Emotional Health

Surviving The Holidays

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Every year, IC patients ask us what they can do to help make their holidays more comfortable and happy. If you’re a newly diagnosed patient, this may be your first holiday season with IC. Several questions come to mind, such as eating our favorite holiday foods, traveling comfortably, explaining IC to family over holiday tables and more. Who better to share their tips on surviving the holidays than our own members. Here are ten great holiday survival strategies!

1. Perfection Is Not An Option

If you expect to have a perfect holiday, perfect children, perfect gifts, perfect health and perfect friends, you will be in for a major disappointment. Life just isn’t perfect and we shouldn’t try to meet an impossible standard, especially during the holidays. Remember that our most precious memories are usually the spontaneous moments of laughter when someone sings off key, the smell of fresh baked cookies, decorating a tree, sitting in front of a fire or maybe a great snow fight! Be spontaneous and enjoy the small pleasures of each day!

2. Give Yourself Permission to Gently Say No

We love our families but during the holidays, their expectations can be quite different from our ability to fulfill them. For many years, ICN President Jill Osborne celebrated Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner at her sisters house, a 30 minute drive away. The onset of IC, however, put a crimp in that tradition.  At times, driving in car was just too painful and often left her miserable and unable participate in the celebration. She offered “When I finally gave myself permission to stay home, it greatly helped. I love my family and the holidays but after a few painful lessons, I learned to listen to my body and respect its limits.” There will be more holidays! You don’t have to push yourself to get through this one!

3. Surviving Holiday Parties

You’ve received the invitation and are dying to go but wonder if you’ll be able to eat or drink anything. If it’s a dinner invitation, talk with your hostess ahead of time and explain that you greatly appreciate the invitation but have some diet limitations. Ask her about the menu and, if necessary, ask if you can bring some food that you can substitute for your plate. A wise strategy is to eat an IC friendly meal before you go so that you won’t be hungry if you’re unable to eat the food.

4. Bring The Party to Your House

If you are unable to travel, consider having a potluck Holiday Dinner at your house for your extended family and friends. xplain that traveling is difficult and painful for you this year but that you’d still like to participate. Best of all, by offering a potluck, and ask your guests to bring their favorite holiday foods ! This is a great idea for singles who are away from their own families. Invite your neighbors and/or friends and begin your own holiday traditions!

5. Don’t Carry the Holidays On Your Shoulders

We all know how easy it is to carry all of the responsibility on your shoulders. Gosh forbid you have IC or any other major illness or injury at this time when everyone expects so much, especially us!  Sometimes you just can’t do it all… and, think about it, the holidays are supposed to be about sharing and caring. This is THE time for you to ask for help if you need it. From cleaning the house to wrapping packages, make a schedule early! Let everyone know that they need to carry their fair share of the load. Even young children can put their dishes in the dishwasher and straighten up the bathroom.

6. Selecting A Precious Tradition

Every family member may have a different way of celebrating the holidays. For some, it might be attending a religious service or matinee movie on Christmas day. For others, it might caroling through the neighborhood or spending a day making cookies?? Still others might want to help the needy. Ask each member of your family what tradition they would like to keep this year then try to fulfill one special moment for each person. Be willing to let go of old traditions that just aren’t as meaningful.

7. Find Peace in Nature

Yes, your life feels chaotic right now. Between work, kids, doctors appointments, friends and more, it’s easy to feel is if your life is running you, rather than you running your life. The best way to step off the runaway train of life is to  get outside and enjoy the serenity of nature and wild things. Whether it’s raking up leaves, walking in a local park, iceskating or just putting up your outdoor lights, being out of the house can greatly lift your spirits and that feeling of being trapped in a routine.

8. Let Your Children Create Some Holiday Magic

Not feeling well enough to put up holiday lights or to go get a Christmas tree?? Many families let their children do the bulk of the decorating. Buy a few craft magazines at your local supermarket, let the kids  huddle over them and then create a new, magical theme each year!

9. Seek Support for the Holiday Blues

It’s normal for many people to become depressed or develop a serious case of the “blahs” during the holidays and winter months. This is especially true for families who are struggling with illness or who have lost a loved one. To beat the blues, break your isolation by getting OUT of your house at least once a day. If you’re not feeling up to getting outside, call at least one family member and friend. Watch for signs of stress, such as headaches, restlessness and sudden anger. If it gets too much and you’re feeling seriously depressed or are having suicidal thoughts, please ask for help from a professional. 1-800-SUICIDE is answered 24 hours a day by compassionate, generous professionals. You deserve to have a shoulder to lean on. These professionals can help!

10. Give Yourself As A Gift

The best gift that you can give yourself and your family is you! You are irreplaceable. You have to take care of yourself before you can start taking car of everyone else. Take frequent breaks to regain your energy. Pace yourself and eat well!  Indulge in the holiday spirit when you can and, for those days that you’re not your best, take a step back, rest and relax. There will be yet more holidays!