5 Tips to Make it Through the Holiday Season with Chronic Illness

I love the holidays. The lights, decorations, family time… even the smells are better! People generally seem to be jollier, even though there are a few obvious stresses that come with purchasing lots of presents, making plans and trying to squeeze in lots of work in a smaller time frame.

But with chronic illness, there’s other less obvious sources of stress that might make my fellow spoonies anxious during this time of year. Below are my tips that help me get through the holiday madness while maintaining my health the best I can! Remember, none of these are meant to replace professional advice from a doctor or practitioner, and we encourage everyone to seek the advice of a licensed professional when deviating from their normal routines.

Everyone is different, but if you’re a spoonie and want to remain functional this year, check out some of the tips below!

5 Easy Tips to Make it Through the Holiday Season with Chronic Illness

1- Juice. I don’t mean classic OJ. I mean that beet, kale, celery-type juice. I know it sounds strange, but when you’re traveling and worried about not getting the right nutrients, staying at family’s houses, or not sticking to your strict diet, juice tends to help me at least feel like I’m consuming something good for me, and not breaking from my diet too much. If you’re in a small city, there is usually a juicery somewhere, if not you can buy them from most grocery stores in the fruit and veggie section!

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2- Booch. Or in other words, Kambucha, a.k.a. fermented tea. If you have problems digesting dairy, meat, gluten, and just anything really, Kambucha tends to help me if I don’t have my regular refrigerated probiotics on me. Additionally, while I don’t really drink alcohol, if I do, it seems to counteract any damage a glass of wine might do to my stomach. Keep in mind, there are some reports of acid reflux and other negative effects, so I always drink this in moderation just to help my stomach. To find out more about kambucha, click here, here, here or here.

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3- Layers. If cold causes you pain and your symptoms to flare like me, then the winter season is a tough one to handle. Because I have POTS, I have trouble regulating my temperature, so during the days I may be freezing, but at night I feel like a furnace. If you’re traveling to somewhere cold, pack layers, plenty of socks, and comfortable clothes so that if your body temperature does start changing, it’s easier to take layers off than the be stuck sweating in clothes or freezing in just one layer.

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4- Exercise. If exercise is a big part of your routine at home to keep you functional, then try not to abandon that too much just because it’s vacation. When I visit family, I try to go for walks if it’s not too freezing, find a local gym, or even play with my nephews as a way to get my blood pumping. Deviating too much can make it harder to get back to where I was before the holiday, so I always try to do 30 minutes of something a day because it’s better than nothing!

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5- Keep Calm. Even though I get some anxiety about not being around all of the things that I use to maintain my health/reduce flares, I try not get too stressed about it because that in itself might cause a flare! The meaning of the holidays for me is to be around family and friends, who have supported me throughout this journey and showing them my gratitude. If I’m stressing the whole time, it definitely infringes on my ability to be myself with the people I love most! So keep in mind why you’re there and be diligent in your compliance with what makes you healthy.

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Jessica Gladwell

Jessica Gladwell

Jessica Gladwell is one of PW's consultants and patient editors. She has lived with late-stage, chronic Lyme and POTS since circa 2002. She has also served as a caregiver to close family members with late-stage, chronic Lyme. Before diagnosis, she served as a business consultant for a large corporation and PM for a small digital branding agency. Now, she is proactive in the rare and neurological disease community, spreading awareness and advising on matters of health and lifestyle when living with a chronic illness.

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