Thanksgiving and Chronic Illness
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There’s no pressure to buy gifts or worry about whether the person receiving those gifts will appreciate the time and effort you put into it. Everyone dresses nicely for dinner and family gathers together (even that weird cousin that you only see once a year, but let’s face it, you love them… at least, in small doses once a year. Ha!).
It’s the holiday filled with the most delicious foods. Come for me; I will die with that truth. Okay, you may argue that Christmas has some great candies and desserts, and rightfully so, but it pales in comparison to the assortment of pies, cakes, and let’s not forget savory goodies; sweet potatoes, green beans with the ham hock, and a perfectly salted turkey. I’m drooling just thinking about it.
Thanksgiving (or any holiday) with a chronic illness? It can be hard to get into the spirit of things. Your POTS steals your spoons (energy) from you. Gastroparesis won’t allow you to eat any of the goodies. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome makes swollen joints impossible to stand for any period of time. Crohn's disease? Forget about it.
Tips on surviving Thanksgiving with a chronic illness.
Skip turkey day. I already said it’s my absolute favorite holiday, and I want others to enjoy it as much as I do but, being realistic, it may not be possible to enjoy the holiday. Maybe you’re in a dreaded flare. Maybe you know recovery will take several days and you don’t want to sacrifice the way you’ll feel for just one day. Whatever the reason, know it’s okay to decline doing anything for the holiday.
Let someone else do the cooking. If a friend or family member has invited you, ask if it’s okay to just bring the drinks. If you find yourself being the one in charge, there are places that make great Thanksgiving feasts you can buy pre-made. Here’s a list of places where you can order your Thanksgiving dinner to go.
Pace yourself. There’s no gold medal for the person who finishes Thanksgiving dinner first (although, getting to dessert quicker could feel like winning). Pace yourself both in what you eat and the activities you participate in will ensure you’re not doing too much at once. Eating large meals causes your body to push blood towards your gut which can worsen symptoms of orthostatic intolerance. Enjoy smaller portions of your meal throughout the day and kick up your feet to rest when you’re able.
Elevate your legs. When you’re not standing, ensure your legs are propped up. This will prevent blood pooling in your extremities which can exacerbate symptoms. Bonus points for those of you who wear compression garments through the holiday. Extra bonus points for the ones who wear compression leggings!
Pass the salt shaker. Ignore your aunt Linda’s judgmental eyes and salt salt salt your food! You’re allowed to be salty. If you have POTS, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, increasing sodium intake is one of the ways to manage your symptoms.
Take a nap. I mean, grandpa is also napping, isn’t he? This can combat your midday fatigue especially if you find yourself traveling to different locations.
Avoid coffee and alcohol. These can often be triggers for worsening symptoms and make your heart rate go more haywire than it usually does. If that’s normally you then pass on these two holiday indulgences.
Drink NormaLyte. NormaLyte was made to travel with you. Toss a few extra in your bag and be sure to sip on it the whole day. It’s been clinically proven to manage symptoms of POTS. Free of artificial dyes and colors, no preservatives, and a low acid level means it’s gentle on your stomach.
Peace out early. Don’t be afraid to say goodbye early in the day. No need to explain yourself to anyone. If the day becomes too much and you realize that your symptoms are amping up, it’s okay to head home a little early.
Plan a day of rest. After the festivities are over and everyone is out black Friday shopping, consider taking a day of rest (there’s always Cyber Monday shopping). Mark the Friday after Thanksgiving as a “me day”. Curl up on the couch with a good blanket, a book or a movie, and your favorite medical grade electrolyte and give your body the rest it needs.
Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be a dreaded event when you have a chronic illness. You can manage to get through and may find that you enjoy the time you have had with family making memories. Some things are worth it.
What tips and tricks do you have for surviving Thanksgiving with a chronic illness? Shoot them to us on instagram.