holidays with chronic illness | chronic illness | invisible illness | gratitude | self-care
Home Life, Self-Care

Surviving the Holidays When You Have a Chronic Illness

I don’t know about you, but I can easily get carried away by the holiday season and overdo it. With the shopping, mailing cards, meal prep, decorating, wrapping presents, family gatherings, and holiday parties, it can take a lot out of you even if you’re well. I am feeling the fatigue just looking at that list. Lol.

With work and chronic illness, we know all know too well what can happen if we don’t take care of ourselves during this time. FLARE UP! None of us want that. So learning how to pace ourselves is the ultimate goal.

While we may have our limitations, we can still have a wonderful holiday season and enjoy ourselves. The key is to always listen to your body. It will tell you when you’re creeping up on doing too much. Then it’s up to you to take note and rest.

The key for me is to delegate tasks and pick a few activities I really want to do, that I can do while resting or don’t take too much energy. The rest can be done by others, and if not, it’s okay if they don’t get done at all. I’m thinking of things like decorating the house. It’s okay if you don’t have the energy to do it.

The tasks I choose to do are decorating the tree, designing and mailing our holiday cards (which I may not do this year…shhh don’t tell anyone), shopping for gifts, and wrapping presents.

Shopping for Gifts

For adult gifts, I usually shop online on Amazon or Etsy. However, if I need to buy gifts for kids, I like to go to stores like Ross. I’m sure Marshall’s is similar. Ross carries extra toys this time of year, and they’re always at a discounted price. They have early store hours, and I like to shop close to when they open for a few reasons:

  1. It’s quiet because most people aren’t shopping at Ross at 8:30 am on Saturday.
  2. The toys are usually organized at that time of day, so it’s easier to see what they have, and I can get in and out quicker.

I have some sensory sensitivities, but my symptoms aren’t triggered while shopping there, unlike the grocery store (a story for another day).

Scaling Back

In order to help my body cope with the holiday season, I’ve also scaled back on a few things. For example,

  • We have a tabletop tree instead of a full-size tree. This allows me to be able to sit and decorate the tree.
  • Besides a wreath on the door, I don’t put up any other decorations.
  • We don’t host any family. If the family wants me to show up for the events, then I can’t waste precious energy on hosting.
  • If I make anything, I only make one dish for holiday meals. I would love to bring two sides and my grandmother’s famous pound cake, but again I have to scale back so that I can participate in family events.


  • What activities are you going to do?
  • What activities can you delegate to others?
  • What activities will you need to let go?

Join the private Managing Chronic Facebook group and share your responses with us.

Gratitude Affirmations

Not being able to do everything that you used to do during the holidays can put a damper on things and could even make you feel depressed. There is a transition period to getting used to what you can do now versus what you could do before you got sick. Try not to compare your new self with your old self.

One of the most helpful ways I’ve learned to stay positive is by writing down or saying daily gratitude affirmations. It’s pretty simple, and it can be about the simplest things or big things, such as:

  • I’m grateful I feel pretty good today.
  • I’m grateful it’s sunny outside.
  • I’m grateful for my husband and all that he does to help me.

I try to write down three gratitude affirmations daily in my daily planner. I have to say it has been helpful to stay positive.  It’s also given me much more appreciation towards my husband, who does a lot for our family, especially when I’m having mobility issues.

Have writing or saying daily gratitude affirmations helped you? I’d love for you to share your experience below.

Other Self-Care Reading

In addition to my self-care examples, I love the reading about what others say about self-care too.


Despite your limitations due to your chronic illness, you can still have a wonderful holiday season. Taking the actions below may help you in determining what you can and can’t live without this holiday season. And if you’re feeling a little blue, remember to write down your daily gratitude affirmations.


1) Determine:

  • What activities are you going to do?
  • What activities can you delegate to others?
  • What activities will you need to let go?

2) Write daily gratitude affirmations.

Picture of wrapped presents and text saying, "Surviving the Holidays When You Have a Chronic Illness"

Sara at Managing Chronic

Sara has worked in corporate America for almost 15 years, and she's worked the last eight years with FND. Her FND comes with paroxysmal dystonia, chronic fatigue, brain fog, sensory overload, muscle pain, and more. She is currently a part-time career woman, a mom and a wife.

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