They call it the most wonderful time of the year, but for many people living with a chronic illness, the holidays can be anything but merry. From seemingly endless shopping and cooking to visits from family and friends, the season can be overwhelming and exhausting. But with a little bit of preparation and a DIY chronic illness holiday survival kit, you can make the holidays a bit more enjoyable despite your diagnosis.
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Creating your own chronic illness holiday survival kit is a great way to ensure that you have everything you need to make it through the holiday season feeling as good as possible. This kit can include items like medications, snacks, drinks, and stress-relieving items.
Before the holidays get into full swing, take some time to create a custom survival kit. This kit should include everything you need to make it through the holiday season with as little stress and as few flares as possible. Here are some ideas of what to include:
Medications and Supplements
Many people will be traveling over the holidays, and it’s important to remember to pack your medications and supplements. If you’re traveling by plane, be sure to pack them in your carry-on bag, in case your luggage gets lost or delayed. You may also need to travel with prescription medication in its original packaging, too.
If you’re traveling by car, make sure you have enough of your regular medications and supplements to last through the trip (and motion sickness relief, if needed). In addition to any necessary prescriptions, be sure to include any over-the-counter necessities, too—this might include NSAID pain relievers, antacids, or natural remedies.
Copies of Your Medical Information
As the holidays rapidly approach, many of us are scrambling to make travel arrangements. If you’ll be spending the holidays away from home, make sure you’re prepared for any potential health emergencies. Be sure to bring a copy of your medical history and medication list with you. This information can be invaluable if you find yourself in an emergency while away from home. If you’re traveling to an unfamiliar destination, it can be helpful to note nearby hospitals or healthcare facilities, too. You never know when you may need medical care, and you’ll be glad you have their information if that moment arrives during your holiday vacation!
A List of Your Triggers
If there are certain things that trigger your symptoms, make a list of them and share that list with your loved ones. This will help them avoid triggering your symptoms during the holidays. Some common triggers include certain foods, alcohol, stress, crowds, noise, or changes in routine. This is crucial not only for those with conditions like migraine or fibromyalgia but for neurodivergent folks who may be triggered by sensory overload or other sensations.
• Certain foods
• Changes in routine
In addition to being aware of these triggers and communicating them to your loved ones, take the time to put any preventive measures in place. For instance, someone who’s triggered by noise might pick up a pair of Loop earplugs to help soften the sounds around you and enjoy your holiday celebrations that much more.
A List of Your Favorite Holiday Traditions
Spoonie traditions don’t have to be all about sitting around and feeling sorry for ourselves. In fact, many of us find that embracing our traditions is what gets us through tough times. If you’re concerned that you may only be able to participate in a portion of the holiday festivities due to your symptoms, consider putting a list together of your favorite traditions. This can help you prioritize your spoons and, just as importantly, encourage your loved ones to make these particular celebrations as accessible as possible. As an added bonus, knowing that you have these events to look forward to can help make the holiday season a little bit easier.
Food, Drinks, or Snacks
Many chronic conditions come with added dietary needs, whether that’s avoiding certain food groups or eating at particular intervals. Pack snacks and drinks that are healthy and that will help to keep you feeling good, such as fresh fruit, nuts, and water. If you’re celebrating with a festive feast, be sure to plan accordingly, whether you’re hosting or attending an allergy-friendly get-together. Make sure you throw in some electrolytes if you deal with dysautonomia, migraine, or something similar conditions.
This time of year is stressful, even for those without the added challenge of disabilities! Be sure to include some stress-relieving items in your chronic illness holiday survival kits, such as a journal, a stress ball, or aromatherapy aids. Neurodivergents might benefit from a few fidget toys, for instance—from silly putty to pop-its, there’s truly an option for everyone. You can even use a few small toys like these as stocking stuffers if you celebrate Christmas!
Your Support System
Maybe you have a supportive partner who’s coming home for the holidays with you. It could be a best friend who’s always just a text away. It could even be your Talkspace therapist! However that works for you, it’s important to have some sort of support system. You can even find Facebook groups full of fellow spooonies who can relate to your struggles! I recently discovered the Alike app, too, which is a lovely anonymous platform, and I enjoy the Stuff That Works app, too.
Whether you’re traveling across the country or you’re surrounded by people at home, keeping an assortment of comfort items is almost always beneficial. Pack a cozy shawl, a plush friend, or another cozy item to help destress through the most chaotic moments of the holiday season.
Of course, those of us with chronic illness still need the everyday holiday essentials, such as your toothbrush and phone charger! Pick up a packing list or put together your own to make sure you have all the things you need in addition to chronic illness must-haves.
Is there something else you’d include in your DIY chronic illness holiday survival kit? Let us know!
The holidays can be a difficult time for people living with a chronic illness, but with a little bit of preparation, you can make it through the season stress-free. By putting together your own chronic illness holiday season survival kit, you can ensure that you have everything you need to make it through the holiday season feeling your best. Happy holidays!