Christmas is really about for you, which is something that can all to often get lost under all the busy-ness and stress of the festive season even in the best of years.
I know friends online who’ve had a rough, rotten year. Those who have lost a loved one. Those who have been very poorly. If you’re struggling please, speak to someone. Get comfort from someone you trust or speak to your GP. Don’t suffer alone with your feelings or your grief. The same goes if you’re struggling with your mental health; book an appointment with your doctor or call a service like the Samaritans if you need to talk.
If you’re finding it difficult financially or you can’t get the things you need during the pandemic, such as with grocery deliveries being limited, see if there are local organisations in your area that can help. Your local council should be able to signpost you.
Savour Simple Joys
Perhaps one good thing to come from the pandemic is the greater appreciation for the small, simple pleasures in life. Many of the things we took for granted have become more valuable, and that’s often the case when you can no longer have or do something. As the saying goes, “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”.
Those with chronic illness will likely have learned this already, with just how important those small, simple joys are and how much goodness there can be in the simplest of things day to day. A hot chocolate on a cold afternoon, fresh clothes, your favourite food, a good book, listening to the early morning birds, the abundance of beauty in nature and in your surroundings if you look closely enough. Slow down and give yourself the freedom to breathe it all in.
Related Reading :
- 10 Ways To Deal With News Overload & Emotional Stress In Uncertain Times
- Focus On The Can Do, Not The Can’t Do
- Ideas For Health, Wellbeing & Self-Care Gifts This Christmas
How’re you feeling about this Christmas? How are you managing chronic illness, Covid or general stress during the festive season?