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Sick on a Holiday? 10 Ways to Make Things Better

Jule has experience in counseling, education, and business. She currently facilitates employee development classes for government agencies.

Feeling ill on a holiday is no fun, and if it's never happened to you before, it can be difficult to know what to do.

Feeling ill on a holiday is no fun, and if it's never happened to you before, it can be difficult to know what to do.

How to Deal With Being Sick on a Special Occasion

So, it's a major holiday, and you woke up feeling sick. How do you get through it? What can you do? Here are 10 tips that can make it easier to cope when you are sick on a holiday. Whether you are sick for New Year's Eve, Hannukah, Ramadan, Diwali, Easter, Valentine's Day, or Christmas, these tips can help you deal with your situation and make your predicament easier on yourself and others.

1. Accept That You Are Sick

The first and most important thing to do is admit to yourself that you are sick. Avoiding the truth will not help you get better. If you are too sick to participate in your holiday events, the best thing to do is accept this fact as soon as possible so you can communicate with others and make alternate arrangements if need be. Pushing through and forcing yourself might work when you feel a little out of it, but it definitely will not work if you are really sick on a holiday.

The takeaway: Admit you are sick—don’t ignore it. Once you admit it, you have a chance to deal with the situation effectively. If you deny it, you are likely to create a crisis for yourself later in the day.

Sick on a Holiday? It's no fun, but you have options.

Sick on a Holiday? It's no fun, but you have options.

2. Take Stock of the Situation

Now that you have admitted that you are sick on this holiday, you can begin to take stock of the situation. How sick are you? Are you able to do some activities or none at all? Do you need to plan a doctor visit, or is this an illness you can handle at home? How important are any gatherings? What is it the really needs to be done? Are people coming to your house, or are you going to visit them? Are you in a place where you can take care of yourself?

The takeaway: Just get a sense of what is going on. Don’t jump right to a solution. Take a look at the facts first.

3. Ask for Help

Whether or not you plan to participate in any holiday activities, ask other people to help you—even if it is in small ways. Let a friend run an errand for you. Have someone else do the driving. Ask a relative to pick up medicine, drop off the kids, or send a text for you. Ask for anything that will make things easier for you.

The takeaway: Don’t be afraid to receive help from others. That’s a huge part of taking the stress out of being sick on a holiday.

4. Avoid Contact if You Might Be Contagious

If you know you are not contagious, then it’s fine to be in closer contact with other people. But, if you have a hunch you might be contagious, it’s best to stay away. The days of "toughing it out" and showing up anyway are over. That is no longer socially acceptable. Attending events when you don’t feel well creates a danger to others. Some even find it inconsiderate, although they may not say so out loud.

The takeaway: If you have a cold, a flu, or another contagious ailment, most people will thank you for staying away if there is a chance that they might catch whatever it is that you have.

5. List Your Options

Along with taking stock of your situation, you can also take an inventory of your options. Make a mental list of all the options you have. Write it down if necessary.

The takeaway: Activating your rational brain will help to ease stress and may even provide alternatives you hadn’t previously considered.

6. Plan an Alternate Celebration

Make plans to hold the celebration another time. The day itself is important, but sharing time with family and friends is meaningful anytime. Plan the adjusted date specifically if you are up to it. Knowing exactly when the celebration can take place will go along way toward relieving the stress of being sick on a holiday.

The takeaway: No one will be upset if you need to reschedule a family meal or gift-exchange if you are sick. Making this determination will relieve the stress you are feeling about not knowing whether or not to participate in holiday activites.

The sooner you let others know you are sick, the sooner people can make alternate arrangements or offer to help you.

The sooner you let others know you are sick, the sooner people can make alternate arrangements or offer to help you.

7. Communicate Early

Let people know right away that you aren’t feeling well. Don’t hide it or gloss over it. The sooner you let people know, the sooner adjustments can be made. This will help relieve your stress and will allow others more time to make adjustments to plans.

The takeaway: The sooner you let others know about your situation, the sooner everyone can make any necessary adjustments to their plans.

8. Reframe the day

If you are sick on a major holiday, there is often an added sense of pressure. We tend to put more emphasis on some holidays than others depending on our culture and family traditions. Realistically, however, even a major holiday is just an ordinary day for many other people. It’s not the only important day of the year. In fact, it’s just one day.

The takeaway: Even if there is outside pressure, you can choose to look at it from another vantage point and reduce the stress.

9. Remember That You Are Not Alone

If you think about it, with millions of people all over the world, you are probably not the only person who is sick for this holiday. Several other people in other places are probably dealing with the same thing you are.

The takeaway: You are not alone. Other people are coping with being sick, too.

10. Shorten Planned Events

If you do choose to attend a gathering or event, remember that you don’t have to stay for a long time. Showing up for 15–30 minutes might even be enough. Visit for drinks or dessert instead of a whole dinner. Target the time you show up to maximize your ability to connect with people.

The takeaway: Keeping things short may be preferable to cancelling altogether.

Managing Holidays With Chronic Illness

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Jule Romans

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