Holiday Self-Care Series: Coping with Illness


This post is publishing on December 21st–the mid-winter solstice.  We will have less daylight today than any other time this year, which means that we will also have more time in the dark.  I wrote last year about some of the reasons that I like this day. This year, the idea of holding our light in the face of darkness seems even more important.  The idea of time in the darkness also seemed to fit with the experience that many people face in coping with illness, so today seemed like a good time for this post.

Last week, I wrote about self-care when you are grieving during the holidays.  You can check out the full post here, but here are the key suggestions I offered in that post:

  • Name your feelings.
  • Get good support.
  • Listen to your needs.
  • Remember that the holidays will pass.

This week, I’m going to take a slightly different angle, and look at how self-care changes during the holidays when you or someone you love is living with a serious illness.  Illness, whether it is chronic or acute, can take over your entire life.  A chemotherapy schedule doesn’t take a Christmas break.  You can’t stop monitoring your blood sugar and insulin pump functioning as a Hannukah gift.  A lupus flare doesn’t care that you had New Year’s plans.

In fact, the holidays can make coping with a serious illness even more difficult, on lots of levels.  Scheduling check-ups and treatments around physician holidays is a challenge.  Many holiday meals are not planned around special dietary needs.  The stress of extra holiday activities can exacerbate conditions like fibromyalgia or anxiety.  Family members may not understand or acknowledge that you need extra time to get a wheelchair loaded up, or medications packed for a holiday event.  Friends may not understand why attending that annual holiday bash is one thing too many on your list.  People who were supporting you may be swallowed up by their own holiday obligations.

Because of all of these stresses, I am encouraging you to commit to excellent self-care over the next few weeks.  Excellent self-care in the face of illness may mean making some adjustments.  You might be re-evaluating your holiday traditions.  You might need an extra dose of compassion.  Here are some possible ways to honor your own needs in the face of illness and the holidays:

  • Less rushing about.
  • Exercising that underutilized “no” muscle.
  • Extra rest.
  • Bringing your own food.
  • Sharing recipes that are safe/friendly for you.
  • Focusing on your core values.
  • Building in extra time.
  • Asking for help.
  • Having a reliable “listening ear.”

However you choose to meet your needs, and whatever holidays you do or don’t celebrate, please know that I will be remembering all my readers in my thoughts over the next week.  On this day filled with darkness, I hope that you create and hold some light of your own.


Image Credit: “Candle in Dark” photo by Wim Vanderbussche via Flickr

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