November 10, 2022
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Valentina Barreto/Stocksy United
These gift ideas, from seven small businesses run by people living with chronic conditions, will help make this holiday season even more festive.
As someone living with psoriatic arthritis (PsA), I am often drawn to products created by others who understand what I’m going through.
Many people living with chronic conditions have turned to self-employment and created their own small businesses. For many, running a small business allows for more flexibility than other employment options. This can be beneficial for people navigating the unpredictability of symptom flares or frequent doctors’ appointments.
For some who turn to making their own products to sell, running a small business can also serve as a creative outlet to distract from pain.
The holiday season is the perfect time to shop small and show these spoonies’ businesses some love. That’s why I’ve created this holiday gift guide full of gifts and services that are all created and founded by folks living with chronic conditions. They’d all make great gifts for the “spoonie” in your life — or yourself.
First up, we have therapy dough, which is handmade by Michele, who lives with chronic joint pain. Her company, HabitualHerbsCo, was created specifically with fellow chronic illness warriors and spoonies in mind.
The dough is made with natural ingredients like coconut oil and aromatic botanicals. It’s great for gently strengthening hands and promoting relaxation. With proper care, the dough can last longer than 6 months. You can purchase through Michele’s Etsy shop.
This therapy dough would be a perfect gift for anyone who experiences arthritis in their hands. The dough is softest at room temperature, so it’s ideal for leaving on a bedside table for early mornings when stiff hands need some extra love.
If you live with a chronic condition, you’ve probably heard from doctors about how important it is to keep your body moving. However, finding the right way to get moving can be especially tricky when you have inflamed or painful joints.
How wonderful would it be to exercise with a trainer who truly understands what it’s like? Introducing Liv Loo. Liv is a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer who also happens to live with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Liv was diagnosed with arthritis at age 4 and knows firsthand what it’s like to navigate the ups and downs of living with chronic pain. With her upbeat, supportive energy, Liv is a fabulous trainer to guide you or a loved one.
Liv provides “adaptable movement for the chronically badass” through her virtual training sessions. To schedule a consult with her, visit the link via her Instagram page, @movetoliv.
For those looking to spark conversation and spread awareness with their clothes, look no further than Joel Nelson’s The Pain Company. Joel is an award-winning advocate for arthritis and psoriasis who keeps it real about life with arthritis on his social media platforms as @joelvsarthritis.
Joel knows how difficult life with chronic pain can be, and he’s passionate about raising awareness. His apparel line gives a voice to the millions living with chronic pain. The Pain Company sells T-shirts and sweats with beautiful graphics and messages such as “Choose Rest” and “Chronic Pain Club.”
Being newly diagnosed can be overwhelming. Suddenly you have to navigate symptom management, keep up with frequent appointments, take in a whole new vocabulary, and figure out how to adapt to a new day-to-day routine.
If someone in your life has recently been diagnosed with arthritis and is looking for some guidance, check out the Rheumatoid Arthritis Roadmap. This course was created by Cheryl, an occupational therapist who lives with RA.
Cheryl realized there was a need for a “beginner’s guide” to help navigate a new arthritis diagnosis, beyond what you briefly learn at doctors’ appointments. Cheryl notes that although the name specifies RA, about 80 percent of the course is applicable to those with any inflammatory arthritis, such as PsA or ankylosing spondylitis (AS).
The course includes 25 video lessons as well as handouts for tracking symptoms, managing fatigue and pain, and coping with the stress of diagnosis. You can also access an 8-week support program to learn more and connect with others navigating similar experiences.
For spoonies with a love for art and home decor, The Polished Prep has you covered. Creator and artist Victoria first ordered a set of watercolor paints to distract herself from pain following a surgical procedure for her AS, and as she says, “The rest is history!”
Victoria creates a number of different products that feature her gorgeous, colorful hand-painted designs. This lovely patterned serving tray would be excellent to have on hand for low energy or high pain days. When sitting at a table is simply out of the question, this tray can enable you to have a meal in bed instead.
While you’re cozied up in bed, you can warm up with this soft, fluffy sherpa blanket featuring more of Victoria’s artwork.
A set of these greeting cards is perfect for any spoonie to have on hand to show appreciation to a friend who has lent a helping hand.
Another fantastic artist in the chronic condition community is Rana, who sells products featuring original art. She details life with a chronic condition in her work in a way that only someone who truly understands what it’s like could.
This clever mouse pad serves as a reminder to take your medication, something that can be especially useful during a busy workday at the computer, when medications might slip your mind. Rana’s site features tons of relatable stickers, too, to help express your feelings about spoonie life. These messages are a fun way to decorate a water bottle, a computer, or even a mobility aid.
To close out our gift guide, we have a shop started by That Girl with Arthritis, Brianna. Bri lives with RA and lupus and created her page to help raise awareness and foster community. One of her medical journals would be a great gift for the spoonie in your life who tracks (or wants to start tracking) their appointments, medical history, procedures, and more.
Bri has also created mugs and cozy sweatshirts, T-shirts, and hats featuring phrases like “Out of Spoons” and “I’m Tired,” for those days when you wish everyone around you would get the message without having to be told.
The most important thing to remember when shopping for gifts for a loved one with a chronic condition is that your thoughtfulness and support are what matters most. If you can buy from a spoonie-owned small business, you will bring joy not only to your loved one but to the business owner as well.
Happy gifting and happy holidays!
Article originally published December 1, 2021. Last fact checked on November 30, 2021.
Updated November 10, 2022
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