Tips around getting through Christmas with a Chronic Illness
I’m Ali and I’m a 25-year-old fashion and lifestyle blogger from Brighton. At the age of 17 I became unwell with symptoms of fatigue and widespread pain and was consequently housebound. After 6 months, I was diagnosed with ME and Fibromyalgia, and was placed on antidepressants due to the mental health effects of these conditions and the isolation that they caused.
I struggled with my fluctuating health a lot over the following few years but now I’m much more in control of my conditions. This is mainly due to acceptance, understanding and changes in lifestyle. As well as working with brands as a fashion blogger, I’m now starting my own business ‘The Chronic Wellness Club’ - a subscription membership site to help those with chronic illness and mental health conditions to build their resilience and improve their wellbeing.
With Christmas coming up, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’m going to cope with the holidays. Routine goes out the window, things suddenly get very busy, there’s a pressure to give into ‘temptations’ and it’s also super cold! It can be a very different time when you’ve got a health condition, whether it’s mental or physical, so I’ve compiled a few tips to make the festive season more fun and less fearful.
Plan rest time
I’m very used to pacing due to my chronic illness, particularly my fatigue, but this concept might be quite new. I’d advise reading up on the Spoon Theory and trying to estimate how many spoons you have per day and how much activities use. It’s very easy to fill your calendar with lots of fun things and then realise you have no downtime to rest and recuperate. That time is so important, so I’d suggest trying to create a good balance between rest and activity.
And make it fun!
Rest doesn’t have to be unsociable or boring. In fact, I’d say the more enjoyable you make it, the more likely you are to feel better from it. Write down a list of Christmas films you’d like to watch, buy a Christmas-scented candle to light, pop on your new pyjamas, grab a cosy blanket and get some yummy treats! Want to socialise but also need a little rest time? Invite a friend to a movie night or pyjama party rather than a night out!
We all know what the holidays are like, with the distant relatives we only see once a year who always seem to ask us the personal questions that really aren’t necessary.
“Have you got a boyfriend yet?”
“Are you STILL ill?”
As much as I love my Gran, every year I know she’ll make a comment that’s unintentionally slightly upsetting! It’s easy to let these negative comments, no matter how misplaced in their intentions, make you feel low. I find that practising a short, succinct answer to these questions really helps to make me feel more confident when discussing a sensitive subject. Remember, you can answer as much or as little as you feel comfortable, and it’s okay to say, “I’d rather not discuss it” and then divert the conversation onto something else.
Don't fall into the comparison trap
Whether you’re comparing your family, your presents or even the amount that you’re doing over the festive period. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy! It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap, especially because social media is a ‘highlight reel’ only showing you the best bits of someone else's life. Try to take everything with a pinch of salt and remember that everyone is dealing with something behind the scenes, so kindness is key!
This is really an extension of the previous tip, but it’s so important that it deserves to be a standalone point. During busy times, when I’m particularly prone to flare ups or feeling low about myself due to health-comparisons, I try to think of things that I’m grateful for. I’m grateful to have people in my life that support me and bring me joy. I’m grateful to have a warm, safe home. I’m grateful to have clean running water.
What are you grateful for this year? What films are on your Christmas watch list? How are you going to pace yourself? Let us know in the comments below!