“The Holidays” are supposed to be a wonderful, cheerful and happy time of year. But so often all those warm and fuzzy feelings get lost among the craziness and hullabaloo of everything we have going on. The result? Stress! No one is immune to this holiday stress, but individuals with MS can feel the repercussions of stress in a much more intense way. Stress has been shown to be a trigger for relapses or flares. Even if you don’t have a full blown relapse, you can still find that stress exacerbates your symptoms at times.
So what can we do about the stress of the Holidays without becoming a total recluse and hiding until January 2nd? I think there are plenty of ideas! Some that are obvious, and some that are not so obvious. Let’s dig in, shall we?
I know, I know. This is one you’ve heard many times before. But, it’s for good reason! You’ve heard that phrase, “failing to plan, is planning to fail”? Yeah, I hate it too. But it’s right on the money. Planning out your holidays, and everything about the holidays, makes them so much easier. Making a to do list is one of my favorite things to do, for real. (I’ve even been known to put things on my to-do list so I can just cross them off!) This helps me to not feel so overwhelmed because I have all of my thoughts down on paper, and not still in my head. Also when I write things down, I am able to see where things can be grouped together. Similar tasks and things can be picked up or done in one trip.
This is also a great opportunity to ASK OTHERS FOR HELP. This has historically been really hard for me, especially if the help has to do with emotional things. However, this is a great way to break through that barrier and start practicing asking for help. Also, often times my closest family and friends feel helpless when I tell them about my symptoms and what I go through on a daily basis. When they look at me and ask what they can do, I usually go palms up. However, just having another hand in getting chores done, or knocking things off the to-do list, is plenty. You’re getting things done, they feel like they are helping you, it’s a win-win!
A Quick Note about Self Care
My third note about planning is to plan time for yourself as well. Self care is one of the biggest things we can do in terms of stress reduction, and one of the top reasons I hear as to why people don’t do it is that ‘I don’t have time!!”. While you’re planning your social calendar and all of your trips to the store, plan in some relaxation time for you as well. That will look different for everyone, but make sure it’s in there. Whether it is some alone time with a book or movie, or getting a mani-pedi with friends, just try to be conscious of where you can add it in. Please? My self care is going to be watching movies with my cats and husband. Sounds purrfect to me! #sorrynotsorry
When we already feel fatigued 365 days a year, ‘The Holidays’ just are insult to injury. Just the fact that the two words ‘hustle and bustle’ are associated with this time of year, can just make them that much worse for so many of us. Sleep is so often a number one priority, but it unfortunately gets tossed by the wayside for parties, cooking and spending time with family. Not to say that any of those things are bad, but when they come before sleep, many things in our bodies can start to unravel.
Maintaining our sleep schedule is going to take some boundaries. Letting people know that we will have to leave on the earlier side, just popping in for an hour or so, or even declining some invites all together, is usually the way I go. It feels like it’s unfair, but I’d rather go to 3 events for an hour, than 1 event for 3 hours. Naps are also something great to include! There has been more and more scientific evidence stating that naps are helpful for us. Quick naps during the day can restore energy quickly. I’m always down for that!
We all need to eat obviously. But what we eat around ‘The Holidays’ can look very different from what we normally eat. This can lead to a lot of digestive issues, which many of us with MS usually deal with anyway. Regardless of your way of eating, whether it is AIP, Wahls or otherwise, there are some key things to keep in mind. Make sure to be drinking plenty of water, this will give your digestive organs (and every other organ) a boost and help to function at optimal levels. Make sure that fruits and veggies are present on your plates on a daily basis. Some quick options would be a salad with tons of veggies or a smoothie.
As yummy as it can be, try to be conscious of your treats during this time too. Sugar only adds fuel to the inflammation fire, so use with caution. I’m not saying don’t have sugar at all. I’m just saying be mindful of what you’re having. Make sure that it’s worth it to you and you’re not eating it to please someone else.
I can hear the objections now. You already on the move! I get it. You’re running here and there, so why on earth am I asking you to move more? Because I am asking you to move in a way that YOU want to. Remember how I told you to plan in some time for you? That’s a great time to go for a walk, dance party in the living room, go to a yoga or take a tai chi class. Anything that moves you to move, I’m for it.
One last reminder. In all the stress of ‘The Holidays’ don’t forget about the reason for the season. Take a timeout for some gratitude and be gentle with yourself. Even if this year hasn’t been the best health wise or life wise, say thanks to your body. It has brought you this far and it’s doing the best that it can. I often would struggle with this and see my body as “other”, but it’s right there with you, every step of the way.
‘The Holidays’ are truly meant to celebrate everything that is special to us. We don’t have to let the stress and their fast paced nature take away their magic. I urge you to find something new to celebrate this year. Even if it’s something small.
Does this resonate with you? Leave me a note in the comments below!