Surviving the Holidays and Staying Healthy: Tips for Those with Autoimmune and Other Chronic Disorders

Winter holidays can be particularly stressful, especially for those of use with autoimmune diseases. Stress can abound because of added expenses, the need to find presents to please everyone, our self-imposed need to bake everyone’s favorites, and our having to find the time to clean our homes with extra care for company and decorate our trees and home stylishly. With children home from school, guests arriving, and the weather reluctant to cooperate, celebrating peacefully can seem impossible.

To compound matters, stress, sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and lack of sleep can all aggravate our immune systems and keep us from feeling our best. Here are some tips to help us survive the holidays joyously.

Stick To Your Budget

Decide in advance what you can afford to spend and make a list of suitable gifts for everyone on your list. When shopping online, look for promo codes, free shipping and special codes. If calling in orders, don’t be tempted by friendly operators with specials. Often, these specials include old stock and items from sister stores. If you’re shopping locally, avoid the crowds and don’t overburden yourself lugging heavy items from store to store. Enlist a friend to help or divide your shopping into several trips.

Realize that when it comes to gift giving you can’t please everyone no matter how hard you try. Keep all your receipts in one place. If something needs to be returned, hand over the receipt with a smile.


Focus on Simple Meals

Plan your holiday menu with care. A hearty stew or soup made ahead of time can be your main dish with salad and whole grain bread as sides. Include cruciferous vegetables, celery, garlic, and other fresh foods known to fight inflammation. Focus on foods with a low glycemic index, such as vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates high in fiber.

Desserts of fruit and cheese are a good option. If you usually prepare several desserts, limit your choices to one traditional offering and one healthier offering. Guests struggling to get through the holidays without gaining weight won’t feel deprived.

Eat six small meals a day to maintain energy. Before attending any holiday parties, have a small meal or healthy snack that includes protein, which satisfies hunger and helps you eat less. Good choices for holiday snacks and side dishes include veggies with salsa or guacamole, sliced turkey and chicken, bean salad, fruit, fresh shellfish, lettuce wraps, organic tortilla chips, black-eyed peas, brown rice, smoked salmon and humus with pita bread.


Budget Your Time

Limit how many holiday functions you can attend. If you don’t enjoy certain events, gracefully decline. Stick to your favorite activities whether it’s a lunch out with your best friend or driving through the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights.

Maintain your regular exercise routine. In addition to lifting your spirits, exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle program. Even if your eating habits stray, you can still stay on the track to better health by expanding your current exercise routine to burn any extra calories. When there’s a time crunch, at least take five minutes to stretch and perform some deep breathing exercises. If you can delegate chores, take time out for a massage at your favorite spa. Incorporate stress reduction techniques into your daily routines.

Relax and enjoy spending time with family and friends. Savor the moment as you sit by the fire admiring your decorated tree. Simplify traditions, watch your commitments and don’t get caught up in the rush. Make time to enjoy the season’s sights, sounds, and flavors. Don’t get caught up in family conflicts. Tactfully change the subject and play the role of peacemaker.

With proper planning, the winter holidays can be the best time of year. Remember that the warm feelings of contentment gained by spending time with loved ones can benefit your health. And a simple smile can do wonders for your immune system cells.