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Chronic Illness and the Holidays

Experts describe strategies to let people with chronic illness enjoy the holidays.

Ways to Relieve Holiday Stress

An article in Arthritis Today offers three tips for managing holiday stress:

Daily rest and relaxation. Don't get stuck in a never-ending to-do list. Do a crossword puzzle or take a walk or a nap. The mental and physical break will rejuvenate you.

Prioritize. Decide how much shopping, cooking, or partying you can do and stick to it. Ask for help.

Volunteer. Take toys to the Marine Toys-for-Tots Foundation, take food to homebound seniors through Meals on Wheels, or provide goods and services for Hurricane Katrina victims. It will boost your spirit and remind you what the holidays are about.

Patch Adams, MD, the real doctor whose life was the basis of the Robin Williams' movie, would agree that volunteering is good for you. He heads the Gesundheit! Institute in Arlington, Va. It's the umbrella organization for his work to raise funds for a variety of projects, including the building of a free hospital in rural West Virginia.

He tells WebMD, "My best advice for someone with chronic illness coping with the holidays is to work out with their families not to give presents, but instead to give money to local families who are poor, and consume half of what they normally consume. Make it about the spirit of giving."

The numbers of people with chronic illness are growing, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, says Fennell. "People are living today with heart disease and cancers that were once considered terminal illnesses, not chronic illnesses."

The growing numbers also mean you're not alone. Next time you go to a holiday party, look around. Some of those healthy looking people may have chronic illnesses, too.

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Reviewed on November 23, 2005

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