The holiday season is a time for joy – but it can also be a very stressful time, particularly if you are living with a chronic illness. Lene Andersen is a writer, health and disability advocate, and photographer who has lived with rheumatoid arthritis since early childhood. In her newest book, Chronic Christmas: Surviving the Holidays with a Chronic Illness, Andersen provides “an Advent calendar of tips for a sane holiday season.”
For each of the 25 days leading up to Christmas, Andersen has a chapter that discusses a source of holiday stress and provides practical tips for enjoying yourself anyways. One of my favorite things about the book is that it is addressed to individuals living with chronic illnesses and their loved ones. Each chapter starts out with a section dedicated to readers living with a chronic illness, followed by a section with suggestions for how loved ones can help too. Personally, I also particularly love how all of her suggestions come with a healthy dose of humor to make them more digestible!
For those of us living with chronic illnesses, Andersen offers encouraging ideas to help you stay motivated and enjoy the holiday season despite any health issues you may be facing. She recommends shortcuts to save energy and gives advice on how to break down tasks that might otherwise feel overwhelming. She advises you on how to prepare in advance for unavoidable stresses, like the inevitable situation where someone at a holiday party offers you a miracle cure. Perhaps most importantly, Andersen provides gentle and loving reminders to take care of yourself in the process, because she truly understands what it feels like to live with a chronic illness. In some of the sections, it felt like she was speaking directly to me! There are also some surprises thrown in that give you a peek into Andersen’s favorite holiday traditions.
For those who have a loved one living with a chronic illness, you may wish to help but not know the best way to do so. Andersen offers practical tips for providing assistance to a loved one with a chronic illness in a respectful and supportive manner. I think these sections are particularly unique, because they provide advice and support for caregivers – who are often left to figure out how best to help on their own. Andersen even provides a list with gift ideas for people who are living with chronic illnesses in case your loved one is difficult to shop for!
If you read Andersen’s book and take her suggestions to heart, you can share photos of your holiday adventures on social media using the hashtag #ChronicChristmas. I also encourage you to visit her award winning blog, The Seated View, where she writes about life with rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, and disability and shares her passion for photography.