The holidays can be a busy, memorable, and fun time of year.  But it can be easy to fall out of the habits and routines that keep us feeling energized, strong, calm and balanced. So, when you have a chronic illness, the holidays can be a hard time to stick to good habits.  Here are some tips for following good habits this holiday, while having a chronic illness.


If you’ve been invited to a LOT of holiday gatherings this year and worried about sticking to your plan, don’t sweat it! Here are a few tips to get you through the gatherings without sacrificing your self-care.

  1. Eat before you go

If you’re like me and avoid meat, dairy, gluten, and try to stick with unprocessed whole foods, the thought of what will be served at most holiday parties can be daunting. Focus on the FUN, not the food! Make the party more about socializing and spending time with friends and family, and less about eating. Fill up on a balanced meal to include protein, fiber and healthy fats before you go. This is the best way to ensure you get the nutrients and fuel you need to feel your best. And, you’re not as tempted to munch on foods that could potentially cause some GI distress, skin irritations, achy joints, etc.

2. Bring your own homemade dishes

This ensures that you’ll have at least one dish that you know what’s in it. Chances are, there will be multiple things you can munch on at the party, but you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that any ingredients or specific foods you may be sensitive/intolerant to are not in the dish you brought.

3. Bake your own treats to share

Skip the highly processed and sugar-loaded baked goods and make your own holiday treats this year! There are SO many delicious, super easy, and healthier sweet alternatives that you can make at home and enjoy without all of the additives and other junk that may leave you feeling yucky.

Hosting For the Holidays? 

Plan a potluck! Guests can bring what they want, and you’ll serve options that align with your eating plan. This would be a great opportunity for your loved ones to try some of the foods you’ve been enjoying and for you to showcase new recipes you’ve created or adapted since improving your eating habits. Everybody wins!!

Practice mindful eating

Eat only when your body is hungry (not from availability, stress, habit or boredom, etc.). Focus only on your food, without distractions. Take 3 slow, deep breaths to activate the rest and digest parasympathetic system before eating. Slow down, chew thoroughly, pay attention to all your senses and honor your hunger/fullness cues. Try not to hang out around the food table. It can be very tempting to mindlessly pick at the chip bowl.

Everything in Moderation

Don’t deprive yourself of certain foods if you feel you’d like to indulge in some of your holiday favorites. There is no such thing as a perfect eating plan, and I don’t believe in “cheating” when it comes to food. Listen to your body. You most likely already know which foods make you feel good and which foods don’t. Moderation is your friend around the holidays as well as year round.

Just Say No

Don’t overcommit to too many events/parties. Only do what you have the time, energy and desire to do. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries to protect your physical, emotional, and mental health. I like to say, an invitation is not an obligation. If it’s too much or you just don’t want to go, just say no (thank you)!

Stay Hydrated 

Aim to drink 1/2 of your body weight in water daily.  Staying on track with hydration can help with digestion, deliver nutrients to your cells, keep your energy high, prevent/treat headaches, lubricate your joints, maintain blood pressure, flush out toxins, and reduce chance of hangover during the holidays and year round. Cheers to that!!

Keep Alcohol & Caffeine to Minimum – Enjoy Mindfully (with food)

Try a smaller pour to help with portion control, or drinking from a smaller glass. Drink 1 glass of water for every alcoholic beverage. Stop drinking alcohol 3 hours before bed and keep caffeine intake to mornings ideally to protect your sleep.

Stick To Your Bedtime 

It may be tempting to stay up late and party with friends, but prioritizing your sleep will keep you feeling rested and energized. Aim for 7-9 hours per night and to go to bed and wake at ideally at the same time daily.

Keep Moving 

Aim for at least 20 minutes of movement most days of the week. Keeping up with your physical activity over the holidays will help keep your energy high, improve digestion, aid in weight management, and may help combat anxiety and depression for those of us who struggle with mental health around the holidays.

Prioritize Self-Care & Remember to Relax

Don’t let the hustle and bustle of the holiday season alter your self-care routines. This busy and stressful time of year is when we truly need to prioritize time for ourselves and pencil in time to slow down and rest.

Here are several more ideas to give yourself the gift of continuing nourishing self-care routines. You’ll continue to feel your best through the holidays and move forward in your healing journey.

  • Give yourself grace this holiday season (progress over perfection).
  • Sip on a warm, calming chamomile tea, support digestion with peppermint tea, or enjoy an energizing matcha.
  • Enjoy a cozy holiday essential oil diffuser blend (frankincense, cinnamon, cedar wood, peppermint, sweet orange, nutmeg, myrrh).
  • Take a hot bath with epsom salt and essential oils.
  • Practice gratitude – think of 3 things you are grateful for this holiday season daily.
  • Get sunshine in the early morning hours (at least 15 minutes shortly after waking) to balance your circadian rhythm and help with sleep, energy, And mood and add Vitamin D.
  • Cuddle up under a weighted blanket for comfort, to ease stress, calm the nervous system and help with sleep.
  • Take a stroll around the neighborhood and enjoy the holiday decorations and lights.
  • Dance and sing, like nobody’s watching, to your favorite Christmas tunes.
  • Unplug from electronics and tune in to the present moments with your friends and family.
  • Let go of unrealistic expectations and embrace the love, cheer, and joy the season can bring.
  • Journal about your favorite holiday memories, your vision of a fulfilling holiday season, and new goals for yourself as the new year approaches.

RELATED TOPIC:  How Self-Care Saved Me

Relax and Enjoy

I hope this can help you enjoy this wonderful time of year and allow you to be at ease going to the holiday parties.  Following these tips can help you RELAX and ENJOY!

chronic illness and holidays

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Juliet Tabbara
Juliet was born in and raised in St. Louis, MO. She moved to Southern CA in 2008 after surviving a long distance relationship with her now husband, who she met in college. They now live in TO and have an incredibly strong-minded, smart and silly 5 year old son named Venice (we honeymooned in Italy!) and a fur-pup named Pepper. She is a certified health, wellness & nutrition coach and currently has a private practice (Nourish Within Wellness) offering 1:1 coaching. Her love language is quality time, and she enjoys being with people she loves by sharing yummy food, cocktail, or coffee and a good chat. You can find her at the farmers market in Westlake every Sunday, practicing her yogi skills at Westlake Yoga Co, at her fav. family friendly happy hour spots (101 North & The Landing), or at home baking gluten-free, plant-based, refined-sugar free goodies.


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