Seizing Summer: How to Make the Most of Your Vacation with a Chronic Illness

Photo for summer holiday blog with sophrology

Summer holidays are here! It’s important that you have a break, rest and recuperate, especially if you live with an autoimmune disease like MS or a chronic illness, fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for instance.

I am a firm believer that our conditions do not define us and they shouldn’t hinder us from having a great summer.

Here are my essential tips to ensure you have a great summer.

Plan Your Holiday In Advance

Your journey

Travelling can be stressful and it is well known that stress does not serve auto-immune conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis or Lupus. Planning your trip in advance will ensure a smooth experience. 

This includes booking your tickets early and making sure you have time for connections. It’s exhausting to run with a suitcase to catch a plane or train. Choosing longer connection times allow you to sit down, read a book or watch people go by and recuperate.

Change your mindset: as soon as you lock your door, you’re on holiday. Enjoy the journey as soon as it starts rather than rushing to get to the final destination. Take it easy as soon as you depart.

Your travel documents

For peace of mind it’s a good idea to get a travel insurance. One thing to know is that travel insurances are cheaper when you book them as soon as you book your travel.

You also want to have medical cover and for this you can get GHIC or EHIC card. You can apply for the cards on the NHS website.

Also make sure that your passport is still valid, give yourself plenty of time to apply for VISA if you need one, and keep all your travel documents in one folder.

Packing wisely

Finally prepare a list of the items you want to pack and buy everything in advance to avoid last minute rush.

Consider the weather, the activities you’re going to do. Take the clothes that are appropriate for your destination.

Also ensure you have all the medications you need and the necessary documents if you need to take them onto a plane. Take your heating pads or pillows if you suffer with chronic pain.

Sophrology practices and tips for a good journey

  • Visualise your trip going smoothly with you being calm and peaceful through it. Even if something unexpected happens during your trip you’ll find you’re dealing with it with more ease.
  • Stretch your body – when you travel you’re not always sitting in the most comfortable position. The side stretch exercise involves shifting your weight on one leg, lifting the arm up while breathing in, holding and stretching the side of the body where you shifted your weight. Do it three times on each side and three times with both arms up.

Audrey Zannese doing a whole body stretch, a sophrology exercise for summer holidays

Take Breaks Before You’re Tired

 

This is valid for the journey and also during the holidays, especially when you live with a condition that flares-up such as fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The pitfall to avoid is wanting to do too much by fear of missing out. 

Plan for rest days, avoid over-scheduling activities so that you give yourself time to relax and recover from physical and emotional exertion. 

Pacing yourself is still valid during the vacations. Take your time when you go sightseeing, have short breaks during activities when you can. For this the best is to regularly check in to sense how you feel and my best tip is take the break BEFORE you’re tired.

Sophrology practices and tips for restful breaks

  • Micro pause– if you can close your eyes and notice how you’re placed. Adjust your posture to be comfortable. Scan your body.  How does it feel? Can you release some unnecessary tensions? For instance, loosen your jaw, drop your shoulders, release your hands. This micro pause takes only 30 seconds to 1 minute. Do it several times during the day.
  • Relaxing breathing – first welcome your breathing as it is. Then start extending your exhalations. Count 15 to 20 breaths with long exhale.

Enjoy The Present Moment

 

Planning and organising are essential skills but they won’t serve you if you get so caught up that you’re overwhelmed by them. If that’s the case, it’s a sign you’re being too rigid with your planning. Perhaps you’ve got a tendency to please people around you and wanting to do more than you can actually do or you may be an achiever which leads you to push over your limits.

It is okay if you don’t do everything that you had planned or if some things don’t go according to plan. Flexibility and adaptability are two other essential skills as important as planning and organising. 

Take the holidays as an opportunity to do what’s right for you. Be in the moment, be spontaneous, be in your sensations. It’s a time cultivate self-compassion and kindness. 

Sophrology practices and tips to fully enjoy your summer

  • Pay attention to your five senses. Everyday bring your awareness to what you see, hear, smell, taste and feel, and especially the positive sensations that you experience through those senses.
  • Keep a gratitude journal – everyday note three things you feel grateful for during the holiday – you might connect more deeply with loved ones, you might have more time for yourself, or you’re really enjoying discovering that particular place and culture.
  • If you’d like to cultivate self-compassion and would like to do it with a group of other women who are living with a chronic illness I can strongly recommend Shabnam Rakhiba’s Facebook Group: Unapologetic Women Collective: Chronic illness support

Have a Digital Break

 

Although I’ve recommended a Facebook Group to you, I believe the summer holidays are a time to enjoy experiences outside of social media. Unfortunately some people are more concerned with having “instagram-able” holidays rather than connecting, discovering and being in the experience.

Don’t get me wrong, social media can be a really good place to connect with like-minded people. Unfortunately there is another aspect which is that you end up constantly comparing yourself to others. If you have a strong inner critic this leaves you with a feeling of not being good enough. 

Take this as an opportunity to put yourself first. Remember that self-care is not selfish and you deserve that break. This is your time to do what you love and be with the people you love.

Tips for a digital break

  • Inform people you’re having a digital break
  • Set auto-responses for your email
  • Disable notifications. 

Take a digital break during summer holiday

 

Have A Lovely Summer

 

I wish you a lovely summer holiday.

Remember that happiness resides in simple things and your holiday can be a chance to deepen your appreciation for the little moments that bring profound joy.

Final take away: cherish your value of self-care.

 

Audrey Zannese - Step Into Sophrology - anxiety and pain management expert

Audrey Zannese, PhD, nature lover, MS warrior and sophrologist. Here to help those living with a chronic illness, pain, anxiety and fatigue to take back control of their body and health to live their lives the way they want rather than being dictated by their condition.

Sophrology was recommended to her by a French neurologist and it had such powerful and positive impact on her life that she left academia to become a sophrology practitioner.

Follow her on Facebook or Instagram

 

If you’d like to take the summer as an opportunity to improve your wellbeing and try sophrology, I do offer online sophrology courses

 

 

Image credits:

Blog image by Analogicus from Pixabay

Side stretch image by Audrey Zannese

Social media image by Thomas Ulrich from Pixabay

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