Emily’s Declassified Holiday Survival Guide (for Spoonies!)

I think we can all agree that preparing for the holidays can be pretty stressful…

You have to scavenge Pinterest for  decorating ideas, find a Christmas tree, fight off other shoppers at the mall, buy the right presents, nab the perfect dress, stress about your waistline, mentally prepare to deal with your extended family, and make sure your outside Christmas light show gives the Jones’ down the street a run for their money.

You have to do all this and work a job and take care of the little rugrats and maintain your own sanity. It’s a lot of work.

But now imagine that you have to do all these things but you have no energy, you’re in pain, and you’re (most likely) broke as a joke.

Everything gets about 150% more difficult when you don’t physically have the ability to deck out your home or whip up a tasty Christmas feast.

Depending on your current health status it may even be difficult just to show up and open presents.

In short, the holidays can be a rough time for people who aren’t able to keep up with their family and friends. So, here are a few thoughts for the spoonies to consider this year before they get buried alive under all those holiday expectations.

And the healthy people can feel free to read along, too!

Without further ado, here is my Declassified Spoonie Holiday Survival Guide:

Tip #1: Adjust your own expectations (and the expectations of others may follow)

Facing reality is one of the hardest things to do when you’re chronically ill.


But after months (or years) of living in denial about your ability level you may finally accept that your holiday schedule is going to be a little bit different than the schedules of your family and friends.

This is a bittersweet moment, because one you come to honest terms with your own limitations (yey!) you then realize that you also have to communicate those limitations to others (yikes!)

Dealing with your own disappointment is one thing, but dealing with the disappointments of others is a completely different beast.

It can be really scary to admit to your loved ones that you won’t be able to do X, Y, and Z this year.

They might feel angry.

They might start projecting their weird emotions onto you.

They might start treating you like a totally broken person.

Or, they might be perfectly fine and accept reality for what it is.

Sometimes things go smoothly and sometimes they don’t, but chances are that if you adjust your own expectations and you are confident about what you can and can’t do then the people around you will be begin to shift their expectations, too.

It’s vital to remember that accepting reality isn’t “giving up,” on your life.

In fact, accepting your current state for what it is is the only way to starting living again.

Tip #2: Treat yo’ self

Go ahead ladies (and fellas), treat yo’ self to something nice.


Yes, I know you have a million medical bills to pay, but I also know that you probably scrimp and save year round in order to pay for those doctors visits and prescriptions. It’s about dang time that you let go a little and get yourself a treat.

Buy that new outfit you’ve been eyeing.

Book that massage appointment.

Enjoy that pint of dairy-free, non-GMO, low sugar ice cream.

Order that delivery pizza instead of making dinner from scratch tonight (no judgement, here.)

Your life is really hard and you deserve something fun, so live a little!

That is all.

Tip #3: Be (a little bit) selfish

I’ll start this one off by stating the obvious: practicing self-care is not selfish.

Let me say it a little louder for the people in the back…


Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way I’ll explain that, while taking care of yourself is never a selfish act, there may be some people *able-ist people* that view your personal boundaries as selfish. So in their mind, you may need to be a little bit “selfish” this year.

As a full-time sick person, you have to make and enforce boundaries in order to preserve your energy and your health all year long. yes, it can be tempting to throw all those boundaries out the window because, “hey, it’s Christmas!” and because you don’t want to ruin the holiday spirit. But your job isn’t to please every body else; your job is to take care of yourself as best you can.

Having boundaries may look like turning down those holiday shots because you know that drinking alcohol will result in a total health collapse.

Or it might look like going to bed when your body tells you to, not when your friends are telling you to. Just because they can party all night doesn’t mean that you are able to. So be realistic about that and stick to your guns!

You can make boundaries about how you’re going to spend your time, your money, and your energy.

Obviously, you don’t want to be a jerk about this stuff but if you explain your boundaries to people and they don’t show any respect for your precious health, then we all know who the jerk really is.

Tip #4: Create a get-away space

If you’re staying with relatives for the holidays or if a whole bunch of relatives are coming to your place (heaven forbid) then you might want to invest in a get-away space.

blog safe place photo

You might need a designated space that allows you to take a break from other people, take your medicine in peace, nap if needed, and control every ounce of your environment.

