How to Enjoy the Holidays with IBS

Dealing with IBS during the holidays can be daunting. Therefore, it is essential that you learn to balance the needs of your body with the demands of the holiday season. Self-care must be at the top of your holiday to-do list.

The holiday season is a busy one, what with all the shopping, wrapping, card-sending, hosting, baking, cooking and socializing that goes on. It is important to recognize that if your body is not feeling well, you may not be able to do all of the things that you would like to or used to do. Making changes to accommodate your body’s needs will not be giving in to your IBS, but compensating for its presence in your life. Make a vow to yourself to do things differently this year! This step-by-step guide will help you to do just that.

Let's start with some prep work...

1. Make a Game Plan

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In order to maximize the chance for a winning experience, coaches develop a well thought-out game plan -- one that is flexible enough to respond to a variety of situations. In order to be most helpful, your game plan to navigate the holidays with IBS should focus on prioritizing tasks and scheduling in a reality-based way.


  • Make a list of your most important responsibilities. Rather than having all of your have-tos banging around in your head, stressing you and your body out, write them down so that you can clearly see in black and white what you are expecting from yourself.
  • Cross off any items from the bottom half of the list. Give yourself permission to not get to everything this year. For example, maybe this is the year you buy the pies, rather than make them from scratch. Its okay, everyone will survive, and most importantly, you will feel a reduced sense of pressure.


  • Take your symptoms into account when planning out your time. If you know you tend to feel worse in the morning, leave that time open for self care. Make your commitments and schedule the items on your to-do list for afternoons and evenings.
  • Use a day planner. Sit down with a calendar and take a realistic look at what you can get done and when. Assign tasks to open chunks of time, then stick to it. Don’t scurry around trying to fit in “just one more thing.” Do what you planned, and then take a well-earned rest.

Next, you don't have to do it all alone...

2. Delegate!

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Sadly, for most of us, the only time we even think about the notion of a tribe is when we watch "Survivor." However, it is important to remember that we developed and survived as a species in tribal units, with a great deal of focus on mutual assistance and cooperation. In our drive for independence and self reliance, we have isolated ourselves away from using the help of others. This change has not necessarily been good for our physical and mental health. As you think about how to manage the holidays this year, give a good amount of consideration toward asking others to share the load.

  • Give yourself permission to ask for help. It is a sign of wisdom, not a sign of weakness.
  • Assert yourself. No one can read your mind. Feel free to speak clearly about what your needs are and spell out the areas in which you need assistance.
  • Allow others to gain the benefit of feeling good about themselves for helping out.
  • Say no, if need be. You don’t have to attend every party you are invited to or bake three dozen cookies for the office cookie swap.
  • Let go of perfectionism. Yes, no one else is going to do it as well as you do it. So what? At least the item is off of your list.

Next, use your time and energy wisely...

3. Shop Smart

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It is okay to take a new approach to gift giving this year. Again, your health and keeping your stress level low have to be your top priorities. So, maybe this isn’t the year you knit everyone a homemade sweater or drag yourself to store after store searching for just the right present for your Aunt Mary. The important people in your life care about you, not about what you buy for them.

Shop Online

The ability to shop without leaving home has been a blessing for people with chronic health problems. Take advantage of this modern convenience. Comparison shopping becomes a breeze, and the items you choose are fresh from the warehouse, not picked over or taped back together. Even if the cost is a little higher, the lack of wear and tear on your body from running around town becomes the offset. Save your energy for outings that feed your spirit, such as visiting with family and friends.

Give Gift Certificates

Gift certificates may not be warm and cozy, but they sure are appreciated. If you would like to add a more personal touch, write a short note telling the person why they are important in your life. Loving, positive words are truly the gifts that keeps on giving.

Next, don't make the holiday season a grueling marathon...

4. Pace Yourself

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In the same way that we take time during the holidays to let others know that we care about them, it is just as important to direct some tender loving care toward yourself. You may be angry with your body for betraying you with all of these disruptive digestive symptoms. All the more reason to take some time to re-connect with how special you are.

Daily Self Time

Often when we most need stress management, we are too stressed to carve out the time for it. Through this busy time, don’t lose sight of the need to nurture your own body and mind. Here are some ways to do just that:

5. Buy Some Special Things for Yourself

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Shop for Yourself

As you are shopping for gifts for other people, leave space in your budget to buy the things that you really need.

  • Buy a holiday outfit. You might not feel well, so do your best to look well -- it may lift your mood.
  • Buy comfortable lounging clothes. If your abdomen is in pain or feels bloated due to gas, treat yourself to some nice-looking, but loose-fitting comfortable outfits. Although sometimes it is a nice treat to lounge about in pajamas, doing it on a regular basis can be depressing and reinforce a negative label of yourself as a sick person.

Pamper Yourself

In an effort to counteract the negative sensations that a body with IBS produces, spend some time (and money, as your budget allows) to enjoy some positive physical sensations.

  • Hot bath
  • Aromatherapy (candles, oils)
  • Fragrant body lotion
  • Massage
  • Manicure, pedicure
  • Facial
  • Physical affection (snuggle up with a loved one, or hug a child)