Chronic Illness and the Holidays: The Gift of Self-Care

Woman holding up gloved hands in a "stop" signAre you feeling overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the holidays? Shopping, parties, excessive food, expenses, travel … Do these things have your body and mind screaming, “Enough!”?

You’re not alone.

Fatigue and stress top the list of negative emotions felt during the holidays. In fact, in one poll, 68% of respondents reported feeling fatigue “often/sometimes,” with 25% saying “often” (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, 2006). Stress was felt “often/sometimes” by 61%, and “often” by 20%. Add in a chronic illness and it’s likely the numbers are even higher this time of year.

With so many obligations, it can be difficult for anyone to stay mentally and physically healthy. But with some effort and boundary-setting, those with a chronic illness can minimize their discomfort and maximize their joy.

These self-care tips can help:

  1. Take care of yourself first and foremost. This may sound selfish, but the fact is if you’re not feeling well or are fatigued, you won’t have the mental or physical energy to enjoy the festivities. Attend therapy and doctor appointments as scheduled, take meds as prescribed, and get the rest you need.
  2. Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t let a sense of obligation sway your decisions whether to attend parties and other gatherings. If you decide to attend but don’t want to, you may feel resentment or anger. Do what feels right for you. It is OK to politely decline invitations.
  3. Stick to a healthy diet. Increasing carbs, sugar, and alcohol will likely leave you feeling more lethargic and dull. Be sure to eat regular, nutritious meals and allow yourself a bite or two of that yummy holiday confection.
  4. Start or continue your exercise routine. Exercise is both energizing and cathartic. Get outside and do some deep breathing, go for a walk, or head to the gym if the weather is too inclement. Moving your body will help keep your joints lubricated and muscles flexible, and can discharge pent-up stress in the body.
  5. Follow your budget. Although easier said than done, maintaining your gift and travel budgets will help you feel in control and avoid financial regrets. Plan ahead regarding what you’re going to spend on gifts, and don’t let emotions rule your purchasing decisions.
  6. Keep things in perspective. Your party doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to give the most expensive gifts. Think about the meaning of the season as you see it, and allow yourself to make plans based on goodwill rather than a price tag.

The holidays can be stressful, but they don’t have to wear you down. Take time to care for yourself and keep everything in perspective.

Happy holidays!


  1. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. (2006, December 12). Holiday Stress. Retrieved from
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, October 3). Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping. Retrieved from

© Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Andrea M. Risi, LPC, therapist in Denver, Colorado

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Morris


    December 18th, 2015 at 10:01 AM

    all wonder ul tips
    and great reminders that just because it is the holiday season does not mean that it should be time to let ourselves go
    yes think of others
    but take care of ourselves too

  • Alex


    December 18th, 2015 at 7:16 PM

    So glad to receive this! Holiday madness is in full effect. I have to constantly remind myself of the above mentioned tips. A lot of pressure to get the best gifts & host the nicest dinners, etc.
    Holidays are always so stressful for me.

  • Andrea Risi

    Andrea Risi

    December 21st, 2015 at 9:01 AM

    Thank you Alex and Morris! We can all use these reminders during the holidays…

  • Lucille


    December 21st, 2015 at 10:44 AM

    The more worn down you already are right before the holidays then it is guaranteed that you will be even more so afterwards!
    We just seem to be a society that relishes running ourselves haggard at this time of the year so instead of having fun and enjoyment it always feels like there is a whole bunch more stress and anxiety than there should ever have to be.I have done a little better this year because I made a vow to myself to enjoy the season a little more than what I normally do but it is terribly easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget what it is that this is really all about.

  • Harold


    December 21st, 2015 at 4:21 PM

    Whether you are chronically ill or not, this is the best time to think of yourself and take a little time out for yourself. This isn’t something that is selfish- it is necessary for being able to keep on going when the going gets tough!

  • Andrea Risi

    Andrea Risi

    December 22nd, 2015 at 8:54 AM

    Lucille and Harold – I couldn’t agree more! Regardless if you have a chronic illness or not, many people tend to get worn down over the holidays. It isn’t selfish to take care of ourselves first…because if we’re not well, then we likely won’t have the quality time with others we want.

  • Germaine


    December 22nd, 2015 at 2:38 PM

    I have always had many people in my life who depend heavily on me. I know that part of this is my fault for allowing it to happen, but it is what it is. Anyway, the point I want to make is that eventually I had to give up doing for others so much and look out for me. I think that for the longest time I was afraid that they would be mad at me but it wasn’t worth the stress that it allways caused me. I feel better now because I have more energy to do for the people who mean the most to me and for those who were mad? Well they all needed to grow up anyway!

  • Seth


    December 23rd, 2015 at 5:22 AM

    Good for you Germaine! That must have been pretty tough for you to do that.

  • Trent


    December 25th, 2015 at 8:54 AM

    As long as I can somewhat maintain some calm and normalcy in my life, I can get through the occasional rough patches

  • patricia b.

    patricia b.

    December 27th, 2015 at 8:41 AM

    Headed back to the gym tomorrow for a little self TLC!

  • Nick


    December 5th, 2019 at 10:26 AM

    Have you heard of float therapy? It’s the best stress reliever! A great reset for the nervous system, turning off the fight or flight response which becomes very active around the winter holidays.

  • Andrea M Risi LPC

    Andrea M Risi LPC

    December 8th, 2019 at 12:47 PM

    Great suggestion, Nick! Yes float therapy can be very relaxing and soothing.

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