ME/CFS Survival Guide to Christmas 2: Social Demands

I started this post over a week ago and then I came across this post from Toni Bernhard which is amazing and adds great depth to the advice that follows:

  1. Be realistic about what you think you can manage. Make sure you can rest the day before and after any engagement that might push you to your limits of energy. E.g. Christmas day!
  2. Be assertive, don’t let yourself be bullied or enticed into agreeing to something that you know will be too much. Be clear in your own mind about what you can cope with and if your needs can’t be accommodated say no.
  3. Listen to your body; be aware of when you are tiring. If you choose to push your limits a little because you’re have such a great time make sure that it’s a conscious choice and remember that you are also choosing the consequences! Make sure that you’ll be able to take it easy in the following days while you deal with the crash.
  4. In the same way be responsible for the choices you make about what you eat and drink. You may want to indulge in things that that you know could affect your well-being. Just make sure you factor the consequence into the decision making process! I know I will eat xmas pudding, I’ve made a no added sugar, gluten free one especially. But at the same time I’m aware that the sugars in the dried fruit will definitely have consequences for my gut symptoms, but I’ve made a conscious decision to deal with them without complaint!
  5. If you’re going visiting even just for an hour or two, ask in advance if your hosts can make a quite space available to you, to rest if you find you need it, especially if your driver is likely to want to stay longer that you. But also make sure that your driver understands how crucial it is that they don’t keep you out too long! If your driver or you hosts are unwilling or even hesitant to accommodate you don’t go! (The advantages of not driving yourself are that you can save that energy for the socialising and rest on the way home!)
  6. Ask your friends and family to make arrangements if they want to visit your house and not to call unannounced. Explain how planned visits enable you to pace.
  7. When people have come to visit don’t be afraid to rest when you need to. Don’t worry about being judged as unsociable. If anybody does judge you that says more about them lacking the kindness and caring that Christmas spirit should be all about! I aim to give what I can when I can but to be very clear about when I can’t. I know that is enough and nobody should expect any more of me!
  8. When you know you’re going to have to have contact with someone who has shown an unwillingness to understand your illness in the past, develop a thick skin. Don’t waste energy trying to explain to people unless they are willing to understand. Don’t let their ignorance rob you of any energy. Accept that some people just can’t understand and let unpleasant comments fly over your head. Feel satisfied that although you might be unwell, you’re a nicer person and you’re big enough let things go at this time of peace and joy!
  9. If you find that other people’s attitudes are getting to you, be kind to yourself. Take a little time out and allow yourself to feel what you need to feel. It’s not easy keeping a thick skin when you’re tired and exhausted. Then remind yourself that most people don’t mean to hurt you or be unkind, it’s just their lack of understanding talking. Take a few deep breaths and then wish that person happiness and well-being, understanding that their happiness is connected with them bringing happiness to others.
  10. Be present and appreciative of the joy of each moment. Actively pay attention to how nice it is to spend time with loved ones. Appreciate the fun you have. Take nothing for granted. You may not be able to spend much time having fun but if you pay it your full attention you might just get more out of it than other people!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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