How to Make the Holidays Easier with IBS?

With the holiday season already in full swing, people who suffer from IBS can have a particularly rough time navigating this time of the year. There are many reasons for this but the one I want to focus on today is the impact IBS can have on socializing during the holidays.

Between family gatherings, holiday parties, work parties, friends and relatives coming in for the holidays, needing to prepare food and buy gifts, things can become all out of sorts. Routine has always been a crucial aspect of my life with a chronic illness. I know the sense of control is huge and necessary for me so with the holiday season there is no doubt that my routine will be thrown off in some shape or form.

Five ways to make the holiday season easier with IBS

Focus on the company and NOT the food. I won’t suggest not eating anything during functions unless that is your personal preference but remember that the holidays are about gratitude, celebrations, and being around people who love and care about you.Understand that most people will not understand what it is you go through. I don’t mean that in a negative way but given the majority of the public has not yet grasped the life-altering impact IBS can have on a person, I do believe it to be the truth. Plus, given the fact that it is an invisible illness, it just adds a whole new layer. Having others not understand can cause a lot of mental angst. If you are not okay with being around certain family members or close friends because of the comments they make or the fact that they just flat out make you feel uncomfortable for whatever reason, do yourself a favor and eliminate that stress. Figure out other plans or maybe not stay as long. Even having a response to some things you feel you might hear during the holidays might make you feel a little more prepared. And if someone does not respect that and that might trigger you in some way (which is totally understandable) then don’t put yourself in that position.Decide what you are willing to sacrifice (if need be) during the holiday season. You know your body better than anyone so if it is worth it for you to consume all the holiday goodies and then “pay for it” later on, then enjoy! If you don’t feel like you can handle the aftermath of it all, stay away from what you know your body cannot handle. Remember that just because it is the holiday season and a lot of yummy goodies might be in front of you more than any other time during the year, that you have the power and choice to consume certain things or pass. The decision is up to you given we are all unique with not only our disease but the emotional things we can handle.Share as much as you can with someone you trust who might be at events with you. The more people know that you are declining food or needing to excuse yourself more than what would be considered a “normal” amount because of your disease, the less the host or others might have wandering minds.Cut yourself some slack. The holidays are hard for people who do not live with a chronic, invisible illness. I have so much trouble with this part of life -I never feel like I am good enough and always feel the need to push myself otherwise I feel lazy- but I do know it is something I need to work on and I know from my communication with others in the community that cutting yourself some slack can be very difficult for us. Whatever you are able to do, or unable to do, is perfectly fine! And anyone who tells you differently doesn’t have a clue what your body and mind are going through.I know there are so many layers to how those suffering from IBS can impact the holiday season. Please remember that you are not alone, even though it may feel that way sometimes. It is a silent struggle but so many of us hear your pain and mental anguish.

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