Balancing Health and the Holidays

By Codi Darnell
December 14, 2021

‘Tis the season for twinkle lights, traditions and totally neglecting the management of our chronic conditions. Yes, the holiday season is upon us. Calendars fill up quickly with school concerts, work parties, family dinners and friend get-togethers. Not to mention the shopping, wrapping, cookie decorating and Hallmark movie watching. With all of the extra commitments, time is stretched and priorities can shift. And while there is no “holiday break” from a chronic condition, we can sometimes put our care on the backburner which can lead to stress and an unwanted spike in symptoms.

As nice as it would be to take a holiday from a diagnosis and its subsequent treatment, it’s not something those with chronic illnesses and injuries have the luxury of doing. Finding space to manage health conditions beyond the bare minimum of “survival” can feel indulgent when time is precious, (not to mention we’d all rather be indulging in holiday treats instead), but it is necessary.

However, while there are plenty of ways the holidays can increase stress levels, managing your condition doesn’t have to be one of them. With some forethought and planning, you can create space to meet your needs and enjoy the Christmas season. Here are some tips to keep your condition and stress level in check over the holidays.

Don’t Neglect Your Body

Whether it’s pain management techniques, exercise, or sufficient rest, taking care of our bodies during the holidays is essential for staying healthy. While it might seem like a good idea to tough it out when the pain spikes or skip your daily stretching session or stay on your feet or in your wheelchair all day without a break, none of that will be helpful in avoiding a post-holiday flare of symptoms. Sure, sometimes it’s necessary to skip a workout or power through when you want to nap, but the more you prioritize your physical self, the less you’ll have to pay for it later.

Refill Medications and Supplies

Discovering that you’ve taken your last pill or used your last catheter on Christmas Eve is a guaranteed way to derail your holiday celebrations. Restocking your necessary medications and supplies before the mess of statutory holidays and confusion that encapsulates the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day means you will have one less thing to worry about. Stock up and put it out of your mind.

Stick to the Routine

If your condition requires you to have any sort of hygiene routine or if, cognitively, someone you care for functions best with routine, then stick to it as best you can. If you look ahead in the calendar and see that maintaining your current schedule may interfere with holiday plans, then make a proactive change; but do so carefully so as not to confuse your body and create unwanted problems. You know your condition best so trust that knowledge and stay consistent.

Schedule Downtime

If your time is a hot commodity, gift some of it to yourself. Schedule in time to do the things your body needs, even if that means you’re scheduling time to lay on the couch, stretch, play a board game, read a book, take a bath or any number of things that can help your body reset. It may feel silly to block off time to rest, but I promise you it is not.

When All Else Fails

For all good intentions that exist, reality sits just around the corner. Nobody is perfect and no plan is fool proof so when all else fails, be patient with yourself because when it comes to chronic conditions there is only so much we can control. Situations arise every day that require us to reassess our plans and that doesn’t change just because it’s the holiday season. But a little planning can go a long way towards making sure your health and the holidays coexist as harmoniously as possible.