Having a Healthy & Happy Christmas

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by Thomas Crawford

The festive season is here already. I’m by no means a Scrooge, but to be honest I never really get too excited about it. Most Christmas times for me follow a similar pattern but this year, in some ways, it will be a little different because this is my first year living with an ileostomy. To be honest, living with a stoma day to day, now that I’ve got used to it, doesn’t really involve too much extra thought or consideration. At the same time the festive season is very different to everyday life. We tend to put ourselves under extra stress physically and mentally. 

Thomas Christmas blog 1

From a physical perspective, many of us over indulge with alcohol and food, sleep less and let our exercise regime slide away until the new year. Mentally we might stress about money, the presents we need to get for other people and on top of this it’s a cold time of year and we can find ourselves “under the weather”. I actually had my first flare of Crohn’s disease just after Christmas last year and all of the above combined to create the perfect cocktail for a stress-martini. I want to share some ideas of how I plan to enjoy my festive season this year to the full by staying healthy.

Elf -Awareness is the best place to start (sorry I meant self-awareness). I’m far from an expert on Crohn’s, stomas, diet or exercise but I’ve lived in this body for 28 years. If I can’t listen to my own body, who or what will I ever listen to? I’m more aware of my physical and mental state and I’ve learned to listen to my body better since having Crohn’s. So I’m aware of certain difficulties I might face as a result of a typical festive season, but for every difficulty there is a solution.

Alcohol and dehydration- it will be consumed and very much enjoyed by me, but maybe in a more moderate fashion than my other Northern Irish family and friends. I prepare by hydrating before, during and after a drinking session. It may even be the secret to avoiding a hangover, but shush...don’t tell anyone, hangovers stop us being drunk all the time! :) [link to the me+ hydration pack]

Diet - I will struggle not to munch on anything I can get my hands on, and rightly so, it’s Christmas (my family don’t call me the Pieman for nothing). However, I will try to eat smaller amounts, little and often. I also notice a massive difference by chewing my food well and taking my time to enjoy it. I will stop eating early evening to try to avoid getting up through the night to empty my bag.

General stress - This is a big one for me and the most difficult to control. Stress can come from all different angles but there are some coping mechanisms that are definitely worth trying. Since my surgery I learned some basic meditation techniques that really have helped me. I always thought meditation was a bit ‘out there’ but slowing down and taking ten minutes out of your day to breath and clear your mind is like a yoga session for your mind and strangely I haven’t had the urge to hug any trees just yet.

Thomas yoga pose Christmas blog

Yoga and other exercise have really helped me recover physically from surgery. A combination of exercise and meditation really help me switch off, especially before bed, the time where stress and worries can sometimes get a hold, preventing a good sleep. Lack of sleep contributes to my stress ten-fold, so a little festive nap will go a long way! If I stay up late I’ll make sure to catch up. I sometimes even take a zinc and magnesium supplement which can help me get a deeper sleep, however I do find this can affect my output.

Last but not least, I will enjoy being here. At one point my family did not expect to have me here this Christmas and trying not to sound cliché, but life is unpredictable, we can’t live every moment like it’s our last but we can remember to savour and make the most of our time together. It’s a time of year for that reason, to enjoy the company of those we love. Now go EAT, DRINK and be MERRY! :)