The most stressful time of the year is fast approaching. At least it’s the most stressful for those of us with chronic illnesses.
To most people Christmas is a time for celebrating, an exciting time with friends and family. However, those of us with chronic illness are often at our worst during the dark, damp, cold winter months. Our joints seize, our pain increases and depression worsens without enough daylight hours, and so on.
Add into the mix the business of the run up to the holidays with all the shopping, food preparations, travelling to see family, Christmas parties etc. and we really do struggle to keep going. I know, I feel your pain. So in recent years I’ve tried to come up with various coping strategies to help me through the festive period and also help me to enjoy it rather than see it as a burden.
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1. Start your shopping early to avoid the Christmas rush.
I’ve done this for years anyway as time was an issue when I used to work really long hours. But it also applies when you are sick. The last thing you want is a last minute rush where you inevitably feel that you have to buy anything for Auntie Anne, not matter if it’s suitable or not, just so that there is something for her under the tree. Forward planning, I find is essential. I will even pick up some things 6 months or more before Christmas if I find the ‘perfect gift’ for someone.
2. Shop online and get it delivered right to the door.
Don’t worry about the shipping fees as you would have spent money on petrol to get to the shops anyway and they might not even have what you want in stock!
I’m a huge advocate for online shopping. I can sit in my cosy house with my laptop and a cup of tea while browsing online for the perfect gifts (as well as food). Most stores have a website and delivery service now. I am also a huge fan of Amazon as they have the ‘recommended for you’ search where I find lots of ideas for those who I buy for that I might not have thought of myself. It’s really helpful if you are stuck for ideas.
Don’t forget as well that Amazon Prime offers free shipping if you are a subscriber. Even if you are not you can sign up for a free 30 day trial and cancel it. Hubby just did this and he cancelled it the same day. His 30 day trial is still running until the end though even though he cancelled the same day! This is something you can do in the run up to the holidays when you are doing your online ordering.
3. Hire a cleaner for the week before Christmas
If money allows hire a cleaner the week before Christmas to reduce your to do list. I find that this reduces my anxiety about having the ‘perfect’ Christmas a lot and leaves me with enough energy to be able to focus on the fun things instead.
4. Get the kids to decorate for you
It doesn’t have to be perfect but it is a time for families and what better way to get started than to decorate the house together. You can always move a few baubles further up the tree after the kids have gone to bed. I won’t tell! 😉
5. Order your food online for delivery
Make a shopping list for your food and put in an online order for your groceries a few days before Christmas. I hate supermarkets before Christmas. You wouldn’t believe that they are only closed for two days the way some people are in them!
Another tip for those in the UK (it may apply elsewhere as well). If you want to make sure you get a booking slot for just before Christmas (as they book up quickly), simply book your slot and add £25 worth of items to your basket to secure the booking. Even if you just add a few bottles of wine to make up the amount. Closer to the time you can add your shop to the basket and even delete the wine if you change your mind. It’s all about securing the booking slot early. 😀
6. Cook your Christmas bird on Christmas eve
You don’t have to get up so early on Christmas morning then and your priority can be spending time with the kids as they open the gifts that Santa brought. I’ve done this ever since I’ve been the cook.
7. Christmas eve traditions
I started a Christmas eve tradition when my daughter was very small and I do it every year. I buy us all new pajamas for Christmas eve so that we can stay in them until nearly lunch time on Christmas day. We can lounge around in nice new, clean pjs comfortably without having to worry about getting up and dressed too early. Who wants to spoil the morning fun by nagging the kids to get up and dressed on Christmas day. Wait until the gift giving is over and everyone has calmed down. Happier kids, happier mums!
8. Ask guests to help out
If you have guests on Christmas day ask them to bring something, food wise, that will compliment your meal. It will reduce the amount of work that you have to do as well. You are, afterall, saving them the cost and hassle of doing it all themselves! It’s really not a lot to ask.
9. Use disposable plates
OK, maybe not for Christmas dinner but why not for the evening? Use pretty party plates, ideally paper ones to be eco-friendly. You don’t have to worry about the washing up afterwards then.
10. Schedule a rest time
Try to schedule 30-60 minutes after dinner to have a lie down or rest on the sofa. The kids will be happy to play and the adults will be digesting their lunch anyway. Avoid rushing to prepare for tea. Everyone else will want to rest so why shouldn’t you too. Maybe put on a Christmas movie to watch as a family.
11. Enlist helpers
Delegate the washing up or loading/emptying of the dishwasher. You are not a slave!
12. Spread the costs of Christmas
Spread the costs of Christmas by shopping throughout the year and not just in December. Please, please, please, do not be tempted to go into debt for Christmas. It really isn’t worth it, especially with the added costs of being sick and likely reduced income. I see Christmas as all about friends and family, not gifts. It’s also a good thing to teach your children.
13. Organise decorations
I found this neat little trick on Pinterest last year. Wrap Christmas tree lights around a hanger or piece of cardboard so that they don’t tangle for next year. Of course, I haven’t untangled them yet this year but I did wrap the fairy lights around coat hangers. Hopefully this year it will be a lot easier and less frustrating.
14. Cook in advance and freeze
This is something I try to do anyway no matter what time of year as I have good days and bad days with my health. When you are having a better day, or a quieter day, try to make some food in advance and freeze it. I like to buy fresh veg and prepare it (peel and cut) while still fresh (or hubby does it for me) then I bag it and freeze it. Most veg you can cook from frozen so it makes life much easier on the big day. Bare in mind that potatoes for roasting need to be par boiled before freezing.
Other things you can freeze are cookie dough, cupcakes (before they are decorated), sponge cakes, grated cheese (Yes! Just grate it first and then use from frozen for cooking), uncooked sausage rolls, gravy and sauces, Yorkshire puddings and stuffing. Take them out on Christmas eve to defrost over night or with veggies, cook them from frozen. This can save so much time and energy on the day.
15. Use your slow cooker
You can prepare some things the day before with a slow cooker. It might be something like a casserole that you can dip into in the evening or in my case I did mulled wine. It tasted even better the second day as the spices had infused into the drink. When guests showed up I had a lovely warm drink for them ready. I added the wine to taste afterwards as I don’t drink and the kids could drink it too. These are also great for making the mandatory turkey curry following Christmas!
I love my Crockpot slow cooker. Here it is only mine is green to match my kitchen. I thought the red looked more festive though.
Do you have any more ideas? If so, please pop them in the comments and let’s all have a wonderful Christmas.
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