10 ways to minimise MS stress this holiday season 🎁

The winter holidays (for most people) aren't the harmonious snow affairs like in the movies . And if it is, that doesn’t happen by magic. It’s hard work!

Here is some advice to help you thrive this holiday season.

1. Always rememeber that perfection is a myth!

The most important gift you can give to yourself and others is for you to be relaxed and feeling on top of things. Work out what’s important to you and the people you (really) care about and focus on those things.

You can’t please everyone so don’t exhaust yourself trying to reach perfection.

2. Create a plan, but be kind to yourself if you don’t stick to it

Make a plan for your holiday period of what you will do and when. This will help you work out what you can and can’t fit in and how to plan activities around your needs.

Some days there might be things that you had planned to do that you just can’t. That’s ok. You might feel disappointed, frustrated or guilty and that’s natural too. Take some time to reflect on these feelings and try to do something that makes you feel good.

3. Use the Three Ds

This is borrowed from work-life productivity methodologies and helps you be more efficient.

The holiday season is a time of joy and kindness. Be kind to yourself and prioritise doing things you love and make the holidays special. Of course there will be some unavoidable chores that you have to do but use the next two steps to minimise them...

Be ruthless here. What could you not do at all? Since the pandemic started everything’s upside down so you can make your own rules. Hate sending Christmas cards? Prefer ordering a pizza to making turkey? Guess what, you don’t have to do it.

Take advantage of the so-called season of goodwill. If you’ve got family and friends you can rely on, ask them to help. It could be picking up gifts, dropping off food or having a movie afternoon with your kids so you can rest.

4. Take control of in-person socialising

Festive get-togethers can be challenging at the best of times. Layer on concerns about Covid and MS symptoms and it can all feel too much.

If you don’t feel comfortable, or simply can’t face going somewhere, you can politely decline the invitation. You don’t have to explain yourself. We know that it’s easier said than done, but you are always your number one priority and the holidays don’t change that.

5. Know it’s OK to not feel festive

Living with a chronic illness doesn’t get easier just because it’s the holidays. It might feel even harder than normal, and emphasise feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Keep in mind, that most people’s holidays are like in the movies and you're not the only person lacking the 'festive spirit'.

6. Go easy on the food and drink

Ok ok, sorry to sound like your doctor but just be careful. Watch out for things that you know trigger your symptoms. Don’t overdo it one day and end up paying for it for a couple of weeks to come.

7. Watch out for sensory overload

Enclosed spaces, frantic shoppers and Mariah Carey is a surefire way to . The medical name for this is sensory overload.

It can be triggered by lights, noise and unfamiliar environments… sounds like Christmas right?

Avoid the chaos by picking a quieter time to go to the shops. If you’re heading to a party, be aware of your triggers, and identify a quiet space to take a break if you need.

8. Visit the pharmacy and stock up if you need to

Make sure you’ve got enough of your prescribed and over the counter medicines. The pharmacies aren’t shut for long but just in case. Check your stock of things like painkillers, digestion medications and plasters.

Don’t let your medication adherence slip either. Set yourself a reminder to take your medication if you might struggle to remember.

9. Check-in on yourself

Despite your best intentions you might find yourself feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Take time to recognise when this is happening. Then try and identify what’s causing it and work out what steps you can take to feel better.

10. Be present and enjoy the small moments

There might be things we might not be able to do this Christmas but there will still be moments of joy. That might be eating a favourite treat, choosing a gift for a loved one or speaking to a friend or family.

UK mental health charity Mind has a whole load of information about coping with Christmas if it is a difficult time for you.