Do's and Don'ts for Surviving the Holidays With IBD

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Your Holiday "Do's"

Christmas table
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1. Be a Realist. The pressure to create the perfect holiday for family and friends is too much for one person to take on. It's possible to have fun and celebrate the season without the “perfect” decorations, food, or gifts. Find ways to lower stress levels by trying some stress-busting tools.

2. Set Daily Goals. Assign one or two tasks to achieve every day. There are likely so many things to do before the holiday that it seems impossible to get all get done in time. Make a plan, and prioritize by spreading out tasks over a series of days. Sitting down with a calendar and figuring out how many items on the to-do list need to get done each day can help. Set a realistic goal to accomplish a small number of tasks each day and be sure to stick to it.

3. Set Expectations. Be honest with family and friends about health concerns and how it will affect the holiday plans this year. If this is the first holiday season after being diagnosed, it’s going to be different than other years. Most people with IBD need to pay more attention to nutrition and sleep. Let loved ones know what about limits and that the celebration is still important.

4. Make Room for the People Who Count. Spend time with the special people in life—those friends and family members who are caring and who are important to spend time with. Try to avoid those people who elicit bad feelings, such as those who think that health problems are psychosomatic, or who aren't generally understanding about health issues. Take time to tackle the more complicated relationships at a different time.

5. Accept Help. Don’t try to do everything alone, especially when not feeling as well as normal. Accept help—and ask for it!—from trusted friends and family. It's very likely that they would be more than willing to step in and run an errand or help decorate. Another way to find help is to join an online or face-to-face support group to meet other people with similar health problems.

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Your Holiday "Don'ts"

Two women holiday shopping
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1. Dwell on Your Health. A pity party every so often is fine, but after a day or two, work on deciding that it’s over. Focus on the good things in life such as family, friends, career, and home. Even in the darkest moments, hold on to the things in life that bring joy.

2. Become a Homebody. People with IBD can attend parties and go shopping, and do all those other things that make the holidays both special and busy. Sticking to a health regimen while attending celebrations and getting those holiday tasks completed is challenging but it can be done. Think about ways to make things easier such as by bringing a gift of food (that you can eat) to a party and helping the host to set it out. Take advantage of stores that open early or stay open late in order to shop during the “off” times; it is less stressful and there is easier access to restrooms.

3. Skip Daily Physical Activity. Don’t back off a regular fitness routine because it seems as though it's not possible to keep up with during the holiday season. Healthful activities are essential and if a different task needs to go undone that day because it's important to schedule that daily walk—so be it. Many people find that keeping up with daily routines help in returning to holiday plans with more vigor and a clearer head.

4. Try to Do Everything Yourself. There is a lot of pressure to do everything (baking, cleaning, wrapping, cooking) yourself. There is no harm in buying cookies at a bakery, asking a friend to help with the cleaning, taking advantage of free gift wrapping (or “instant” gift wrap), or buying pre-made food. Enjoying the holiday is more important than who made the pie.

5. Allow Others to Ruin the Holiday. Every year there are those people who are not able to understand the needs of a chronically ill person. Don’t allow this to intrude upon the joy of the season. If it's possible to avoid people who are emotionally draining, do so. If you can’t, don’t take their comments or criticism to heart—consider the source and move on.

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