For a child, the holidays are filled with family, fun, and wonder. For an adult, the holidays can be overwhelming, tiring, and stressful. When you add multiple sclerosis (MS) into the picture, additional stress and fatigue may make you feel worse. That’s why I am committed to planning, simplifying, and streamlining my own holiday experiences. It lets me focus on the things that make the holidays so special.
Here are a few tips I use to prevent holiday burnout:
Before you start shopping, look for ways to simplify your gift giving. One of the best ways is to start early. Set a goal of starting your shopping right after Halloween. Getting an early jump will help you avoid feeling stressed-out and rushed. Suggest to friends and family that adults won’t exchange presents and that you will only shop for the kids. This can help cut back on the amount of shopping that you need to get done. This will help you relax and enjoy more time with family and friends as the hectic holiday season approaches.
Shopping online may also help. Thanks to technology, you can usually avoid crowded parking lots, long lines, stress, and fatigue. By starting early and shopping online, you can get your shopping done a little at a time from the comfort of your home.
As much as I love getting together with friends and family, I sometimes dread all the work involved. I like to keep it simple by choosing a party theme and then asking for help. If you are inviting several guests, make a list of what's needed for the party. Ask your guests to RSVP with what they will bring. Depending on the theme, you could make the main course or order it from a local restaurant. Then you can ask everyone else to bring some of the extras, like side dishes, a salad, dessert, or drinks. You can also make your main dish a few days ahead and freeze it—giving you more time to focus on the other details of the party.
You can also simplify the process of cleaning up by using decorative paper plates, napkins, and cups. When decorating for the party, remember that less is more—a few simple holiday decorations by candlelight along with colorful plates and napkins will set a perfect mood. To find more party planning tips, check out my video on entertaining guests in your home.
Even though the holidays are meant to be spent with others, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself. Overindulging on sugary cookies and cakes may be tempting around the holidays. In my experience, when I limit my intake of sugar and processed foods I find I have more energy and strength.
Remember to slow down and take rests. If you're a napper, don't skip out during this hectic season. Even if you don’t take a nap, it’s important to find a way to relax that works for you. Reading a book, playing family board games, watching a movie, or even meditating may help you rest. Those of us with MS definitely need to focus on ourselves from time to time and recharge our batteries regularly.
If your holiday plans involve travel, try to plan it for when you usually have the most energy. For example, if you have more energy in the morning, plan to travel in the morning. Everyone is different, so you should travel at a time that works best for you. Whether you're traveling by car, plane, or train , the extra time planning your route and arranging for assistance will be time well spent. In my car, I rely on my navigation system to direct me where I'm going, so I don't have to stress about how to get to my destination.
If you’re traveling by plane, most airlines offer amazing travel assistance to get you from check-in, through security, and directly to your gate. Take advantage of those services to help conserve your energy for the holiday fun ahead!
Lastly, it's okay if everything isn't perfect. Let go of perfection, and remember what the most important things are during the holiday season. Focus on why you're celebrating and who you will be spending time with. By keeping the focus on what really matters, you may be able to relieve stress and have a lot more fun. Happy Holidays!