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Navigating the Holidays as a Patient

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

The holidays can be a stressful time for anyone- but add a chronic condition to the mix, and things multiply tenfold. We know you want it to be “the most wonderful time of the year”, but that can be hard when you add in fatigue, pain, and dietary restrictions. Here are some tips from our practitioners at Case Integrative Health on how you can balance an enjoyable season without taking a step back from your health journey.

Dr. Casey Kelley

Dr. Casey Kelley, Founder and Medical Director: Life is about balance and there are definitely times to celebrate and enjoy our times with loved ones. Often, around the holidays this also includes food and drink. There are ways you can balance holiday enjoyment while maintaining your health! One of the absolute worst things we can do for our immune system and our mental health is to isolate ourselves, so make smart choices and go enjoy your family!

If you know you are highly sensitive to something (like celiac disease) do not eat it. If you are sensitive to foods and you avoid them because you know it’s best to do so, but you want to indulge a bit for the holidays – it’s generally ok to do so. Here are my caveats:

  1. If you “cheat” on your diet for a holiday meal – savor it! Enjoy every morsel! Do a happy dance as the food sits on your tongue. Do NOT shove it in your face and feel guilty after

  2. If you have the chance to make a decent stand in- like a GF/DF pumpkin pie, then do that!

  3. Have things on hand to help your body handle the indulgence – like digestive enzymes, HistDAO, SPM Active, and charcoal.

Dr. Rana Mafee MD

Dr. Rana Mafee, Integrative Neurologist: The holidays are a time of cheer, celebration, and coming together. However, it can also be a very hectic and overwhelming time, especially for those dealing with a chronic illness. My first piece of advice would be to guarantee yourself some time for self-care, whether it be at least 5-10 minutes a day of deep breathing or meditation, or whether it be a once-a-week appointment with yourself or others for you to look forward to. Schedule a massage or other spa service, plan a lunch with a friend, spend time journaling, visit your favorite local place in nature, or just leave that block of time open for you to do whatever inspires you! Just make sure that you have some set guaranteed time for yourself. And for the rest of the week, be consciously aware of your breath. Breathwork can be powerful and would be the best-selling drug if sold in a bottle. I often tell my patients to set a timer on their phone 1-2 times daily to remember to just take a break and take 5 deep breaths.

Maureen Moran PA-C

Maureen Moran, Integrative Medicine Physician Assistant: My advice is the same that I give to myself and my loved ones. Do not get caught up in the materialism of the holiday season, instead focus on the love and support of family and friends that you’ve had the honor to receive and to give in the past year. Recommit to those same values and try to do a little more for another person in the coming year… that is where we will find the joy that will support us when we really need it.

Health Coach Jenny Rowland

Jenny Rowland, Certified Health Coach: Take a time-out! When feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable in a social setting, sneak away to a bathroom or bedroom and do what you need to do to reset. 5 minutes of intentional breathing, guided meditation, or gentle stretching can help you decompress enough to return to the gathering. Try to take this time-out BEFORE you feel like you actually need it and potentially consider mentally scheduling it before you arrive. Another thing I recommend is to try to find a way to give back. Chronic illness can leave you feeling helpless and out of control. Although it can sound counterintuitive when you're not feeling your best, helping others in any act of kindness can actually boost serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and overall wellbeing. Giving has been shown to reduce stress and physical pain--what a gift!

However you’re choosing to celebrate this year, we wish you a season full of happiness, joy, and time spent with those you hold dear. Happy Holidays from everyone here at Case Integrative Health!

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