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Have you ever found yourself caught in the holiday hustle, juggling traditions and festivities, only to realize that your body and mind are sending out distress signals? As a life coach who knows the delicate dance between the joy of tradition and the challenges of chronic illness, I’ve been there.

Once upon a time, I was all about holiday traditions, reveling in the merry chaos. But life threw a curveball, and chronic illness joined the party. So, here I am, at the intersection of “Old Me” and “Chronically Ill Me,” trying to keep the holiday spirit alive while respecting my health limits.

So, here’s the question that sparked my journey:

Can we preserve the magic of tradition while adapting it to honor our well-being?

This blog post is a deep dive into my exploration, a journey that celebrates adaptability as a profound act of self-care and self-awareness during the holidays.

In a world where holiday expectations often clash with the reality of chronic illness, discovering the delicate balance becomes an empowering adventure. Join me as we unravel the intricate tapestry of celebrating with intention and adapting traditions to make room for the joy and well-being we all deserve.


PS – This post is for everyone, no matter what traditions you celebrate. I talk about Christmas because that’s the holiday I have experience with. If you have something special about your own tradition that you’d like to share with the spoonie community, please drop a comment. I’m eager to hear what this time of year means to you!

Disclaimer: While I offer tips for maintaining wellness while dealing with a chronic illness, I’m not a licensed medical physician, psychotherapist, or psychologist, and I’m not offering medical or psychiatric advice.

For my full disclaimer policy, go here.

Discover how to make the holidays uniquely yours, even with chronic illness, because celebrating with adaptability and joy is the real magic of the season!

“Old Me” – Embracing the Traditions

The “Old Me” dove headfirst into the holiday frenzy without a second thought. From multiple family gatherings to social celebrations and work obligations – I loved it all. I wasn’t exactly an extreme holiday enthusiast, but I enjoyed the festivities and spending a little extra time with those I love.

I celebrated in my own home, too. My husband has always loved the holiday season, and we have our own traditions for decorating & watching movies, as well as some traditions from our separate families that we’ve adapted for just the two of us – one of my favorites is going to see the holiday lights while sipping hot cocoa & playing holiday music!The holiday season was synonymous with energy, vibrancy, and an unspoken commitment to keeping family traditions alive.

But, as life often unfolds, unexpected challenges present themselves. Much like ol’ Ebeneezer Scrooge, chronic illness showed up one day to say “bah, humbug!” to how I was used to doing things. Suddenly, the once joyful experience of the holidays became a delicate balancing act between cherished traditions and newfound limitations.

Discover how to make the holidays uniquely yours, even with chronic illness, because celebrating with adaptability and joy is the real magic of the season!

The challenge was in finding a way to honor the spirit of tradition while respecting the altered cadence of my health. It’s a transition that invites reflection, adaptability, and a newfound appreciation for the enduring magic that lies within the heart of the holidays.

Together, let’s take a look at the transformative power of embracing traditions, both old and new, in the context of a life reshaped by chronic illness.

“Chronically Ill Me” – Embracing Adaptability

Once chronic illness came into play, it was like putting on a new pair of glasses to view the holidays. Suddenly, the usual hustle and bustle felt heavier, like a marathon with an extra set of hurdles. Those once joyful shopping sprees and late-night shenanigans now had a cost beyond the festive cheer.

For those of us navigating life with chronic illness, the holiday season often introduces an additional layer of challenges. The physical and emotional toll of traditional festivities can be palpable, turning what should be a joyful time into a balancing act of self-preservation. It’s not just the physical fatigue but the emotional weight of potentially missing out on cherished moments or feeling the pressure to conform to societal expectations. Acknowledging the toll is a crucial step in validating our experiences, reminding us that it’s okay to prioritize our well-being amid the glittering backdrop of the holidays

Adaptability has become my new best friend, a survival skill that I want to share with you. It means realizing that our bodies have their own rules, and it’s time we start showing ourselves self-compassion and playing by them. Self-care is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity. The holidays, with all their glitter and jingles, are now an opportunity to focus only on what is most important to us this season. It’s about keeping the traditions that matter without wrecking ourselves in the process.

This season then becomes less about sprinting through a checklist and more about thoughtful participation in those things that bring us the most joy this season. It’s a shift from chasing the perfect holiday to embracing the imperfect beauty of adapting. It’s about prioritizing our well-being over the pursuit of some elusive holiday perfection.

Discover how to make the holidays uniquely yours, even with chronic illness, because celebrating with adaptability and joy is the real magic of the season!

