Holiday party planning for those with chronic illness

Start planning early and don't be afraid to say no

Marisa Zeppieri avatar

by Marisa Zeppieri |

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It’s the holiday season again, and while it’s my favorite time of year, it’s also the season that stresses me out the most.

If you have lived with chronic illness for a while, as I have, you’re likely aware that it doesn’t mix well with stress. One thing to understand, though, is that stress doesn’t have to be negative to strain the body. Good stress, known as eustress, also pressures the body and can aggravate lupus symptoms or trigger flares just like negative stress can. Think of weddings or other celebrations, or traveling on your dream vacation. These are all exciting life moments, but they can cause a variety of other emotions, too.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that during exciting milestones or other festive events you’ve experienced an increasing frequency or severity of symptoms. It’s important to keep this in mind when planning.

So how do we get through holiday seasons unscathed? I’ve been trying to find a good answer to this for years. But before I get to that, I’ll just note that holiday party planning works best for me if I start a few weeks in advance.

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Quality over quantity

Typically, I’ll sit down with my planner and look at the months of November and December as a whole. Where will the main activities take place on the actual holidays? Are there other events I’ll need to attend? (This might include work parties, gift-giving with friends, sightseeing of holiday lights, shopping, etc.) Is travel by plane or car required? I’ll mark all of these dates on the calendar, along with the travel time. 

Another thing I’ll consider when planning is that it’s much easier to host parties in my house and have family and friends come to me, in case I wake up feeling unwell. But that’s not always an option. If the event is at someone else’s house, I’ll usually RSVP with the caveat that I might not be able to attend if I’m flaring or feeling unwell that day. I’ve learned that if I give others this disclaimer in advance, it won’t be such a shock if I have to cancel.

Once I have the events and travel dates noted in my calendar, I’ll begin searching for rest days. Packing the calendar with physically and emotionally demanding events is a recipe for disaster. I can push myself for a day or two and then I’ll need a rest day (or two). I’ve also discovered over the years that I’ll need an extra day on both ends of travel dates to catch up on sleep and avoid a flare. 

Those of us with chronic illnesses like lupus often survive on limited energy. Sometimes when we have several invitations or other expectations around the same time, it’s best to decide which are the most important. While it would be wonderful to attend everything, it’s unrealistic and can actually set us back for a significant amount of time if we have a flare.

Good communication is important. Not only do I encourage it, I might even recommend “over communicating.” I’ll reach out to family and friends, for example, to share exactly what I can and can’t do. I’ll discuss any concerns I might have about expectations that people have of me. That way, no one will be disappointed and I won’t drop the ball on anything.

‘No’ is a complete sentence

If you’re worried about an event you can’t attend or nervous that you won’t be able to make that special dish, just politely say no. I think you’ll find that, in most cases, people will understand.

We all deserve to make the most of our holidays. With some small tweaks, we can hopefully do that without flaring.

Do you have tips to make the holidays more manageable? Please share in the comments below.

Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.


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