Y’all, I love the holidays. I love how the world transforms into a different place for one month of the year. I love finding reasons to celebrate with family and friends. I love all the yummy food there is to eat. I love being intentional in thinking about what we are thankful for.
What I don’t love is all of the obligations, stress, and complications that often arise this time of year. Things like over-eating and stress can take what should be a joyous experience and turn it into a nightmare, especially for those with an ostomy or any chronic condition. I put together a quick survival guide for getting through the holidays and trying to enjoy the season.
1. Eat wisely.
Don’t eat all the food that is put in front of you. I know it is so yummy (and plentiful!), but overindulgence always leaves me feeling icky. My mom makes the best turkey dressing I’ve ever tasted. It’s one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving and I look forward to it every year. The downside: It contains walnuts. And nuts are the number one thing that gives me blockage issues. So while I’d love to eat the entire dish of dressing, I make sure to put a reasonable amount on my plate and take extra care to chew it well. For anything else that may cause an issue (like my grandmother’s corn casserole) I take a small amount. Even though I avoid corn most of the time, allowing myself a small scoop helps me to not feel deprived of my favorite foods, but also to not regret eating it later.
Another things is to try stop eating before you are completely stuffed. This always leads to a large amount of output later, usually overnight, which can then lead to leaks. For this reason, try not to eat too close to bed time. Give your body time to digest the food before you turn in for the night, even though I know that turkey just makes you want to sleep right away!
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
I sound like a broken record with this one, but it’s the biggest issue I deal with on a daily basis. I am constantly dehydrated, and it leads to so many other issues (fatigue, headaches, joint pain, dry skin, frizzy hair, thick output, bag leaks). It’s especially important to keep in mind during the holidays when alcoholic drinks are readily accessible and events often involve mingling, making it difficult to keep track of how much water you’ve had to drink.
Try drinking extra water before arriving at the event, so you’re already hydrated when you get there. For every alcoholic drink, drink a full glass of water after it. I always have a bottle of water in my bag and my car, so I never have to worry about finding it when I’m somewhere new. The winter months can also mask how dehydrated you are since you’re not sweating as much or feeling exerted, but trust me, it’s still happening!
3. Lose the stress.
This one is not specific to having an ostomy, but with having IBD, I know for me personally that my symptoms have often worsened during times of high stress, and the holidays are often full of that. One of the hardest parts of the holidays is simply how much there is going on. There are parties to attend, parades to watch, Santa to visit, family members (who may not be your favorite people) to entertain, and many, many presents to buy. I have been learning how to say “no” more often and with more conviction. I try to pace myself, get plenty of rest, and to not stress out about all of the things that I have to do.
My son is 3, so we’re at the age where he’s starting to enjoy different experiences. Last year, I wanted to try out several events in our area to figure out what might make a nice tradition going forward. Ultimately, I found I wasn’t enjoying any of it because it was all just too much and I felt we ended up losing so much of the joy of the season. This year, I am scaling back.
If you are feeling stressed already, try to find things that you can cut out. Maybe it’s hosting dinner, traveling, or going to 30 different tree lighting events and parades with your kids. Cut out what’s bringing you down, and maybe try to find some time where you can do something that you want to do, and not just what you feel obligated to do. Whatever it may be, try to find a way to enjoy this time and let the season be magical and not a burden.