Sometimes you know you need to do something good for yourself, but you keep putting it off. This is exactly what happened when I received an advance copy of Chronic Christmas: Surviving the Holiday with a Chronic Illness. But once I did, I instantly felt my heart rate going down, I started thinking about things outside of my current crisis, and I started getting excited about the holidays. As I read, I had a few questions for my amazing friend, Lene Andersen, which she has eloquently answered below. My wish for you now is to order the book ASAP (but definitely before December 1 so that you can start following the Advent calendar approach to this book) and once it arrives, put on your favorite pj’s, snuggle up with a pot of tea, cup of coffee, or glass of wine, and start figuring out ways both you and your caregiver can make this the best holiday season ever focusing on fabulous day by day self-care tips. Warning: you will crave chocolate as you read this book. Once you start taking advantage of the advice in this book, make sure you take photos of yourself accomplishing these fun activities and share on social media using #ChronicChristmas. Enjoy!
Thanks very much for hosting me, Cathy! Your friendship is one of the shining lights in my life and it means the world to be able to stop by on your excellent blog.
1. How did you originally come up with this idea for the blog posts? What made you stay excited enough about it that you decided to make it into a book?
When I was growing up in Denmark, my mother would make me an Advent calendar. I remember being really excited about opening a small present every day. In November of last year, I was starting to hear people with chronic illness talk a lot about not looking forward to the holidays because of the stress. Christmas is my favourite holiday and I wanted to find a way to help others really enjoy the whole process of preparing for The Big Day. Somehow these two elements merged in my brain and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
I had such a good time doing the posts and there was such a positive response to them that I knew I wanted to do something more. A few months later, I had a serious illness and the recovery took a long time. During those months, I had trouble waking up the writing part of my brain until I remembered my Chronic Christmas project. Writing this book helped me access the writer within again and I had a blast doing it.
2. What is your favorite day? Why?
You know, it changes depending on the day and my mood, but there are several that are high on the list. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the chapters that’s a favourite is the one about baking cookies. A close second is the chapter about celebrating disasters because of the stories I share in it about some of the Andersen family Christmas legends.
3. Sometimes when life becomes overwhelming, sitting down and doing something good for ourselves seems to add to the stress. For someone in this position, which two days would you recommend they read?
You’re absolutely right — when you’re buried under a mountain of things to do, actually being good to yourself can seems like just another overwhelming task. But taking some time for self-care can actually make everything else seem less stressful. It helps you take a much-needed breath and get some perspective.
If you’re feeling like a stress monkey, I suggest that you start with focusing in. That is, taking some time to think about what is quintessential Christmas to you and trying to shed all the extraneous stuff. And if you don’t feel like you have the time to think, do it while you’re in the shower. There is very little else calling for your attention at that time and it will help you start the day off with a sense of calm, rather than freaking out. The second is about embracing the concept of Good Enough. Remembering that the quest for perfection is futile, so you might as well start thinking about what is enough and stop there. It gives you more time for what is truly important at this time of year.
4. I love that you added ideas for caregivers. Can you explain why saying “I’m setting aside a day to help you before Christmas. When would you like me to come over, and what would you like me to do?” is so important instead of asking, “can I help?”
When you live with chronic illness, your life can be overwhelming and that can make it next to impossible to identify exactly what you need. You may also feel uncomfortable about asking for help, not wanting to impose. When a family member or friend is very specific about giving the gift of a day of help, it can cut straight past all that emotional baggage. And it is the kind of gift that is much more important than another knickknack or sweater you don’t need.
5. As people receive their books, what do you hope they will feel/experience?
The first thing I hope happens is a good giggle about the cover. I love the cover of Chronic Christmas — looking at it makes me happy and I hope others will have the same feeling. As people read the book, I hope they experience a lightening of pressure and that it helps them begin to let go of the stress. Most of all, I hope that it helps them get back in touch with the wonder of the Christmas season and being able to truly savor everything that is joyful about this time of year.