Whether you’re one of Santa’s elves or a real-life Grinch, there’s no denying that spending time with loved ones and eating tasty food makes the festive season the most wonderful time of the year. But for those of us with Crohn's or Colitis, this time can be stressful due to symptoms such as pain and fatigue which can be worsened by this busy period.
Here are some of my top tips for navigating the festive season with Crohn's or Colitis, to make it that bit less stressful and that bit more wonderful...
Don’t feel pressured to do things you can’t or don’t want to do
Saying no to festive events can be difficult, because of FOMO (fear of missing out) and fear of hurting people’s feelings. But, prioritising which event you’d really like to go to can prevent spreading yourself too thin and burning yourself out.
Feeling ‘OK’ and enjoying one event with your loved ones would be better than feeling terrible at all of them.
Check out venues and menus beforehand
Many of us with Crohn's or Colitis have various foods that trigger symptoms of pain and diarrhoea. If you’re eating out at a restaurant or even at a family or friend's house, check that there is going to be something that you are safe to eat, or ask for adjustments to be made beforehand.
Don’t feel bad for turning down food that somebody has made - you’re prioritising your health and wellbeing.
Make time for rest and relaxation
During busy times, plan rest breaks/days into your schedule. If you’re out at an event one day, make sure you have time to rest afterwards. Whatever helps you to relax - whether that’s taking a bath, having a power nap, sitting down with a cuppa, or having a duvet day!
Communicate with your loved ones
If you communicate, people are more likely to understand if you’re unable to make it to their event. As many symptoms are invisible, loved ones can only help if they know how you are feeling.
Make sure you have enough medication/medical supplies
Over the festive season, shops, pharmacies and doctors are often shut or offer reduced services. Plan ahead of time and make sure you’ve got enough medication/supplies to last you into the new year, to avoid any last-minute worry or panic. Make sure you’ve stocked up on honey and lemon for those winter bugs, too!
Simplify Christmas preparations and ask for help if you need to
From shopping, to wrapping presents, to preparing dinner and cooking, there’s a lot more on your to-do list during the festive period. Simplify these tasks by shopping online instead of in stores, getting gift bags instead of wrapping and making dinner without all the trimmings! If this still feels like too much, it’s okay to ask for a helping hand.
Enjoy the magic
Crohn’s and Colitis can present additional challenges for us during the festive season, but that doesn’t have to mean that we can’t enjoy the magic. Put on your fluffy socks, switch on your twinkly lights and listen out for those sleigh bells!
Anna Gaunt is a writer and activist who has had features in Huffington Post. She is also a Helpline volunteer.