For many people, the holidays can be stressful. Between parties, financial expenses, travel, and family time, anyone can become physically and mentally exhausted. If you’re dealing with chronic illness in addition to the hubbub of the holidays, you’re even more likely to get worn out. And if your chronic illness is an “invisible” illness—like arthritis, fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue—it’s more likely that you are misunderstood when you decline an invitation or leave a get-together early.
We’ve talked before about “me time” and the benefits of saying “no.” This can be very useful in helping you maintain your health during the holidays. But when alone time becomes more limited during the hustle and bustle, how can you manage your illness AND enjoy the holidays?
What if your friends and family had a better understanding of your illness? Would they be more accommodating and more accepting? Would they be more understanding when you leave a party early or decline attending altogether? Is it possible they might help out more? Our hope is yes—but how do you accomplish that?
Try these three tips to help your loved ones better understand your needs during the holidays:
- Give the gift of education. Tell those you will interact with about your condition. Talk openly about your specific symptoms and struggles. Hand out brochures or medical articles about your condition, and answer any questions they may have. Education helps reduce stigma and increases understanding and empathy.
- Make a list and check it twice. Compose a list of tasks or chores that others can help you with (think shopping, gift wrapping, cooking/baking, card mailing, etc.). Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to delegate some of your responsibilities. This will free up time for you and help others feel useful.
- Prep for the party. Before the party or gathering, talk to the host or hostess and let him or her know how you’re feeling that day. If it’s a good day, then great—enjoy the party! If it happens to be a day with more pain, symptoms, or fatigue, let the host or hostess know that you may not make it or that you may need to leave early. Talking in advance can keep possible hard feelings at bay.
Let’s face it: Even though we want others to be accepting and understanding of us, there will always be some people in our lives who just don’t get it. Surround yourself with empathic, validating, and compassionate people. You will feel more at ease and able to enjoy the festivities when those around you are informed and supportive.
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