Whether you celebrate any of the winter holidays or not, the fall/winter season can be especially challenging for those of us with chronic illness. People are busier and crankier, maybe even the ones we rely on for support, and doctors' offices are crazier as people try to use up their flexible spending accounts and paid time off balances to do all the doctor’s appointments they’ve been putting off all year. For those of us on special diets, we may find that everywhere we turn there is special food we can’t enjoy. SO MUCH OFF-LIMITS FOOD!  

If you are traveling for the holidays, especially to see family, that adds another whole layer of stress, routine disruption, exhaustion, and potentially physical pain. And explaining your wellness needs to others can be a slog. I’m headed to Colorado for Thanksgiving to meet my partner’s family for the first time and I CANNOT WAIT to explain coffee enemas to them.

So what is a spoonie to do to find some holiday cheer in all the madness?

Here are six actions you can take to bring some ease, and maybe even joy, to your holiday experience:

  • Make yourself a survival kit. What are the things that bring you joy and make you feel better? Think: essential oils, favorite scarf/socks/shirt, pump up or chill out playlist, tiger balm, favorite teas, photographs, a handwritten note from a sweetie or best buddy, etc. I keep a list on hand of things that make me feel better when I’m not at my best. It’s surprisingly easy to forget what works in a low moment.

  • Create your own holiday rituals. This could be for you and just you, like blowing bubbles once a day, or something organized with your favorite people. If you do something with others, make sure it meets your needs and preferences, i.e. zombie B movie marathon with paleo-only snacks. It can be anything!

  • Ask for support. If you’re going to be away from home, ask your hosts about the accommodations in advance so you have time to prepare and pack accordingly. Will there be a place to do your physical therapy exercises? Can you eat the food or should you plan to do some cooking? What is the sleeping situation like? It may seem like you’re being needy asking for these things but you are actually giving your host a huge gift when you give them the opportunity to support you. No matter where you are around the holidays, ask a buddy, or maybe a few buddies, to check in with you so you can vent, cry, or celebrate as needed. Sometimes you just have to tell someone how much you love, or loathe, Christmas music!

  • Support others. Offer to help someone with something or even just check in on them. Holidays are a dark time for many and a simple text message, cute animal photo, or phone call can make all the difference. Supporting others in small ways will help you stay present and less mired in your own circumstances.

  • Get all your medicine, supplements and appointments in order. If you do not plan for holiday closures or the vacations of your practitioners, you could end up without the care or meds you need. Get everything in order as soon as possible so you don’t end up in a bad spot. If you don’t know what the plans of your practitioners are, find out and ask what you should do if you need support urgently.

  • If traveling, make a list of what to bring and prep. Save the list and use it every time you leave home.

What keeps you on track around the holidays? What challenges do you face that are not addressed here? Please share in the comments section.