The holidays are right around the corner! Though an exciting time of year, it can also be dreadful for many of us who suffer from one of the Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. The added stress of being around extended family, worrying about what you can and cannot eat, and travel, if you have to do it, can be overwhelming. Luckily, I have been through this many times and I’d love to share my tips with you all! You do not need to dread the holiday season, but rather embrace all it has to offer!
Whether you are in a moderate to active flare, or remission, the holiday season can bring a lot of added stress which in turn can bring on a full spectrum of symptoms you may not be prepared for. Let’s first take a check on ourselves and make sure that attending holiday parties or going to any other holiday event is appropriate for your current situation. If you are in a really bad flare or experiencing symptoms that are leaving you with nothing left in the tank, you might want to reevaluate your holiday situation. Maybe that looks like not spending as much time out but rather planning to have the events at your place. Either way, you need to do what is best for you and your health, you cannot run on empty forever! But, if you feel comfortable, maybe these tips can help your ability to take part in all or some of the holiday festivities, whether it be family related or just a bigger social gathering. Preparation is key to keep symptoms at bay and knowing how to handle them when they occur.
Stress is one of the top triggers for symptoms, especially digestive symptoms, for all people and not just those of us who suffer from IBD. I mean who here would have to run to the bathroom before a big game or presentation? (This girl for sure!) The added stress, whether it be positive or negative, causes digestive distress; however, there are ways to at least be ready for it. Added digestive distress is not a good thing for us with IBD, but stress can also cause inflammation for anyone which is what we are all trying to avoid in the end. When looking at how to curb stress, things like being with friends and family, going out, or exercising can actually help alleviate some of this (rethink some of these if family or friends cause you stress…because sometimes they do!). So if you can prepare for the holiday season in advance, you may find some stress relief doing something you enjoy or surrounding yourself with people who can help calm you down and keep your mind off of the taxing events to come.
It seems like once Halloween hits, we go into overdrive and before we know it…it’s a new year! In order to avoid this blur and go into the holiday season as healthy as we can be we need to focus! First, I make sure that I am getting good sleep. If you aren’t getting good enough sleep, how do you expect to refill your tank? Our tanks get depleted very quickly because of what we deal with on a daily basis, so don’t skimp on sleep! Another thing I like to focus on (which is so hard this time of year!) is not cheating on my eating habits. I know sometimes this cannot be avoided, but if you focus on eating foods that promote healing, they will provide you the energy you need to thrive through the holidays! Lastly, don’t be ashamed to say “No!”. If a decision to attend a holiday party or partake in a certain holiday tradition is going to be detrimental to your health and healing, don’t be afraid to back off. Nobody wants to be sprung into a flare during this time of year!
For those of us with IBD, attending a holiday event at an unknown location can be an added stressor. To help alleviate this, figure out the specs of the location, and more specifically the bathroom situation. This also will allow you to know where you will be able to get fresh air if feeling nauseated or just need a moment to escape. Also for anyone who follows a lifestyle with certain dietary restrictions, ask if food or drinks are going to be served, and if so, what that entails. I tend to get more stressed when I don’t know where a bathroom may be or if the food options will cause me some belly pain. You can always bring snacks, which is my go to so that I can still be there but not worry about making myself sick.
So to break it down, here is how I try to conquer the holiday season:
- Getting good sleep during the holiday season, yes, all of it!
- Focusing on healthy eating habits to get you the energy you need to make it through these next fun yet hectic couple of months!
- Don’t feel bad about saying “No!’. Your health is more important than dragging yourself out and draining all your energy! **People will unintentionally try to guilt you into things because they literally have NO IDEA how it feels when we are cramping, hurting, and running to the bathroom. Saying no will only help you in the end!
- If going to a holiday party or event, get the locations specs and event menu to avoid any unknowns or mishaps. Remember, there are always snacks!
- Create your own energy kit to have on hand with you that helps you in a pinch. I created an IBD emergency kit that I carry with me in some form or another AT ALL TIMES!
- Do whatever anti-anxiety/stress remedies work for you before and during the season! Some ideas I use are rolling on or wearing some lavender oil, making sure to take a moment to breathe, or trying to meditate/have some quiet time. You can even ask your doctor to prescribe something to ease anxiety if needed!
- Have someone with you who is on you team (or someone available via phone)! Meaning that they understand what you are going through, how they can help you, and will be prepared to support you if needed!
- Let go and have fun! Mentality is so important and although it’s not going to “bring you into remission”, sometimes forgetting about how crappy you may feel actually leads to you experiencing a great time.
Who’s ready to conquer the holidays this year!?