Do's And Don'ts For Surviving The Holidays With IBD

Your Holiday "Do's"

You can make your life a little easier this holiday season if you take some time to really think about what you want to get out of the season. Image © David Marsden / Photolibrary / Getty Images

1. Be A Realist. The pressure to create the perfect holiday for family and friends is too much for one person to take on. You can have fun and celebrate the season without the “perfect” decorations, food, or gifts. Find ways to lower your stress level by trying some stress-busting tools.

2. Set Daily Goals. Assign yourself one or two tasks to achieve each day. You probably have so many things to do before the holiday that you’re not sure it can all get done in time. Make yourself a plan, and prioritize by spreading out tasks over a series of days. If you sit down with a calendar, you can figure out how many items on your to-do list need to be completed each day. Set a realistic goal to accomplish a small number of tasks each day and be sure to stick to it.

3. Set Expectations. Be honest with family and friends about your health and how it will affect you this year. If this is your first holiday season after being diagnosed, it’s going to be different for you than in other years. You will need to pay more attention to what you eat and make sure you get enough rest. Let your loved ones know what your limits are and that you’re still looking forward to celebrating with them.

4. Make Room For The People Who Count. Spend time with the special people in your life—those friends and family members who care about you and who you enjoy spending time with. Try to avoid those people who make you feel bad about yourself, such as those who think that your health problems are somehow your own fault, or who aren't understanding about your health issues. You can tackle your more complicated relationships at a more opportune time.

5. Accept Help. Don’t try to do everything yourself, especially if you’re not feeling as well as you normally do. Accept help—and ask for it!—from your trusted friends and family. It's very likely that they would be more than willing to step in and run an errand or help you decorate. Another way to find help is to join an online or face-to-face support group to meet other people with similar health problems.

Your Holiday "Don'ts"

Dropped Cupcake
Dropped Cupcake. Photo © Michael Lorenzo

1. Dwell On Your Health. A pity party every so often is fine, but after a day or two, decide that it’s over. Focus on the good things in your life such as family, friends, career, and home. Even in your darkest moments, hold on to the things in your life that bring you joy.

2. Become A Homebody. You can attend parties and go shopping, and do all those other things that make the holidays both special and busy. You can stick to your health regimen while attending celebrations and getting those holiday tasks completed. Think about ways to make things easier for yourself such as bringing a gift of food (that you can eat) to the party and helping your host to set it out. Take advantage of stores that open early or stay open late so that you can shop during the “off” times; it is less stressful for you and there is easier access to restrooms.

3. Skip Your Daily Physical Activity. Don’t back off your fitness routine because you think you don’t have the time to keep it up during the holiday season. Your health is essential and if a task needs to go undone that day because you are taking your daily walk -- so be it. You will return to your holiday plans with more vigor and a clearer head.

4. Try To Do Everything Yourself. There is a lot of pressure to do everything (baking, cleaning, wrapping, cooking) yourself. There is no harm in buying cookies at a bakery, asking a friend to help with the cleaning, taking advantage of free gift wrapping (or “instant” gift wrap), or buying pre-made food. Enjoying the holiday is more important than if you made the pie from scratch or not.

5. Allow Others To Ruin Your Holiday. Every year there are those people who really try to spoil your fun. Don’t let them! If you can avoid people who are emotionally draining, do so. If you can’t, don’t take their comments or criticism to heart -- consider the source and move on.

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