The Challenges in Keeping Up

For us spoonies, the holiday season often introduces a set of hurdles that extend beyond the typical festive challenges. Fatigue takes on a new intensity, turning every holiday task into a marathon. Pain adds an extra layer to the festive hustle, and sensory overload from twinkling lights to bustling gatherings, transforms the celebration into an overwhelming sensory battlefield. Yet, the struggle doesn’t end there; our community also grapples with juggling medical appointments and treatments amidst the seasonal chaos.

It’s a unique set of challenges that we collectively face. Identifying and acknowledging these shared challenges is the first step in fostering a sense of understanding and solidarity within our community as we learn to adapt during this festive season.

Dealing with chronic illness during holidays isn’t just about surviving; it’s about owning our joy. Brushing off these challenges only adds to the illusion that holidays are all sparkles and joy for everyone, leaving many of us feeling like we’re on a different planet. Let’s face it – fatigue, pain, sensory overload, and the whole medical appointment juggling act are part of our holiday story. So, why not talk about it? By highlighting how important it is to face these challenges head-on, we’re not just doing ourselves a solid – we’re rewriting the rulebook on what holidays look like. It’s like saying, “Hey, my celebration might come with a side of fatigue, and that’s okay!” This way, we’re not just creating space for empathy but also paving the way for celebrations that actually fit us—all of us in the chronic illness crew.

Discover how to make the holidays uniquely yours, even with chronic illness, because celebrating with adaptability and joy is the real magic of the season!

Celebrating Differently With Practical Solutions

Navigating the holiday hustle with a chronic illness has led me to adopt a whole new playbook for celebrating. For starters, I’ve learned to ditch the early morning festivities and allow my body more time for my CSF to shift from laying down to being upright. It might not align with the conventional holiday timeline, but it honors my body’s morning needs and sets a more manageable tone for the day.

When it comes to energy-draining activities, I’ve become selective. No more overcommitting to things that leave me depleted – it’s about savoring the moments that truly matter. If we’re heading out, I’ve got my rollator on standby in case a wave of fatigue, dizziness, or vertigo hits.

Being prepared for the unexpected has become my standard. Carrying all my meds and accessories ensures I’m ready to tackle any flare-ups head-on and limit their impact. But open and honest communication has become a lifeline.

When I’m not feeling my best, I’ve learned to let my loved ones in on how I’m doing, how it might affect my participation, and what my current needs are – and might become – and to set boundaries where needed to prioritize my well-being.

Let’s talk about some practical strategies to navigate the holiday season with grace. Here’s a handy list to help as you go about celebrating:

  • Pace Yourself:
    • Break celebrations and outings into manageable chunks.
    • Listen to your body and take breaks when needed.
  • Set Realistic Expectations:
    • Accept that you can’t do it all, and that’s perfectly okay.
    • Know that your celebrations will likely be different from society’s expectations, and that’s ok too. You create your own joy.
  • Communicate Boundaries:
    • Openly and honestly share your limitations with loved ones.
    • Clearly express what you can and cannot handle during festivities.
  • Embrace the Power of Saying No:
    • Recognize that saying no is about prioritizing your well-being.
    • Focus on what truly matters to you and aligns with your energy levels.
  • Utilize Supportive Tools:
    • Consider using mobility aids or tools that make celebrations easier.
    • Keep a well-packed bag with essentials, including medications and comfort items.
  • Practice Self-Compassion:
    • Remember that it’s okay to prioritize your needs.
    • Be kind to yourself and acknowledge the unique challenges you may face.

By incorporating these practical tips, you’re not just navigating the holidays; you’re crafting a celebration that aligns with your needs and allows you to be fully present in the traditions that mean the most to you.

As we wrap up this journey through adapting holiday celebrations with chronic illness, remember that your well-being deserves to take center stage. Embracing adaptability, setting boundaries, and finding joy in the moments that align with your needs are not just strategies – they’re acts of self-love. The holiday season may come with its unique challenges, but by navigating them with intention and authenticity, you’re crafting celebrations that truly honor you.

Ready to explore additional resources for navigating the challenges of chronic illness? Head over to my free resources page, where you’ll find a wealth of support tailored to various aspects of your life. From practical tips for daily living to emotional well-being strategies, my free resources are designed to empower you in your journey. Check it out now and discover new avenues for support as you navigate the complexities of chronic illness. Your well-being matters and these resources are here to help you thrive in every area of your life. Visit the free resources page and empower yourself with knowledge and support today!

Wishing you a season filled with kindness, self-compassion, and the joy that resonates with your unique story. Cheers to celebrating you!

April Smith, founder and coach at The Thriving Spoonie, a compassionate and empowering brand for those with chronic illness. A smiling cisgender woman with short wavy brown hair, green eyes, and dressed in a blue denim shirt, confidently faces the camera, smiling.
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