Last updated 13th December, 2018

There can be enormous pressure to make the festive season an all round happy and joyous occasion, what with organising the right food, perfect presents, beautiful decorations and, of course, having productive conversations. Inevitably, the pressure piles up – especially when you consider that Christmas is often a period of conflicted emotions and fraught dynamics with loved ones.

It is why we developed the Helpful AAA Holiday Strategy, a tried and tested approach that we come back to every year when the festive period arrives. In fact, the Helpful AAA Holiday Strategy can be beneficial when you are faced with any occasions that usually involve extra people in your life – think birthdays, weddings, Easter, etc.

Knowing what the issues and triggers are likely to be for you and having support and strategies in place can mean the difference between successfully surviving Christmas or risking the challenging aspects undermining the easier, more enjoyable parts of the whole period.

Before we look at the Helpful AAA Holiday Strategy, there are three really important things you should aim to do over the Christmas period:

1. Manage expectations

Christmas is a time when you are almost certainly going to be surrounded by people. Friends and family will want to come and visit and you’ll need to be sociable (even if you don’t really enjoy doing so). That’s why it is important to manage expectations – both yours and other people’s.

At the end of the day, Christmas doesn’t need to be “perfect”. It’s just another day in the year and so you don’t need to push yourself just to make others happy – especially if it will escalate your symptoms.

Let people know this in a way that’s comfortable for you. For example, if a voice call or face-to-face conversation feels a bit overwhelming, drop your friends and family a text or an email instead. Manage their expectations accordingly and you’ll have have a more enjoyable time as a result.

2. Keep an eye on your indicators

We’ve all got our individual indicators. Warning lights that tell us when we are overexerting ourselves. Keep an eye on yours at what is almost certainly going to be a busy time for you.

Look out for symptoms like headaches, back pain and your mood changing. Know your limits and do not breach them. Doing so isn’t likely to warrant the potential costs to your health.

3. Know your baseline

You already know your activity capacity, your baseline. Set realistic expectations of what you can and can’t do, and stick to them.

While it might seem like a great idea to go for a long family walk after Christmas dinner, refrain if you know it will exacerbate your symptoms/condition. If you’ve managed people’s expectations beforehand, situations like this shouldn’t be an issue.

By knowing your baseline and sticking to it (your actual baseline, not one you would like), you’ll boost your chances of enjoying sustainable, stable health. Push too hard and the repercussions in the New Year could see you going backwards once more.

Perhaps you’ll be spending this festive season alone for whatever reason. If you are, our invitation is to embrace the experience and utilise it to make the festive days your own and create your own traditions. With solitude comes the opportunity to experience harmony away from any fraught dynamics and really focus on your recovery.

And now for The Helpful AAA Holiday Strategy:


Having specific advice for yourself makes all difference. Reminding yourself not to be idiot is neither kind nor assertive. Reminding yourself that you can chose to leave at any moment, having the number for a taxi and cash in your pocket, that’s more helpful.


Identifying who your allies are and making sure you have their contact details over the holidays means that you can tune in when you need to. Notice the allies who aren’t as obvious like for example a cousin or the waiter at the hotel.


It is universally accepted that you can interrupt a conversation to go the loo. This gives you the few minutes that can make the difference between escalation and navigation as it allows you to catch your breath and emotions before they spiral out of control.

Make time to go to your favourite place.

Go with someone you trust and yes, that could be yourself.

Bring a notebook or a pad so you can jot down notes

Outline your strategy for Helpful AAA Holiday

Well done! … and breathe…

The Helpful Crew and I wish you a nourishing and nutritious festive season.