Endometriosis: How to Thrive Through the Holidays
The holidays can be stressful, and if you have endometriosis, they can be very very stressful. You are not alone! In this blog post I’ll share my 10 tips for thriving and surviving the holidays while living with endometriosis. We touch on mental health, communication, battling stress, and self care.
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What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is not just painful periods. Endometriosis is a full body inflammatory disease with an immune component. The endometriosis lesions are similar to the tissue that lines the uterus, however, they are outside of the uterus. The lesions are hormone sensitive and respond to the hormones of the menstrual cycle, but, endometriosis is not caused by excess estrogen! Click here to read more about endometriosis
The holidays can be a daunting time especially with endometriosis. Expectations are high, we want to do all of the holiday things but it’s a fine line between balancing events and our mental and physical health. So here are 10 tips to help you thrive through the holidays while living with endometriosis
How to Thrive Through The Holidays Tip # 1: Open and Honest Communication
One of the easiest ways to reduce stress around the holidays is to cultivate open and honest communication. Talk with your family or whoever you are spending the holidays with about your endometriosis. Explain to them why you are choosing to change your diet and why you might not be able to do everything they want to do. People aren't mind readers and your family is no exception to this.
Most people might think they understand what you go through but they really don't unless you tell them. They don’t know that a bite of gluten might send you to the ER for pain or like for me, a bite of any kind of dairy causes a huge histamine reaction in my body, I get swollen everywhere, my nose gets so congested and I start to have trouble breathing. But again, your family can’t know this unless you tell them. This goes right into my 2nd point…. Boundaries!!!!
How to Thrive Through The Holidays Tip # 2: Boundaries
Boundaries are so so important when you have a chronic illness. Setting clear boundaries on what you can and can't do, what you will and won't accept is another sure fire way for people to know how to treat you and know why you do/don’t do certain things.
Here are a couple script examples for you for different boundaries.
Boundaries For Canceling Plans :
"Some days I might not feel like socializing. Chronic pain takes a toll on my body and my mind. Sometimes, the pain I experience is too severe to even leave the house. If I cancel or say no, it’s not because I don't want to be there or that I am flakey. I know it is frustrating, but my flare ups and pain causes so much difficulty for me. I have to put myself and my health first."
Boundaries For What You Can and Can't Do
“Being in constant pain is not only physically exhausting, it’s mentally exhausting too. When we are in a flare it means that our bodies are inflamed aka a “flare". This inflammation is full body meaning it is not only in our abdomen, it includes our joints, skin, and even our brain. This leads to brain fog and forgetfulness. Imagine running a marathon, even if you have trained for it, you are going to be mentally and physically exhausted afterwards. This is kinda what happens with endo. The constant pain means our bodies are always “running”, even when we sleep its half sleep because of the pain. So we are never able to fully recover. So my level of activity and engagement will vary from day to day. This is normal for endometriosis. Please be patient and understanding with me."
Boundary For What You Will and Won't Accept
This one is very important around the holidays when tensions are high and there tends to be a lot of stress.
"If you continue to treat me like xyz, then I will have to xyz"
It’s important to note that with boundaries, especially if you have family enmeshment where there are no family boundaries, you have to set clear expectations and have a clear action and actually follow through with the action. So if you say that you are going to leave, you actually have to leave and protect your energy.
Boundaries For Energy/Space
“I am going to go upstairs and get some alone time”
“I am going back to my hotel, I will be back at x time”
“I am going upstairs for a nap, I will be back down in a few hours.”
Boundaries For Topics You Will/Won’t Talk About
“Let’s not discuss this right now please”
“Let’s not discuss X at dinner tonight”
Boundaries For Your Time/Space
“We won't be able to stay the night
“I am really looking forward to spending time at dinner but I am going to stay at my hotel tonight”
“I am not eating xyz right now, but I really appreciate you taking the time to make it”
“I am not eating xyz right now because of my endometriosis, but I know an amazing recipe to make it allergy friendly, want to make it together/want me to make it and bring it for everyone to try?”
How to Thrive Through The Holidays Tip # 3: Ask For What You Need
People are not mind readers, they do not know what you need unless you tell them. So asking for what you need is a surefire way to get what you need.
Here are a few script examples for you.
Ask for friends/family to come hangout with you
“It's not possible for me to leave my house right now, but I would love your company and your support. Could you come over and hangout?"
“I am not feeling well enough to come to dinner but if you’re free tomorrow I would love it if you stopped by to hangout for a bit.”
