a large family gathering at the holiday table

Celebrating Holidays with NMO

Last updated: December 2022

This time of year, when everything is joyful and jolly, it seems like NMO always has an unpleasant surprise for me. The holidays are the time of the year when family and friends get together to celebrate, and seeing as my birthday is two days before Christmas, the celebrations are big. The holidays usually mean seeing family members I haven’t seen all year, eating loads of food, spending a lot of money, and trying to please people.

Having NMO makes for stressful holidays

This all sounds great - right? Not! It used to be all fun and games when I didn’t have a chronic disease to manage. "STRESS" is written all over the holidays, and it sucks even more for people living with a chronic illness, like me. It is a very stressful time of the year, but I have learned a few ways to handle it.

People pleasing

Let’s start with people-pleasing. As a parent of Santa believers, I bought into what sounded like a good idea at that time: the “The Elf on the Shelf” book and toy. What a tremendous mistake! While I love seeing my kids enjoy watching the magic of the holidays, moving our Elf, Gustavo, every night for 24 nights is very stressful. I felt pressured into buying the elf because everyone at their school kept mentioning it. But as the years went on, (spoiler!) my oldest son realized that Santa is mom and dad. I’ve passed the torch of the elf to him. While he thinks it’s fun, I see it as a chore that, thankfully, I no longer am in charge of.

Some advice for the people pleasers out there

Be realistic with your health and needs. Stop people pleasing to fit in or to always be present with others. It’s not worth the stress. It's mentally and physically draining.

Setting boundaries for holiday gatherings

At office events and family gatherings, we sometimes feel pressure to participate in events we often can't join in. After work, I’m mentally and physically tired - and my body knows it. I physically can't get my body to rush home and prepare for these events. Usually, I will politely turn down the invite or ask my workplace if I can leave early, so I have the time I need to get ready.

Eating during the holidays can be a pain... literally

Holiday foods can sometimes make you feel worse. Let’s be honest. Holiday food is delicious! But sometimes, it can make us feel yucky and even temporarily give us an acute flare.

Let's talk about the dessert tables. Loads of sugary sweet treats taste so good but have too much sugar, which is not good for various reasons. Sweets are scientifically proven to cause inflammation, likely causing a flare. According to www.healthline.com, "...evidence suggests that eating too much added sugar and too many refined carbohydrates causes inflammation in your body. Over time, the inflammation caused by poor dietary habits may lead to several health problems...” 1

Taking charge of what you put in your body

Please remember that you live with a chronic disease and be conscious about your decisions. Instead of soda, try drinking flavored sparkling water. Instead of eating cake or pie, try eating a fruit salad!

Planning holiday meals ahead of time

If you know you're going to a holiday event, plan ahead. Reach out to the host and ask them about the menu to see if they can accommodate you. If they can't, you can offer to bring your own food so they have a head count on food. It’s all about planning so you, the chronically ill person, can enjoy your time in a healthy way.

Mindful gift-giving

Try making thoughtful gifts this year, like knitting a blanket or a thoughtful letter to those close to you. This is a great time to show much you love and appreciate those around you, and money won’t impress them. So don’t stress yourself out with holiday shopping.

Online shopping is a gift for you!

If you are shopping for items, take advantage of online shopping, pick up options at the store or even ship it as a gift directly to who you want. There are so many online and phone apps that make your life easier. The DoorDash phone app lets you gift breakfast, lunch, dinner, and flowers. So many apps can help you give gifts this holiday season!

The gift of experiences

Consider gifting experiences: tickets to the zoo, aquarium, amusement park, movie theater, a sports game, or something along those lines, rather than a physical item you'd have to carry or wrap. The point is to make your life easier and stress-free during the holidays.

Spending time with your loved ones is priceless

Remember that the holidays are about spending time with your loved ones, which has no monetary value. December 2022 has shown us that economic inflation is a real thing. You don’t need to go crazy trying to impress people with expensive gifts while drowning yourself in debt. This can build stress, which may cause a flare in the near future. You, the person living with NMO (or any chronic disease), know the value of good health. No amount of money can buy that.

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