Strategies for Surviving Celebrations (and Daily Life) with Chronic Illness

Chronic Christmas isn’t just for the holidays.

Why am I banging on about that book again and well into January? There’s a very good reason. Namely that the strategies I described in Chronic Christmas: Surviving the Holidays with a Chronic Illness can be used throughout the year to help you tackle tasks and celebrations with enough energy left over to enjoy your life.

We all have energy-sucking events and tasks in our lives. They can range from doing routine household chores to planning a big celebration, such as a family party or a wedding. When you have a chronic illness, approaching any of them can feel overwhelming. Where do you start? Will you have enough energy to see the task through? It’s enough to make anyone hide under the covers.
But you don’t have to. That is, you can hide under the covers if you wish, but that doesn’t get anything done. And more importantly, it keeps you from enjoying life. So why not take a look at the Chronic Christmas tips and strategies for getting from the start to the finish line with your sense of humour and energy intact?

Here are three examples of Chronic Christmas strategies:

Pace yourself
Pacing yourself helps you approach the task of your choice with a sense of mindfulness. By not going full throttle, you give yourself the space to be aware of your energy levels and the permission to stop for the day before you’re exhausted. And that in return makes it possible for you to get back to the task tomorrow. Surprisingly, this will actually enable you to get more accomplished in the long run.

It sounds great in theory, but when you’re in the middle of something big the panic can persuade you that the only way to do it all is to go full throttle. You may get a lot accomplished that first day and maybe even the second, but after that overdoing it will have you crashed out on the couch for just as long or longer. Staying within your energy limits will ensure that you won’t have to spend days and even weeks healing.

Break it down
Whether it’s facing preparing for the holidays, the table plan for your wedding, or a sink full of dishes, the same basic principle applies: break it down into smaller tasks.

Take a step back and think about how you can parse the really big task into smaller bite-sized pieces that can be accomplished in about 10 minutes. If you’re so far into the overwhelm that you can’t see straight, try to imagine helping someone else do it. Or ask that someone who’s been offering to help you to break it down for you. Then just do what they tell you. Approach it for 10 minutes every day and before you know it, the task will be done.

Ask for help
And while we’re talking about asking for help… Please do. Chances are that there are several people in your circle of family and friends who have offered to help and chances are equally good that you haven’t accepted that help. When you live with chronic illness, can be really difficult and exhausting to figure out which tasks other people can do. On top of that, it can be an emotional challenge to accept the fact that you do need help.

As with anything else, start small. Ask a visitor to take the garbage to the chute, help you decorate a corner of the living room, or address and stamp a pile of invitations while you chat.

That wasn’t too bad, was it?

Then try again, and this time ask for somewhat bigger task. Distributing tasks among several people will make it easier for you to ask for help and make sure that none of the people assisting you suffer burnout.

Facing a big task can feel completely overwhelming. The nature of the task doesn’t matter — if you’re having a really bad day, folding the laundry can be a big task. What’s important is matching your energy level with what you do. Following the strategies outlined in this post, as well as the many other ideas in Chronic Christmas: Surviving the Holidays with a Chronic Illness, can help you tackle anything you have to do.

How do you approach big tasks when you feel like crap?


Rick said…
My one piece of advice? Find a Sheryl. nothing beats a Sheryl for making life easier.

Yeah, this one is taken.

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