The holidays aren’t always the Hallmark card ideal for many families. Add an autoimmune disease and additional restrictions into the mix, and it can cause extra undue stress to an already stressful time of year. Here are some great tips and ideas to help you manage your autoimmune condition during the holidays and to help you enjoy your time with family and friends.
You know what causes autoimmune conditions and flare-ups to get worse? Stress. These are some great tips curated by industry health experts to help you enjoy the holiday season without all of the extra stress.
Growing up, my parents went out of their way to make the holiday season extra special. We had 30+ people around our table/s at Thanksgiving, including my Father’s international clients. For Christmas, we had a home decorated to the nines and piles of presents and traditions that wax nostalgia. Fast forward to Christmas 2010, I was in the middle of chemo treatment and was flat out sick over Christmas. I realized that as much as I love the memories and traditions of the past, the holidays are about being with family and friends and the spirit of the season, and not creating Pinterest perfection. I’ve keep that same spirit ever sense.
Be Your Own Advocate
The year of “Chemo Christmas,” I explained everything to my family and laid it out very specifically and bluntly to them. It was difficult to do, because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. We spent a quiet Christmas in the living room. I ate Santa shaped jello and wore a Santa hat on top of my bald head. We survived and no one seemed to mind that we weren’t party hopping or that we missed Christmas Eve service at church.
Fast forward again to Thanksgiving 2015. I had completely changed my diet and nutrition thanks to Hashimoto’s and was still trying to figure everything out. Everything that was on the traditional Thanksgiving menu was off limits. I explained to my family that I wouldn’t be eating the same food, but not to worry, I’ll bring along my own. That year, we drove up to Pennsylvania to my parent’s retirement home. They had a lovely Thanksgiving buffet for the residents. I packed my own “Thanksgiving” meal in a lunch box and unpacked it onto an empty plate while everyone was at the buffet. It didn’t matter that I was eating my own food. The day was about being together as a family.
You ARE going to get tired. You will probably have food restrictions. What do you need to communicate about? Make a list and do it ahead of time.
If you don’t speak up for yourself, don’t expect anyone else to. Especially with family, if you don’t tell them that something needs to be different, they will never know.
We live in a day and age where we only see the “A-side” on social media. You scroll through Pinterest looking at the most perfect decorations and food. You are envious of your friend’s posts on Facebook.
Professional bloggers make their living by posting their perfect wares on Pinterest. And we all know no one’s life is perfect. I know so many people who post their “picture perfect” lives on Facebook to mask their own issues.
Whatever you go through on a daily basis with your autoimmune condition (fatigue, pain, food, etc), keep your expectations in check that it may be worse over the holidays due to the increased stress. And please, please, please… do not compare yourself to anyone else. Not on Pinterest. Not on Facebook. Not your next door neighbor. Not your sister. Not your best friend. No one.
According to McCall McPherson PA-C, Founder and Co-owner of Modern Thyroid Clinic, “the biggest advice I give my patients is to find balance during the holidays. Sometimes we expect perfection of ourselves and when we don’t meet that goal, we completely forgo all self control and goals. Instead, set the intention that you will live a little and enjoy some of that (hopefully gluten-free) pumpkin pie, but you will also get right back on the horse on a set day. I find the easiest way to reset my diet and cravings after all the celebrations is with a 3 day green juice fast. Sounds tough but try it, I’m certain you’ll love it and feel reset.” You can check out McCall’s thyroid lab guide, “What Labs You Need and What They Mean.”
Bring Your Own Food
According to Christina Grenga, CIHC, Founder of Grenga Health and the Feast Diet, “the most important aspect to maintain over the holidays is consistency. We tend think celebration means going off the deep end. But if we allow ourselves to enjoy a treat on a regular basis and maintain a 90/10 lifestyle we don’t tend to ‘freak out’ as much when temptation arises. Be consistent…and bring your own treats and share them. You don’t need to feel left out, just invite others into your own little food party!” You can find Christina and her faith-filled approach at Grenga Health.
Pack a Handbag Full of Ninja Extras
Just like the Boy Scouts, always be prepared. Think through what could possibly go wrong and then plan accordingly. Be optimistic about everything going smoothly, but plan. It’s like packing an umbrella if the forecast is calling for rain.
Activated charcoal and digestive enzymes are good to take before and after you eat as preventative measures to help in case you ingest something that disagrees with you. Whether you are entertaining at home, or at someone’s house, be sure to have these on hand.
In case something does go awry, pack some Poop-Pourri for stinky visits to the loo. Spray it before you do #2 and no one will be none the wiser.
Christina mentioned above, to bring food to share. I also keep a few small snacks in my purse. Just in case.
Practice Self Care
The most important piece of advice for those with autoimmune, or anyone… is to practice self care.
Rest, Relax, and Rejuvenate
According to Jennifer Cronin, MD, MSPH, Lifestyle and Functional Medicine Physician specializing in Moms Raising Daughters by making their own Health a #1 priority, “the Holidays are a critical time for Moms to remember to take care of themselves. This means actually carving out time during the day to rest, relax and rejuvenate just for you. Scheduling in your fitness routine, even if it is for a shorter duration during the busy holiday season, and maintaining good nutrition throughout the week (in between all the parties) is critical to navigating this time period successfully and to feel like you are going into the New Year with positive momentum! You and Your Health Matters!” Be sure to subscribe to Dr. Cronin’s Raising Health Podcast.
“For those with an autoimmune disease, taking care of yourself during the holidays, it critical to your health and well-being,” according to Megan Buer, CECP of Harmony Restored. “There is so much beauty and joy during this time of year, but a lot of us are too preoccupied with our lives that we miss most of it. My advice is to not get caught up in the busyness of the season, but to enjoy a slower paced and more simple holiday. Say no to commitments that you don’t enjoy, schedule your down time, and make sure you are doing something that brings you joy on a daily basis. Simple things like a cup of tea in the evening, giving yourself a foot rub, bundling up and going for a walk, or having lunch with a supportive friend – these are all things that will keep you feeling good through the holidays and into the new year!” You can find Megan and her compassionate healing at Harmony Restored.
A Few Last Words
In case you missed the video on our YouTube channel, you can listen to my thoughts on surviving chronic illness during the holidays:
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Love, hugs, and wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season.HERE.