Merry Sick-Mas: What To Do If You’re Sick At Christmas Time

Christmas in Australia is hot.  Really hot.  A couple of days ago it was 45o C (for you farenheiters, that’s 113o, aka horrendous.)  It’s not the time of year people expect to come down with the sniffles.  But, as we immune-impaired types know all too well, it can happen to the best of us at any time.  Viruses in fact, do not know it’s Christmas (perhaps if we sang them a Band-Aid style Christmas tribute they’d get on board?) and delight in striking down the stressed, tired, panicky masses as they converge together in shopping centres, parties and restaurants.

Thanks to one such virus, both my partner and I will be sick for Christmas, or as we are calling it at Chez-Get Well, “Sick-Mas”.  Of course for me, a cold is never enough.  I have to go that one step further and develop post-viral infections.  This time my innocuous cold has become a sinus infection and, oh it gets better, pneumonia!  Yes, in 45o heat.  I truly am a Christmas miracle.  My partner has fortunately only acquired the cold and knowing his oxen immune system will fight it off in a matter of days, but being a male we must treat this with precaution as all colds in men are dangerously close to becoming man flu at any moment and must be treated as such from the outset.  Safe to say, we’re both pretty sick right now and Christmas is tomorrow.


So what do you do if you’re sick at Christmas?  Ok, first things first: Don’t Panic.  I first took this sage kernel of advice from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (a brilliant read if you need something to do these holidays) but have had it reinforced many times by my therapist.  It feels dreadful now but it’s not the end of the world.  In Hitchhikers it actually was the end of the world and even then panicking did them no good, so there you are.  The point is, whatever happens, we will cope.

Christmas comes but once a year but there will be many more to come.  Christmas is never perfect.  How many times have you tried to make it perfect and it hasn’t worked?  The turkey was dry, the cats trashed the tree, your dress didn’t fit, or your family bickered all day?  It doesn’t matter.  No occasion is ever perfect (whatever that means) and sometimes it’s in those imperfections that a spontaneous thing called fun happens.

There’s an episode of Sex And The City where Charlotte gets married and the wedding she had hoped would be perfect (there’s that word again!) turns into a disaster.  Her husband laughs it off and says, the worse the wedding the better the marriage.  Once Charlotte lets go of her expectations of perfection, she can actually have fun in the moment.  This brings me to my second point, find the humour.


When things go wrong it is funny.  It may not seem funny at the time, but next year, you will think so.  Probably.  Look, just try, ok?

Look for the humour in the situation.  You’ve prepared a delicious feast and can’t taste a thing?  How ironic!  Planned a dream vacation and now you have to postpone?  It sounds like one of those hilarious movies!  Yes it’s a bummer and it’s usually funnier when it happens to someone else, but you can do without these luxuries right now and when the time comes that you can have them, you’ll enjoy them much more if you’re fit and healthy.


This is actually advice from my Dad.  His birthday falls 2 days before Christmas so I was too sick to attend his party in addition to cancelling Christmas Day.  He wasn’t in the least upset, he simply said, “Toria, you need to look after #1.  Don’t push yourself for anyone, especially at this time of year”.  This is pretty insightful considering how much many of us put ourselves through in December.  There’s present shopping, meal planning, food prep, gift wrapping, card writing, baking, cleaning and decorating, all the while carrying on with full-time work, daily chores and of course, ensuring we look consistently fabulous throughout.  All of this should be performed with an air of effortless grace as though “by magic”.  Well I got news for you, it ain’t effortless- it’s bloody hard work!  And when I fell sick this year a week before the big day, I knew there was no way all those things could happen without me keeling over.

Put your own needs first for once: you need to rest and heal.  If you have a function at your house- cancel it.  These things happen!  People will not die as a result and they will find something else to do.  I’m sure your house is fabulous, but most people do actually have fairly comfortable homes with food and stuff in them.  If you feel particularly guilty, you can offer to donate ingredients from your fridge to your shunned guests (like the roast you won’t be cooking) but tell them to otherwise stay away.  You are not being rude, you are sick and your body does not care what promises you’ve previously made.  Any half-reasonable person will understand and empathise with this.  If they are not reasonable, why did you want them coming over anyway?

Now outsource as much as you can.  If there’s time, order an online delivery of groceries and buy plenty of ready-made food like rotisserie chicken, potato salad, sliced cold cuts, dips and crackers, microwaveable pudding and pouring custard.  Kids are happy with frozen pizza, Froot Loops and lollies, and you can always make like the New York Jewish community and order in Chinese for Christmas dinner.

Engage the services of your family.  If you have little ones and you really need help, get parents, siblings or even friends to help you with gift shopping and wrapping.  You can order a lot of gifts online and have others collect them for you.  Some generous souls might even take the kids for a festive lunch and bring them home later, giving you a rest.  Attention starved grandparents are a godsend for this kind of thing.  It might seem a lot to ask but people love that whole “giving” thing this time of year, so put it out there and see what happens.

Now set yourself up with whatever you want.  Pillows, Ferrero Rochers, kids’ Christmas movies (I recommend Home Alone, Babe, and any of the Santa Paws movies for cute, albeit schmaltzy, festive antics) and chill out.  You are sick, remember?  So relax.  Take this as an opportunity to look up random things on the internet, email your friends, and maybe catch up on a couple of entertaining blogs (wink wink!).


Now to the sappy stuff.  I know it’s a cliché, but seriously, try to be grateful for what you have.  While it sure does mightily suck that you can’t taste the French brie you splashed out on for the festive season, at least you have food, there are many who don’t.  You might be sick, but guess what?  There are people much sicker than you.  There are people in hospital, people with terminal illness, families with kids in intensive care.  Put it in perspective – you are (I’m assuming) a comfortably well-off (enough to have an internet connection) person in a developed nation with a home, a computer, clean water, hygienic food, and access to medical attention.  I’m not saying don’t feel sorry for yourself (go for it!  You’re #1 remember?) but once you’ve done that, get real.  On a global scale, you’re actually one of the lucky ones.  If you’ve got a little cash to spare, maybe even consider giving some of it to a charitable cause.  Personally, I like to donate to animal charities at this time of year as I know all too well, Summer is kitten season, and the shelters are overflowing.  But if that’s not your thing, look for a cause that’s close to your heart.  Those cats/pandas/homeless people probably needed that money for food, shelter and medicine much more than you needed a giant ham and trip to Bali, and while you might not feel any better physically for having donated, I guarantee giving will make you feel good in your heart.  Unless you have some kind of heart related illness… then I don’t know how it will affect it.  I’m not a doctor!

If you’re not well in the holidays, rest up and don’t stress.  You’re not alone, there’s plenty of us, it’s not that big a deal.  Take care.  Put yourself first and have a Merry Sick-Mas!


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