I believe it IS possible to enjoy the festive season and Christmas with chronic illness, pain and life challenges. Let’s go in consciously and find our joy…
But for many of us living with illness and pain, for those in hospital, or grieving loved ones, struggling with feeling lonely, or with money issues the festive time can feel like a lot of pressure. (I have ‘Christmas’ in the title, but I am including all festive celebrations).
Here are my top 10 tips from 13 years of having Christmas with chronic illness to help you enjoy the holidays no matter your circumstances:
6. Gifting Guide
What do you really want in your life? And can it be gift wrapped?
If not, are there items you need to get closer to what you want – equipment and tools for the journey? Maybe that’s what to prioritise on a festive gift list.
And are you carrying anything that will weigh you down – like unwanted but well-intentioned gifts? Are you buying for the life you have or the life you want?
Set up your own wellness-wish-list and know that if people want to buy you gifts they’ll be buying gifts you can actually use. And don’t forget to add a Healing Box!
7. Decorating Dilemmas
The big question these days is: are you decorating for you or for Facebook?
Because you love the way that wreath looks on the tree or because Pinterest told you too and well, all those people in the Pinterest pictures are having fun aren’t they? So if I do those DIYs, surely my life will look like that too. Right?
Uh, not in my experience, but it took me a long time to stop trying. We are surrounded with so many perfect pictures it can be hard to accept that our lives are valid and beautiful (and hard and painful sometimes too) exactly as they are.
So check in with your decorating dreams and do what works for you. If you are housebound you may want to start decorating early to cheer up your space, you can keep a sparkly tree up all winter, or use just what delights your eye. If there’s no space for a tree, try garlands and branches places around, or a festive vignette to gaze upon.
8. Choices and changes
You’re making all these choices for a conscious Christmas season with chronic illness. It’s feeling good, gentle, caring. You can breathe a little bit more, you’ve been liberated from the pressure of perfect holidays. But how do you explain your choices to other people without seeming like you are judging their choices?
It can be useful to approach things as an experiment, to emphasise the positives and telegraph the response you are looking for. How do you do all that? Try this…
This year I am trying something a bit different, I am going to just (decorate differently, stay home, opt out of gift giving) because I feel I have/feel so wonderful about (the time I spend with you each week/all the gifts I already have/my beautiful home) I just want to take some space this holiday to enjoy that and not put any pressure on my body to do more than I need. So if you could (donate instead of buying me something, call instead of inviting me over etc) I’d really appreciate it. I’m so excited about this and so looking forward to the day.
9. Compassionate Awareness
You, my dear, are like a great symphony. Full of sways and rhythms, meaning and might. Magnificent.
But so often we don’t listen to our bodies and their whispers. Being in compassionate awareness with our bodies is listening to what’s happening for us today, where we are now and acting accordingly. It could be as simple as realising you are thirsty and need some water, to taking a break in the party and not expecting yourself to sit upright, laughing and joking for hours at a time.
10. Adapting the fun to you
Who’s to say that the way it has been, is the way it has to be?
We can choose to adapt the fun to suit our needs. A few years ago it was my family tradition to climb a local mountain on Christmas Day (yes, really) and eat Christmas dinner at the top. With flasks of mulled wine and veggie stuffing sandwiches. Unsurprisingly, that was not a possibility for me, as although my wheelchair is lovely, it isn’t all terrain and I don’t think it would cope will with an actual mountain.
So we changed things to keep the intentions, but still include me. We went for a Christmas walk along the tow path of the Monmouthshire Brecon canal with sandwiches shared as we strolled/wheeled. Later still, when small babies arrived and some family members were getting older and less enthusiastic to climb snowy peaks, we changed things so that the tradition was 1/2 the family would curl up by the fire for the afternoon and rest, while the more energetic members went trekking. All these were the same themes: appreciation of nature, shared food, togetherness, celebration, but adapted to meet the needs of a changing family and world.
How can you adapt your traditions to fit your needs this season?
What are your tips for managing the festive season? Let us know on Twitter.
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