How to Make it Through December With a Chronic Illness

December is often a difficult month for people but it can be especially difficult for people who live with a chronic illness or chronic pain. There is always so much to do and no energy to do it. How on earth do people make it through December?

What Makes December Such a Difficult Month to Get Through?

December can be such a difficult month to get through for a multitude of reasons.

If you don’t celebrate or don’t feel like celebrating Christmas, you can’t escape it. It’s everywhere and hard to ignore. And if you do celebrate it, December can be an expensive month and, very often, money is already short. So buying gifts, festive food and all the little extras can bring more financial worries.

Click here for ideas on how to cut down on the cost of Christmas

There’s always extra work involved too with more cooking, cleaning, shopping and wrapping gifts. Getting through normal days is difficult enough but the extra work takes energy that doesn’t exist.

Outings, meals out, visiting and meeting people are often not easy if you live with a chronic illness but sometimes you feel that you need to do what other people expect. If you go, you might feel uncomfortable or have worsened symptoms over the next few days. If you don’t go, you might feel guilty or feel as though you’re missing out.

People feel lonely more than ever because it seems as though ‘everyone else’ is celebrating with families or friends. It’s also a difficult time for anyone who’s grieving the loss of a relative or friend. An empty chair at a table always seems more poignant at this time of year.

Also, because December is so busy, you might forget to take care of that very special person in your life – yourself. While your mind is on gifts, decorations and festive food you might forget your own needs. By halfway through the month, you’re starting to wane. By Christmas, you’re too exhausted and stressed to enjoy it. And by the end of the month, you probably want to sleep until June.

How to make it through December with a chronic illness. Picture of some branches of a Christmas tree with some bronze coloured baubles.

How to Make it Through December

I was trying to think of a few things which might help people make it through December. I really should have posted this at the start of the month but life (storms, power cuts, no internet and a sprained ankle along with my normal pain) kind of got in the way so I’m a bit late, but, hopefully, it will still help.

General Health

One of the most important things that you can do to make it through December is to take care of yourself as best as possible. Winter has arrived in the UK and it announced its arrival without grace or dignity. During the winter months, it’s especially important to look after your general health. Try to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet if you can and perhaps top up with some supplements.

Medications and Prescriptions

This is so important. If you take any medications, remember to take them on time. It’s easy to forget so set a timer. One missed dose can lead to stuff nightmares are made of.

Click here to learn more about managing medication effectively

Also, remember to check when your repeat prescription is due. If it’s due during the Christmas and New Year holidays, you’ll have to order it a little earlier. If missing one dose of meds leads to nightmares, imagine running out of meds altogether.

Make Yourself a Care Package

This might sound a little bit extravagant, but please do this. Fill a box with some nice bubble bath, moisturiser, calming essential oils, scented candles, heat pads, some relaxation music and books. And chocolate…don’t forget the chocolate. Put anything into it that you enjoy or things that will help you to relax. Then take some time out of life every day to enjoy the contents.

Cut Back on Stress

Stress is probably the worst gift we can receive at Christmas but most of us give it to ourselves every year. When you feel stress is rising, try to sit down and breathe. Take a few minutes away from stressful situations. Open that care package you made for yourself and breathe in some calmness.

I have a couple of posts on my blog relating to stress which you might find useful.

Stress-free Christmas
How Pain or Illness is Affected by Stress

Food – Do You Have Special Dietary Needs?

Since being diagnosed with coeliac disease, I realised that there was lots of food I couldn’t have. That always seems worse around Christmas when shelves are full of festive fayre. However, by reading food labels, I’ve found lots of alternatives so I don’t miss out.

So if you have special dietary needs, make sure to stock up some of your favourite treats. You don’t want to be watching everyone around you getting tucked into sweets or savoury snacks when there’s nothing suitable for you. And remember to put them somewhere safe out of everyone else’s reach.

Also make sure you check labels on any festive treats you are given as gifts. Allergens seem to find their way into lots of foods, so always be sure to check

Learn to Say No

This is difficult. It takes practice, but it’s worth it. If you would prefer a gift-free Christmas, then let your friends and family know. Ask them politely to respect your wishes. If you want to turn down an invitation, do that. Don’t feel obliged to go because it’s what other people expect. If you would rather have a small Christmas lunch with just your nearest and dearest, do that. If you’d like to spend time on your own, do that. Doing what you want or need to do is not being selfish. People who care about you should understand why you’re doing it this way.

Pace Yourself

Try to pace yourself throughout the month so that everything doesn’t need to be done at once. Try not to push your limits. And try to remember that it’s not the end of the world if you can’t manage to do everything you wanted to do. There’s tomorrow. There’s next week. And if it’s not done at all, is it really a big deal?

Your health is more important than Christmas.

Click here to learn more about pacing

Dealing With Loneliness

Loneliness always feels horrible but it seems to hit harder around Christmas. It might seem as though the rest of the world is celebrating with friends and family while you are alone but many people are just like you, especially just now during the pandemic.

Check out if your local area has anything going on around Christmas for people who live alone. And make the most of modern technology to keep in touch with people. Also try to get involved in social media groups and pages. Social media can be a great distraction and bring friendships. Online friends might be hundreds or even thousands of miles away, but they can be real friends. Use the hashtag #JoinIn on Twitter over Christmas and New Year to chat to people.

Wishing You a Happy, Healthier and Safe Christmas

I hope you can enjoy the day without too many symptoms or too much pain getting in the way.

Please stay safe.

Merry Christmas,

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4 thoughts on “How to Make it Through December With a Chronic Illness

  1. Lyn brown

    A timely reminder ,we get caught up in the expectation of a perfect Christmas.
    I used to bake like crazy all day on the 23rd .
    I was convinced people would be disappointed if I didn’t make all my special things .
    A few years ago I ended up in an ambulance with heart palpitations.
    Spent 5 hours in a hospital bed .

    Lesson well learned !

    The care package is a brilliant idea
    Get in the bath ,lock the door and read keep topping up the hot water .

    Have a good peaceful Christmas Elizabeth .
    Thank you for your thoughtful blogs .
    Lyn Brown

    1. Oh, Lyn, how scary that must have been. It’s so easy to get carried away and overdo it because we think that’s what people want. But in reality, they’d rather have you there, healthy and happy.

      Thank you for always reading my posts.
      Take care of yourself and merry Christmas.
      Liz xx

  2. Ouch, I’m so sorry about the sprained ankle. How’re you doing at the moment?

    And what’s happening with your Internet? Still a nightmare? You really don’t get a break up there with storms, power cuts and no connections.

    I love the sound of the care package. Mine would be 99% chocolate, but I’d probably put a mini candle candle in there and squeeze in some nice face stuff. It’ll be a big box 😉

    You’ve given some great tips here. Cutting back on stress is, I find, incredibly difficult. But when it’s so busy and you’re so stressed, all the rest of the good things we do to manage illness and pain seem to go by the wayside, like taking meds and supplements on time, looking after our mental health, getting enough rest, eating well etc. Reminders in posts like this can be really helpful. It makes a difference when you see it written down from someone else.

    Now, I do hope you can take some of your own excellent advice, Liz. Less stress, look after yourself, slow down & I hope you can enjoy what you can of the festive run-up to Christmas 🎄
    Caz xx

  3. I’ve always tried to start Christmas organisation early, with plenty of lists and making note of gifts I need to get. A care package for me sounds great though. I’d have a nice hot chocolate, a good book, a festive fragranced candle and something tasty to snack on!
    Talking of getting prescription orders in early. It seems I need order a month in advance lately!

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