Surviving Holidays and Special Occasions with Graves Disease

Last Updated on November 12, 2023 by Anna Baumann

Holidays, vacations, weddings, and special occasions are meant to be joyful times. But somehow they always seem to give us some level of stress. I think that’s because they require what I like to call the three Ps; Planning, People, and Payment. When you have the three Ps, plus Graves Disease, you have a recipe for stress (A stressipe! 🙂 ). But the good news is there are things we can do to help ourselves. Like everything Graves-related, there isn’t any one thing that works the same for everyone. But, we never know unless we try! As a fellow Gravester, here are my best tips for surviving holidays and special occasions with Graves Disease.

Invent things to look forward to

If there’s an event that you’re stressing about, plan something for when it’s over that you can look forward to. Or if you’re dealing with a series of events or it’s the holiday season, plan a happy thing for every stressy thing that you tick off of your to-do list.

I’ll tell you what I do so you can get some ideas. But know that it doesn’t have to be anything spectacular. Think of things that entertain you or give you peace. PLAN on doing them and you’ll have things to turn your focus to while you drudge away at the icky stuff.

  • Have a good book waiting for you. There’s nothing like escaping into another world without leaving your seat. The entire holiday season gives me anxiety because it’s very expensive and peopley. So what I do is find a few books that I really want to read and either go to Half Price Books (No affiliation! I just love them.) or download them onto my Kindle. It’s small and it’s silly, but it works! I promise myself that when I get home I’ll treat myself to some time with a good book and a hot cup of tea. And I truly look forward to it!
  • Save shows. Save up episodes of your favorite shows or, make plans to go to the theater to see a movie. Seeing a movie at the theater is such a special treat. Every time we go I’m reminded of how much I enjoy it!
  • Do nothing. I LOVE doing nothing. It’s a rare treat to have even a few hours of time with nothing that needs doing. I feel like promising yourself some solid nothing time will get you through almost anything.

Adjust your expectations

Adjusting our expectations is not the same as lowering them. We can project our most positive thoughts and feelings toward a special occasion as long as we add in a reality check. I’m a daydreamer and if there’s a special occasion on the horizon, I dream up perfect scenarios for how everything will go down. It’s a lot of fun but also dangerous because if I’m not careful, I forget that they’re just dreams and that nothing is perfect.

I think what I do is pretty common. We all look forward to things and envision what they’ll be like. It’s part of the fun because really, special times fly by so quickly and a lot of joy is found in the time leading up to them. The trick is to dream our dreams without drowning ourselves in the pressure of perfection.

When I catch myself dreaming of a perfect holiday or special time, I immediately add something ridiculous to the plot. Something like my Sister’s dog stealing a ham from the kitchen table or a squirrel falling down the fireplace and into the living room. It reminds me that things won’t always go as planned and that’s okay. Because when that happens I’m prepared to adjust my expectations and fully enjoy the fun that’s inevitably found in every plot twist.

Write it down

Organizing our thoughts and being well-prepared is great advice for surviving special occasions (and everyday life). If you’re anything like me, the second you agree to host or attend an event you get a surge of anxiety. Even if I offered to host and genuinely want to have or attend said event, the fluttery anxiety still happens. I find that I can calm it if I have a plan. And the best way for me to make plans is to write things down. I keep a paper planner in my purse along with a small lined notebook (and pens) for making extra lists. (BTW, I carry a LARGE purse.) I record event dates, times, and things I need to buy, make or bring in my planner. Then I enter the event date and time in my phone calendar as extra insurance.

If you don’t carry a purse, there’s an app I really like called ColorNote. (I have no affiliation with them, I just really like the app.) It’s perfect for those times when I only have my phone with me. I get ideas when I’m running around at work or out on a walk. So I jot things down in the app and then I can transfer the information to my planner if I need to.

  • Commit to a planner type and use it! You can’t predict everything or avoid every surprise. But you’ll rest easier knowing that you aren’t counting on just your foggy brain to keep you on task. Keep your planner with you either in your purse or car so you have it when you need it! (Check out a planner I made just for us Gravesters here!)
  • Use a notebook with an inside pocket. I find it’s the best way to organize lists. I keep the notebook in my purse and the lists and information I currently need in the inside pocket. It’s a great system that works well for me.
  • Choose a notepad/calendar app. If you’re not a paper person, there are plenty of helpful apps to keep you organized and help you remember things. ColorNote is pretty basic which is probably why I like it so much. But try some out so you get a feel for what you like so that you’ll really use it.

Downscale the decorations

Decorations can be lovely, but they can also cause unnecessary stress. Maybe you love decorating for every season, holiday, and occasion. If that’s the case, and it’s truly a source of fun and entertainment for you, then have at it. But even without a chronic illness, most of us don’t have the time, energy, money, or storage space for it. Even if you’re hosting an event, you’re not obligated to turn your house upside down. And it’s really not necessary to create a festive atmosphere.

  • Check out Pinterest! Pinterest is a fun search engine and the perfect place to find quick and easy DIY decoration ideas for any event or occasion.
  • Shop at the Dollar Store! Although it is the $1.25 store now, they have a lot of fun stuff! Even if it doesn’t last for more than one season or event, you won’t spend enough on it to stress over losing it.
  • Make small, practical changes. If you’re hosting an event, spend your decorating dollars and energy on usable items. Event-specific plates, cups, napkins, and tablecloths set a festive mood without making an extra mess or breaking the bank.   
  • Decorate with scent. Scents have a powerful effect on our mood and are a fun alternative to physical decorations. For example, instead of hauling out the holly, scent your home with a beautiful pine scent.
    • Diffusing essential oils is a popular option.
    • I love wax warmers and soy wax melts because you can switch scents easily, they last a long time, and they have a great scent throw.
    • I also use MojiLife’s AirMoji. The system investment is closer to that of using essential oils, but it’s modern and clean. The pods come in a fun variety of scents and they also have a great scent throw.

Maintain your healthy habits

Treat yourself! But don’t overindulge. If you normally avoid or limit certain foods or food groups, keep that in mind when you’re planning menus or navigating a holiday buffet table.

  • Cook with you in mind. If you’re hosting, plan a menu that you can eat. If you’re attending and bringing a dish to share, make sure it’s something you can enjoy too. You deserve the comfort of knowing there’s at least one dish in the mix that won’t trigger an uncomfortable reaction.
  • Eat smart. Be mindful of what you eat so you don’t stuff yourself. It’s not worth the discomfort. Holidays especially are “eating events”. It’s easy to graze on appetizers so much that when it comes to the main course, you have nowhere to put it. Then there’s the holy of holies; dessert! Treat yourself, but don’t overindulge.
  • Practice mindfulness. Check in with yourself often to see where your emotions are and to know if you need to do anything about them. Do what you need to ease feelings of stress and anxiety before they spin out of control. Breathe, meditate, journal, take a walk, or talk to a friend.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water during the holidays, on vacation, and at special events. It’s so important because it helps everything function well. Especially for us Gravesters, it can reduce brain fog, ease heat surges, and boost your immune system. All important for enjoying special times!

Graves Disease can throw a stressful spin on anything. The tips I have here are pretty simple, but the little things often matter the most! Never underestimate small changes because they really do make a big difference. So, take a pause in your event planning right now so you can make a plan for being healthy and happy as you plow through it all. Stay well, my friends!

The Graves Disease Organizer offers monthly and weekly planning pages. There is also weekly space for symptom tracking and journaling. You can cut off meal planning and shopping lists on the dotted lines and bring them with you to the store! AND as an extra bonus, there are Password Keeper and Reading Log pages. Because we Gravesters need all the memory help we can get!

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