So let’s be real. The holidays are stressful for everyone! But they can be extra-stressful when you are dealing with a chronic illness like endo. We want to be able to show up for our friends and family and have a joy-filled holiday season. This definitely means avoiding endo flares!
Let’s take a look at some strategies to help you have the best holiday season without missing out on all the fun (or food!).
Step 1: Reduce your stress bucket
We all have stress in our lives and this is unavoidable, especially when we are heading into the holiday season. There are family dynamics to navigate, holiday shopping, finances to consider, and of course managing your endo amongst all of that.
I like to think of stress management with the bucket analogy. You have a bucket which can only contain so much stress at one time before it starts spilling over. And we all know what THAT feels like. That’s when we feel so burnt out and fatigued that we just feel like lying in bed and not doing anything. Or we lash out at the closest loved one who gets in the way. Or maybe we get so anxious and overwhelmed about the many, many things on our to-do list that we freeze and don’t get to any of them.
We’ve all been there. And of course getting to that point is no good for your endo. Stress has huge impacts on your entire nervous system, endocrine system, and even digestive system. It can directly impact inflammation and pain and even your immune response.
So what do we do?
Well, first, take a look at what sources of stress you can avoid putting in your bucket in the first place. Are there things you can say no to? This takes practice, but it is a necessary piece for reducing the impacts of stress. Decide what opportunities are most critical or most important to you and learn to be okay with saying no to the rest.
Are there tasks you can delegate to someone else, even if it won’t be done quite as perfectly as you would like? Are there to-do items on your list that you can just live without and cross off altogether?
We can also reduce sources of internal stress by avoiding foods that we know are an issue for us and foods that will cause major blood sugar spikes.
And then we also need to look at ways to take stress out of your bucket along the way. Taking walks, yoga, meditation, time in nature, time with a pet or loved one, journaling, take your pick. Carve out time and space to make those things happen to actively reduce your stress levels. Allow yourself space to REST! You will thank yourself! Especially when you find how this type of “work” helps you with avoiding endo flares.
Step 2: Think about what’s on your fork
It can be so tempting during the holidays to just let go of all of your regular dietary “rules” and eat whatever in the world you want. But where will that get you at the end of the day? If you are indulging in sugar, gluten, alcohol, and processed foods for days on end, it will likely leave you feeling not your best.
I will link at the bottom of this article to my recent articles about the best and worst foods for endometriosis if you don’t already have a game plan on that. Definitely give those a read!
So how do we go about avoiding these foods, but still being able to gather with loved ones and have a great time?
Well, there are a few options here. The first is to offer to host the event. This will give you the most control over the food that is served and the ingredients that are included. If this feels more stressful than stress-relieving to you, move on to option 2.
Option 2 is to bring some dishes with you that you know you can eat. Maybe make your own paleo dessert to share that avoids some of the more inflammatory ingredients. You could also bring a gluten free gravy, stuffing, or alternative version of any of your favorite dishes. That way you always know there will be something for you and you can feel comfortable and at ease.
A third option here, depending on the event you are going to, is to pre-eat. This means you eat something healthy before attending the event so if there is not anything you can enjoy at least you won’t starve. You can still nibble on side dishes and enjoy the company around you.
Step 3: Communicate and plan in advance!
Nothing is more stressful than the last-minute rush and also nothing is more stressful than showing up to an event and realizing there is nothing you can eat. This is where planning and communication are key, especially when your goal is avoiding endo flares.
I used to just show up to events and cross my fingers that there would be something I could eat. This would often leave me nibbling on iceberg lettuce and mixed nuts and starving! Now I have learned that it is best to communicate with the host ahead of time whenever possible.
This doesn’t, of course, mean making demands that every food must be endo-flare friendly. But you can let the host know that you may not be able to eat everything and find out what they will be serving. You can offer to bring a dish to share that will fit your needs so it doesn’t leave them feeling put out.
Truthfully though this leaves everyone feeling better. I, as a host, love to know in advance when someone has specific dietary needs. That way I can plan ahead myself and have something to serve them. This feels so much better to all parties rather than finding out while dinner is being served that one of your guests can’t eat any of it!
So don’t be shy, speak up for yourself and kindly make everyone aware of your needs and the reasons behind it (as much as you feel comfortable sharing).
Step 4: Enjoy yourself!
Do your best with steps 1-3, but at the end of the day the most important step to avoiding endo flares is that you allow yourself to just have a good time. One glass of wine won’t be the end of the world (most likely). Sugar in small amounts may be okay for you too. You know your own body better than anyone, you know your own limitations. Listen to your intuition above all else.
Much love and happy holidays, my friend!
Want to get a jumpstart on your nutrient-dense diet for endo? Click here to download your FREE Endo Reset 7 Day Meal Plan.
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