Jingle Bell or Holiday Hell? Part 2: Balancing Act

Holiday cheer, Christmas songs, gingerbread cookies, eggnog, and carolers oh so nice; shopping mayhem, endless baking, non-stop Christmas songs, want to break that CD player, the tenth holiday party of the week, out of town visitors, shows and pageants...when can I get some sleep?

The holiday time is certainly a test of how well people can pace themselves and of managing an overload of expectations. Yes EXPECTATIONS...not responsibilities. During the holiday season, it is easy to confuse expectations with responsibilities. Oftentimes, people experience certain events as things that they must do lest they let down their loved ones. However, when one really thinks about it, is the holiday season really any different from the rest of the year? It is true that there can be many fun and exciting events during the holiday time, but exciting and fun can quickly turn to burdensome or overwhelming if not properly managed.

The holiday season balancing act is something that most people in the western world experience every year; however, this balancing act can be especially challenging for people who live with chronic physical illness. Although most people need to figure out how to manage the numerous holiday parties and events of the year, some people with certain illnesses need to pay even more attention to the amount of rest that they are getting, how much physical activity can be tolerated, and what level of stress is appropriate. The responsibility of balancing one's activities and health makes it very apparent to some people with chronic illness, that their illness is a reality and it can serve as a reminder of some of their limitations or life adjustments. This realization can cause some to experience various feelings such as sadness, anger, frustration, denial, or helplessness, at a time where society sets an expectation of joy and cheer. Sometimes these unpleasant feelings may result in some people with chronic illness wanting to engage in as many holiday activities as possible in an effort to will away the reality of their condition, which can follow with a worsening of one's health. On the other hand, just because a person lives with chronic physical illness does not mean that he or she is banned from participating in holiday activities all together. This is another extreme that can follow from people's loved ones' fears and concerns about the person with the illness, or from the person with the illness him or herself becoming depressed and hopeless, and believing that living with an illness means having a poor quality of life.

The key is balance...no different from folks who do not have a chronic condition. Sure, mastering the correct balance for yourself may be trickier than the balancing act of a person without a chronic illness; however it is completely possible. An important thing to keep in mind is that the holiday season is a time for fun, love, and joy. It is easy for these things to be forgotten as the societal message is one of "musts," making the distinction between expectation and responsibility difficult. Attending a million holiday events is nobody's responsibility but it may be expected by some folks in your life. Do not forget that it is ok to not meet everyone's expectations for what you can or cannot do during the holidays. What will happen if you pass on some holiday events for the benefit of yourself? Nothing other than feeling physically good, probably emotionally good, and able to partake in your actually responsibilities. So you balance: you choose what holiday events are really important to you and you take part in them, and the one's that are not on the top of your list you pass on. If anyone else is bothered by this then it is their problem to deal with as it was their expectation that led to their own disappointment, and this is something that you can communicate to them.

The holiday season can at times leave people feeling a bit helpless. Get empowered! Stand up for yourself and your needs, and communicate them when you are not feeling understood. BALANCE YOURSELF!

Happy Holidays!