Your Autoimmune Disease Doesn’t Have To Define Your Holiday Season

41845439_M (2)Let’s just get it out in the open – the holiday season can be incredibly stressful. And we’re talking stressful for people who aren’t dealing with any kind of autoimmune disease. There are high expectations for everyone around you during the holidays. Your kids have high expectations about Santa Claus and the gifts they’ll be receiving. Your extended family expects you to attend all of your family functions with smiling faces and joy. No matter what. It can be a lot to tackle for anyone. It can feel like an insurmountable task to a mother who has been diagnosed (or on the road to a diagnosis) with an autoimmune disease.

But obviously we’re not here to make you feel even more stressed about the holidays. We want you to remember that you’re not alone in this stress. Even if you’re alone in your family. Even if your extended family doesn’t know or understand what kind of autoimmune disease or chronic pain you’re suffering from. We understand. And we want to let you know that you can get through these holidays. It is possible.

Be honest with your loved ones about your autoimmune disease

You may be feeling a lot of pressure to make everyone’s holidays perfect. But the reality is that your loved ones won’t have a perfect holiday if you’re stressed and irate during the entire season. Instead, you should always be honest with your loved ones about your autoimmune disease. If you’re too tired to go to a family party, tell your family members. Trying to keep your health a secret will only put more pressure on you, which will make you more exhausted and stressed. It’s a vicious cycle that can only be undone with pure honesty.

Plan ahead as much as possible.

It’s a total cliche, but a great way to tackle an impossible task is one step at a time. The holidays should be tackled with small tasks you can do every day. Plan ahead so you can ensure you have the time and the energy to tackle your entire to-do list, without having to go sleepless during the entire week of Christmas. Procrastinating the holidays- including holiday shopping, gift wrapping, and party planning – will only add more stress to your holidays that you don’t need. Especially when your autoimmune disease can be a stressor.

Set realistic expectations for yourself.

We’ve already established that most people (including your kiddos and relatives) will have high expectations during the holidays. There’s a lot to look forward to. And that isn’t a bad thing at all. However, you need to be realistic with yourself about what you will and won’t be able to accomplish this holiday season. Your autoimmune disease won’t take a vacation during these few short weeks so you can do anything and everything you want to. Take some time to be painfully honest with yourself about what you will be capable of. And if you can’t do something you really wanted to? Don’t let it be the end of the world. The holidays will press on, regardless of the hiccups.

Chronic pain and autoimmune diseases doesn’t have to wreak havoc on your holiday season expectations. You can’t still enjoy everything you and your loved ones and look forward to during this special time of year. Take some time to be honest with your loved ones and yourself about your limits and be sure to plan ahead so you can take things one step at a time. This should help you enjoy the holiday season and prevent your disease from affecting the joy that this season can bring to you and yours.


About the Author
Katie Cleary is founder of  She lives with her autoimmune conditions and her family in Austin, Texas.

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