A lot of spoonies are self-proclaimed control freaks, and with good reason.

This “control freak” mentality isn’t as much a stable personality trait as it is a necessary evil in order to survive in this unpredictable world.

Just take a second to imagine what it’s like to walk into a room full of people chattering, glasses clinking, lights blinking, and a dozen different perfumes and fragrances wafting through the air.

You’re surrounded by food you can’t eat, people who talk to fast, and synthetic smells that you can’t get away from.

All this hustle and bustle might not seem problematic to a healthy person, but to a person with chronic health problems all this stimulation can be down-right panic inducing.

If you’re a spoonie you might need to find a place where you can control the temperature, the lighting, the air quality, and the noises.

Just plan ahead so you have a sanctuary to retreat to in all the chaos.

And if you’re healthy, try to understand that your spoonie loved one may need a lot of alone time to rest and rejuvenate away from the crowd.

They’re not rejecting you, their just looking after themselves.

Tip #5: BTOF (bring thy own food)

I don’t think I’ve ever met a single spoonie who didn’t have a billion dietary complications.

blog food picture

I don’t have to use a feeding tube to eat like some spoonies do, but I do have a laundry list of allergies, sensitives, and preferences that make eating with others a little complicated.

If you’re a “weird food person” like me then you’re probably probably said a few things that drive your relatives insane when they’re trying to plan a meal. I’m sure they’ve heard it all:

“Is that gluten free?”

“Sorry, I can’t have any dairy.”

“Darn it, those brownies have nuts in them, don’t they…”

“Is there anything on this table that doesn’t contain animal products?!”

“Actually, I’m eating Paleo now, so I can’t eat that.”

And last but not least…

“Yeah, I can have fried chicken, but not baked chicken, and I can only have the white meat. Oh, and if it’s marinated in olive oil then I might stop breathing and my left toe will definitely itch for the next day and a half.”

Ok, that last one was a joke, but I know that our dietary needs can seem a little crazy and they can make other people go a little crazy because they might feel like nothing they ever make is good enough for us.

To avoid some major frustration from the chef in charge this holiday season, you may want to adopt the “bring thy own food” method.

Even if it’s just one dish or desert, bringing your own stuff can lift the burden off other people in the kitchen and you’ll be able to eat in peace knowing that whatever you made is 100% safe for you to enjoy.

Tip #6: Make your needs heard

This one is really simple.

If you want people to made accommodations for you, then you have to let them know.

You live with your symptoms all day everyday but other people don’t live in your body and they can’t feel your pain or read your mind.

So, just ask for what you want.

It can seem super awkward sometimes, but most people are pretty willing to accommodate to your needs (within reason) if you ask.

If they say no to a request, then you move to plan B, but you won’t know unless you ask in the fist place.

Tip #7: Don’t steamroll your own happiness

I affectionately categorize myself as a “recovering pessimist” because I’m in the process of learning to be a little more optimistic.

blog family picture

But even so, when my natural bent towards doom and gloom gets together with my anxiety, they have a grand time thinking up ways to ruin my holidays.

You may be familiar with the feeling of your mind running wild with fears about the future…

What if I have an allergic reaction at dinner tonight and embarrass myself?

What if I can’t find a place to rest?

What if I’m stuck next to someone wearing smelly lotion?

What if everyone forgets about me while they’re out having fun?

What if I have a break down in front of my family?

It goes on and on and on.

All the “what ifs” can be paralyzing for me and I have a hard time just being in the moment.

Yes, everything about the holidays is harder when you’re sick year after year, but that doesn’t mean that you have to steam roll over your own happiness right now just because you’re too afraid of what might happen tomorrow.

Breaking the cycle of negativity and fear about the future seems almost impossible because your worries about your health are usually pretty rational! But try to set them aside and soak up the little positive moments this year.

That’s my personal goal this year.

Maybe I’m alone in this and maybe I’m not, but if you suffer with “a bad case of the pessimisms” then you can make that your goal, too.

I always have to remind myself that there’s nothing noble about basking in your own misery. It doesn’t make you a martyr, it just makes you an idiot.


And there it is, seven ideas to help you survive the holidays. Now go forth and treat yo’ self!

See you in 2018,

Em the Silver Spoonie 🙂


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