How To Cancel Plans When You're Sick (Again) Without Looking Like A Total Flake

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How to cancel plans without being a flake flaking out chronically sick

Cancelling plans can be liberating if you never really wanted to complete them, anyway. But what if you have to cancel plans that you want to keep? And what if you have to continue cancelling plans over and over again until you feel like a bona-fide flake?

Well, that's been my life for the last five years or so. I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that makes me a little less than reliable. I become fatigued, have stomach issues that keep me home or just can't move due to sore joints.

Whatever the reason, I find myself canceling dinner dates, movie nights and even plans that I make more often than not. 

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Usually, my friends and family understand when I have to cancel. I'll explain that I'm just feeling unwell or hope that my panicked message sent an hour before we were supposed to meet explained the situation well enough. 

There becomes a problem when it's the same plan being canceled with the same person over and over again. 

Maybe I feel a bit uncomfortable asking Amanda, “Can I take a raincheck?” or telling Olivia, “Sorry, but I really can’t make it.” Or maybe it’s a friend who expresses concern. Maybe they ask me if I really want to hang out with them or if I just keep making excuses not to go.

That’s always the hardest because you want to hang out with them, more than anything — but the exhaustion is making your responses sound half-hearted.

If you can relate to this, then you might need some help explaining your feelings (both physical and mental). I think it’s pretty normal to be at a loss for words when it comes to your emotions, so it’s OK as long as you keep trying to be honest with yourself and everyone else in your life.

The next time you need to cancel plans when you’re sick, try using these suggestions to make the process easier for everyone involved:

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1. Check yourself first.

Make sure you’re canceling for a good reason. If you’re struggling with a chronic illness or an unseen mental health issue, then you know that there are very few “good” days. Sometimes, you have to grin and bear it through the not-so-good days.

After you determine that your reason for canceling is valid, you can feel a bit better about needing to cancel.

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3. Talk to them in person (if you can).

Canceling plans with your friends or family members is awkward, but canceling plans in person will show the person you care about them and the plans enough to embrace the awkwardness head-on.

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If you don’t have the opportunity or ability to talk to them in person about your plans, then making a phone call or video call can be a great alternative. Just let them know how much they mean to you by making an effort to cancel with dignity.

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4. Explain your reasoning, but not too much.

Don’t bombard them with details about why you can’t go to that concert, but do explain how you feel. Don’t just say you feel “crummy.”

Use this moment to educate them about your illness, your pain and your feelings about your chronic condition. Tell them how your illness is impacting your life and your other plans, if you need to.

Your true friends will remain friends with you if you’re honest with them.

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Meaghan Summers is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture, health and relationship topics.