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How to Survive Holidays with Chronic Illness

From Thanksgiving to New Year's, the holidays are a whirlwind. People are busy planning parties, shopping for gifts, decorating, baking, and making holiday plans to visit family. This chaos often leads to stress, overeating, and exhaustion.

And when you are living with fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and fatigue, you may be hit extra hard during this time of year. Unfortunately, chronic illnesses do not take a holiday. Read below for some quick tips on finding calm amidst the holiday craziness.

Tip #1: Breathe deep

What a busy time of year! With an endless to-do list, sometimes we run at high speed and need to remind ourselves to slow down and breathe. Deep breathing exercises help calm down the central nervous system and reduce stress on the body. Here is a favorite diaphragmatic/belly breathing video to try.

Tip #2: Create a gratitude journal

Research has shown a link between well-being and gratitude, especially if people incorporate appreciation into their daily habits. Begin with writing down three things you are grateful for at the end of each day. As you commit to doing this for two weeks, you will begin to notice the positive effects of this simple exercise with each passing day.

Tip #3: Schedule time for yourself

During this gift-giving season, remember to give yourself the gift of "me time." Over-committing can lead you down a path to stress and flares. It is okay to say no thank you for adding another item to your calendar. Setting boundaries can keep your mind and body in balance. Spending five to ten minutes of quiet time each day will recharge your energy level and allow you to be your best.

Tip #4: Walk, walk, walk

As we are busier with holiday activities, exercise may end up at the bottom of our priority list. If lack of time becomes an issue for you, enjoy a quick ten-minute walk after each meal rather than a long walk each day. Bonus: walking after eating will improve digestion and help reduce stress.

Tip #5: Be smart about holiday eating

Indulging in tempting holiday favorite foods can happen to all of us, and here are strategies for eating a wholesome, balanced diet during all the festivities.

  • Offer to bring the veggies. Bring a colorful vegetable platter along with hummus or healthy spinach dip to food-related events during the holidays. This easy trick can ensure you will have a healthy, low-calorie food choice available during gatherings.

  • Keep your plate balanced. Traditional holiday foods are often full of fats (butter, heavy cream, cheese) and sugar-added ingredients. Here is a simple trick to keeping your calorie-dense foods to a minimum. Fill half your plate with lighter food options such as fruits, vegetables, salads, and soups. Challenge yourself to eat this half of your plate first before moving on to more calorie-dense choices on your plate. While eating, engage in conversations with others to slow down your food intake and enjoy the taste of each bite.

  • Drink up! Staying hydrated with water during gatherings is helpful to flush out toxins, keep your digestive tract happy, and is an excellent way to add fluids to your daily routine without adding calories.

Tip #6: Get out of the kitchen

Remember, there is life outside of the kitchen. Most family get-togethers, particularly during the holidays, revolve around food. Instead, invite your family over for a game night, ornament-making party, or a snowball fight. Provide a few light snacks (popcorn, veggie trays, and fruit salad) and make the activity the focus rather than the table.

By incorporating these tips into your routine to relax and enjoy the festivities, you can reduce holiday stress, fatigue, and flares.

We created The Ultimate Fibro Friendly Holiday Food Guide in the spirit of holiday giving, a unique recipe book just for you. Perfect for creating delicious dishes that your friends and family are sure to love.



Fibromyalgia is not a "one size fits all" diagnosis. What works for some doesn't work for others. The information provided is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Should you have any health-related questions, please consult your physician or other health care provider promptly.


Teresa & Hannah are fellow fibromyalgia warriors. Teresa is a certified dietary manager and wellness coach. Hannah is an occupational therapist. Together, we're a mother-daughter duo on a mission to empower others to fight against fibro.


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