5 Tips for Spending Thanksgiving with a Chronic Respiratory Illness

Thanksgiving MealWith Thanksgiving right around the corner, many people are busy choosing the right turkey, gathering Thanksgiving recipe ideas and festively decorating their homes in preparation for hungry dinner guests. But if you’re living with COPD or another chronic respiratory illness, Thanksgiving not only marks the beginning of holiday season, but it opens the door to social anxiety, increased stress and complex fears that may be difficult to overcome.

If you’re looking at the holidays with the eyes of a deer caught in the headlights, a little advanced planning and the following Turkey Day tips may be just the ticket to carry you through:

  • Arrive early – If you’re invited to Thanksgiving dinner and you use supplemental oxygen, plan to arrive a little early to find a comfortable spot and get yourself situated.  Avoiding the congestion caused by the arrival of multiple guests will lower your stress level, allowing you to enjoy your time with family and friends.


  • Avoid overeating – When it comes to food, too much of a good thing can make you uncomfortable; a full stomach may also press against your diaphragm and increase breathlessness. Limit yourself to small portions of your favorite holiday treats. Eat slowly and chew thoroughly. When someone passes you an extra portion, just say no!


  • Make it a potluck – If you’re brave enough to host Thanksgiving at your house this year, make it easy on yourself by turning the occasion into a potluck. After all, people love to share holiday recipes and it’s so much fun to try different foods! Make a list of what you need and ask each dinner guest to pick what they’d like to bring. As each category is filled, cross it off and move on to the next.


  • Ask someone else to do the dishes – There’s nothing worse than making a huge Thanksgiving meal and being stuck with the dishes. Delegate the dishes and other tedious tasks that zap your energy, to friends or members of your family. Ask your teenage niece or nephew to set the table. Assign napkin folding to the children. Getting your guests involved will make them feel useful, appreciated and a part of the family.


  • Let negative comments roll off your back – Let’s face it, family members are notorious for making cruel comments about your disease. Before you lash out with a negative response of your own, relax, take a deep breath and allow the comment to simply roll off your back. If that’s not your style, prepare some creative – yet kind – responses of your own to use when appropriate.

Don’t let a chronic respiratory illness spoil precious holiday moments with the people you love most. Plan ahead, ask for help when you need it and most of all, enjoy yourself.


Author: Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN


Photo Credit: Flickr, lotherington, food

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