When you are struggling with a chronic health condition, the holidays may bring about certain stressors that make it difficult to manage. You may feel physical symptoms of your condition that prevent you from engaging in social gatherings as you normally would. The social expectations, financial concerns, and relationship issues that present during the holidays may trigger stress.

Top five tips to manage holiday stress when you have a chronic medical illness:

  1. Try a relaxation technique. Deep breathing facilitates the calming of the nervous system, particularly the parasympathetic system. Inhale for 5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds. This 10-second breath cycle induces a relaxation response within your body. When you start to feel anxious, practice deep breathing for at least 5 minutes.
  2. Turn your negative thoughts into more adaptive thoughts. When a negative thought arises in your mind, try reframing the thought. For example, if you have the thought, “I am always going to be in pain” reframe this into “I may have pain, but I can learn to manage it better and do things that I enjoy”. Reframing takes practice, but over time, you can learn to identify and change your thoughts. Using this approach, you will likely experience more positive emotions.
  3. Engage your social support network. When you are dealing with stress, your friends and family can provide encouragement and listen to what’s bothering you. Spending time with others often helps distract us from our distressed thinking and emotions.
  4. Eat healthy foods. When you feed your body a nutritious food and avoid processed, sugary, salty and unhealthy fatty foods, you are giving your brain and body the nutrients it needs to better manage stress.
  5. Get enough and sufficient sleep. Practice good sleep hygiene to ensure that you are getting sufficient and quality sleep. Sleep is essential to help our bodies recover from stress and rejuvenate for the next day.

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