Ask to be included and encourage them to treat you the same
"I am still the person I’ve always been, I just need to modify parts of my life. I might not be able to do everything I used to, however, I am still me. Please don’t stop inviting me places, I want to be included. But just know that if I have to cancel it doesn’t mean I don’t want to be there. I’m trying my best"
How to Thrive Through The Holidays Tip # 4: Combat Stress
The holidays can be an incredibly stressful time for many of us! Here are a few tips to help you combat stress during the holidays.
Rest when you can
Endometriosis is extremely exhausting! Planning time for rest during the day can help keep you going.
Don't skimp on your self care babe!
You are important and you can't pour from an empty cup! Self care isn’t selfish and it’s an amazing way to help you combat stress!
Self care examples
Eating healthy food, not eating your trigger foods, taking naps, if you can - a little exercise is great for us (yoga is amazing), doing activities that bring you joy and don't stress you out, going to bed early, drink in moderation or not at all, meditate, don't forget your morning routine!
How to Thrive Through The Holidays Tip # 5: Manage Your Expectations
You don’t have to do everything
You don’t have to do anything really! The holidays are a time for enjoying family and tradition, you 100% do not have to do anything you know will aggravate your endo symptoms (like eating a trigger food, cooking a huge meal for your whole family, etc) but if you really really want to cook dinner for example, maybe ask some of your other family members to help you and make it a group activity.
Honor where you are at at this time in your life
It’s perfectly okay to not be okay during the holidays. It’s okay to not have everything together. It is okay to let others take over for you. Honoring where you are with your endo journey is so important during the holidays because it can help you manage your expectations so you don’t expect too much out of yourself and then get mad because you couldn’t do xyz. You are doing the best you can, and that is 100% okay.
How to Thrive Through The Holidays Tip # 6: Don’t Restrict
Restricting is going to hinder your healing and make you feel like you are missing out! Just because you aren’t eating gluten or dairy or whatever right now doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy baking with your family or eating your favorite foods. You just might have to alter things a little to make alternatives.
Ask your family to make simple swaps in the traditional foods so you can all enjoy them together.
EX: Unsweetened coconut cream/milk for milk, GF all purpose flour for flour etc
Last Christmas the entire family was together for the first time in almost 10 years! And now I have all of these dietary restrictions. But my grandma is amazing and she made some simple swaps so I could still enjoy grandma's mashed potatoes (which are the best in the entire world, I don’t care what anyone else says!). This kinda goes back to #1 with open communication and letting your family know what is going on with you so they can accommodate and help!
How to Thrive Through The Holidays Tip # 7: The Abundance Mindset
The holidays can be a very tempting time to just gorge on whatever we want and “get back on track in the new year.” I’m not saying don’t have that cinnamon roll, I’m saying make some allergy friendly ones ladies!
Here is a mindset shift to help you stick to your lifestyle changes during the holidays <3
The 3 parts of the Abundance Mindset:
You don’t have to give up the things that you love, you’re just going to tweak them a little so they are better for you and don't aggravate your endo!
How to Thrive Through The Holidays Tip # 8: Plan Plan Plan
Plan so you can prepare. Plan ahead and pick out the events you 100% want to go to and then if you're feeling up to it you can pop in to the other events but you don't feel obligated to make it to everything.
Balancing your energy while living with endometriosis is so so important, especially during the holidays when there are so many parties and events we want to attend. Planning ahead can help you prepare yourself and know where to put your energy.
How to Thrive Through The Holidays Tip # 9: Always Have Your Endo Survival Kit
Mine includes my heat pad, Tiger Balm pain patches, cozy socks, soft jammies, a good book, headphones and iTunes, and electrolytes <3
I always have epsom salt too when I go home for the holidays or have my mom get some incase I have a flare then I can have a hot epsom salt bath!
How to Thrive Through The Holidays Tip # 10: Don’t Feel Guilty
Endometriosis is not something we contracted, there is nothing we did to deserve this, there is nothing we did to make it happen!
You should never feel guilty for having endometriosis and making yourself and your self care a priority. Never let someone make you feel guilty for having endometriosis! 🙄 Because that’s a load of crap!
There is no need for you to feel guilty for being in pain!
Your loved ones and the ones in your life should support you and care for you like they would if you had a cold.
I hope this was helpful babes! I love you all and I hope you have a stress free, pain free holiday <3
Chelsea Donahue | Endometriosis Coach
PS. Be sure to get my Endometriosis Holiday Recipe Guide here for amazing gluten free, dairy free holiday recipes.
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