Helping women with chronic illnesses

Holiday Suggestions For People Who Are Living With Chronic Illness

Today, I thought I would write about holiday suggestions for people living with chronic illness. Obviously what is helpful for one patient may not be for another. After all, each person is unique. However, I tried to include some themes I have seen arise for me personally and for many of my fellow chronically ill patients.

  • Set reasonable goals. Don’t fret over the things you can’t do. Enjoy the ones you can.

  • Build in appropriate rest periods. Pace yourself. Try to avoid taking on too much.

  • Be honest with friends and loved ones about what you can and can’t do. Set boundaries that will protect yourself.

  • Learn to say no. Avoid the trap of getting “guilted into” doing more than you are able to do (or should do) – given your health status. As all chronic illness patients know too well, pushing too hard nearly always comes with a steep price (i.e. the “crash” afterwards that only immediate family tends to witness).

  • If you struggle with infertility, don’t feel guilty if you need to skip gatherings with babies and children. It may be too painful for you now and that’s OK.

  • If you have multiple chemical sensitivity and/or migraines and have tried your best to educate others about it, don’t feel guilty if you need to leave an event early due to an MCS exposure or migraine trigger. It’s your body!

  • Exercise self-care. Get as much rest as possible. Avoid known triggers for your illnesses when at all possible. Be honest with those around you if you develop a flare-up that requires you to rest and/or withdraw from an activity. Let them know that it’s not that you don’t want to spend time with them but that you cannot afford to jeopardize your health by ongoing exposures to triggers.

  • If someone doesn’t understand (or listen) when you try to explain a change of plans or the need for rest, accept the fact that you tried your best to communicate the situation to them. Ultimately, you can’t control what others will think.

    While we all try our best to be thankful throughout the year, this time of year brings added “pressure” (for lack of a better word) to express gratitude. Don’t get me wrong. Gratitude is a wonderful thing. The trick for many chronic illness patients, in my estimation, is that it can sometimes be difficult to focus on gratitude when pain and suffering are so significant that they make it challenging to focus on it.

    I will try to avoid including platitudes that may be less-than-helpful… or tips on how to tap into your gratitude. Anyone reading this more than likely has a good idea of how to tap into that. My hope is that anyone who happens to be reading this (regardless of which country you reside in or whether or not this is a holiday week for you) might come away from this post feeling a bit more confident about setting appropriate boundaries, knowing when to say no (i.e. not accepting jobs/activities/duties that are likely to be detrimental to one’s health), and knowing when to rest.

    Also, I believe that no matter how serious one’s health problems are and no matter how stressful the situation may be… there is virtually always something to be grateful for. If you are struggling to identify something, start with the most basic things. Every day on which we each wake up and start with a new slate is a gift. No matter how much pain and suffering one is experiencing, odds are, statistically, that if you’re reading this post you are relatively unlikely to be homeless or suffering from hunger at this time.

    Does that mean there aren’t any people reading this who are really suffering in those ways (struggling to meet their needs… not just wants)? No, not at all. I know that quite a few of my readers experience plenty of suffering (of all sorts… including serious concerns about having safe housing and enough food to eat) – as many of them have shared their situations with me “off the blog”. After all… overwhelming medical bills can lead to debt, to difficulty paying for basic needs (such as food), and it can even affect the ability to find affordable housing. So, I don’t mean to gloss over these issues – because I know for a fact, from talking with many of my readers “off the blog”, that these challenges can be alarmingly close to becoming reality (if not already so) for many.

    Having nearly lost our house a few years ago (following crushing medical bills for my care), I remember the fear and anxiety that we felt while struggling to save it. Quite literally, I cannot put into words the degree of stress and anxiety that resulted. So, I most definitely do not wish to minimize the emotional pain involved or to dismiss what anyone else is experiencing.

    My thoughts and best wishes go out to everyone at this time. Most especially, my thoughts are with those who are homeless. When the temperatures dip as they have already this year, I can’t help but think about those who don’t have shelter or enough food to eat. This Thanksgiving, I will be sending out positive thoughts and energy to those in need.

    Finally, I would also like to thank my online friends for the support, information, validation, insightfulness, courage, and humor you display every single day. It is awe-inspiring!

    This post was written by Jeanne at Copyright © Jeanne — All rights reserved.

    New to blog commenting? Just click “comments” below post. (If you set up a Gravatar, your picture will show when you comment).

    Reading: Holiday Suggestions For People Who Are Living With Chronic Illness

    1 DarleneNo Gravatar { 11.24.11 at 6:12 pm }

    Thank you Jeanne!! I am thankful for your friendship, kindness, and caring for all of us with chronic pain. Your advice is so right on, and I plan to change my thinking. We definitely do need to set boundaries, and help family and friends understand. If they are not able to, we need to make sure we do not overdo, or expose ourself to any chemicals, scents, or other toxic issues.

    Again, thank you so much for all that you do. I know you are not feeling well, and have been suffering for a very long time with migraines as well as many other issues.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!!

    2 JeanneNo Gravatar { 11.28.11 at 2:39 am }


    Thank you!! You always have a kind word, a thoughtful insight, an offer of support//comfort… and you always have loads of compassion! Your kind words are always appreciated and your friendship is a true gift. As far as “advice” is concerned, I give suggestions but I don’t give advice. (It may sound like I’m splitting hairs but I believe there’s a difference between making suggestions/sharing some things that have helped me… as opposed to giving people ‘advice’ (which I’m not qualified to do). 😉

    Boundaries are huge for people living with chronic illness, in my opinion. In my own situation, I had to learn this the hard way and it wasn’t easy. This is not to say I’m done learning! I still struggle with boundaries but far less than I used to. I finally had reached a point of being so, so sick that I was forced to implement much clearer boundaries in order to prevent further (preventable) deterioration of my health. That’s not to say my health won’t deteriorate in the future, of course. Obviously, there are things that are not in my control. However, by setting practical, common-sense boundaries I can prevent needless/preventable downhill slide.

    If family and friends are open to learning about illnesses and triggers, that’s obviously awesome. If they are not, I think it’s important to know when to accept this fact and move on. (I spent years doing the “beat my head against the wall” routine and it solves nothing. I agree with you… We need to avoid overdoing, getting exposed to chemicals that trigger health problems (like MCS and migraines), etc.

    Thank you for all that you do! I know that you work (often 1:1) quietly, behind-the-scenes with fellow patients. Your wisdom, support and comfort help many people. Your sense of humor is always a refreshing boost and you make me laugh. (“Laughter is the best medicine”). As far as suffering for a long time is concerned, I know that you have multiple, complex medical issues and somehow manage to persevere and keep tabs on so many patients. You are an inspiration.

    I’m sorry I’m late replying to your comment. The days are flying by too fast.

    Take care,


    3 Bouncing Back: Five Tips To An Easier Recovery — { 11.30.11 at 1:01 am }

    […] up on this, I’m talking here about dealing with the fallout that can occur for a person living with […]

    4 Mountain Climbing Time! — { 12.14.11 at 6:03 pm }

    […] that face people living with chronic illness/pain. Following up on what I wrote recently here, this can be an especially challenging time of year for people living with chronic illness(es) and […]

    Leave a Comment

    CommentLuv badge