Nurse Catherine Asks...
Phew, the holidays are over! While it’s nice to celebrate, this time of year can be exhausting. All the running around, stress, lack of sleep, and entertaining can take a toll. Since relapsing MS never takes a holiday, let us know what tips and tricks you have learned over the years. How do you handle stress and fatigue during this busy season, and is there anything you will do differently next year? Are you able to use these tips all year round?
The holidays are over. What lessons can you share?
January 28, 2019
The holidays can be stressful for anyone. For people with MS, it can be a very difficult time. Between the hustle and bustle of parties and shopping, the cold weather, and treacherous walking conditions, there’s a lot to handle. Not to mention you’ll be coming into contact with many people, so you’re at risk of being exposed to illnesses. However, there are some things you can do to get through this time without ending up on the naughty list.
First and foremost—know your limits. I would recommend following this advice year round, but since there are so many activities going on this time of year, it is important to prioritize and participate in the ones that you can truly manage. Don’t feel guilty if you have to skip a few events. You need to think about your health first or you may end up missing all of the festivities. If you are like me, sometimes you need your friends and family to point out to you that you are doing too much and need to take a break. I am not sure if this is a lack of self-awareness or stubbornness on my part, but regardless, sometimes we need someone else to point out the obvious to us. Listen to them.
Here are some other tips that have helped me get out through the holiday season (and other busy times) successfully:
- Keep yourself healthy by eating right (I know it’s hard, but don’t have too many sweets), exercising, and getting adequate sleep
- Talk to your doctor about getting the flu vaccination. Nobody wants to be sick during the holidays
- Have another friend or family member share your co-hosting duties if you are usually the party planner. You can still do what you love and not feel wiped out
- Plan your menu and prepare as much as you can ahead of time so there’s less cooking to do on the big day. Using an instant pot or a slow cooker can also be helpful and give off less heat than an oven
- Do more online shopping. Not only will this save you travel time, it will also minimize the germs you come in contact with, and you won’t have to fight the crowds or battle the elements. With so many online shopping options, you are bound to find what you are looking for, or even the perfect item you didn’t know you were looking for at all
- Talk to a professional if you’re feeling down or depressed. I’ve found that the holiday season can bring about depression for many people (though it can happen any time of year), and discussing your feelings with a healthcare provider can be helpful
It’s not always easy to relax and enjoy all the wonderful things that happen around this magical season, but hopefully these tips will help now and in the future. Spend time with family, and take in the incredible sights, sounds, and smells. I hope you enjoyed your holidays!
The holidays are over. What lessons can you share?
January 28, 2019
For me, holidays are times when families come together, traditions are fulfilled, and memories are made (and eating, let’s not forget that!). Still, holidays come with inherent stressors. Will I be able to get home in time? How do I balance time with family members? Shopping for Christmas gifts—always an adventure. In my case, “home” is about 12 hours away, but I’ve been unable to get home due to deployments or overseas assignments quite a few times, so now I do everything I can to get there. Fortunately, my wife and I are from the same town, so we don’t have to decide where to go.
MS compounds the challenges. There are so many things I want to do, but I have a time and energy bank account that cannot become overdrawn. If I overexert on one activity/event, there’s a pretty good chance I won’t be able to participate in others. I also have to keep that 12-hour return trip in mind. How do I handle it? By planning ahead and being flexible. Before everything starts, I try to look at all the moving pieces and do an honest self-assessment. I look at what I can reasonably do, and then prioritize the list. If gifts are involved, online shopping is a huge help and many retailers offer next-day delivery. By going online or by shopping early, I might miss out on a sale, but I also avoid holiday crowds and can shop in small trips rather than an all-day marathon.
The kitchen is often the center of a southern home. Unfortunately, with the stove and oven going and several people present, it can easily become warm enough that it begins to take a toll. Once I figured that out, I learned to shorten my time in that room. I head to the living room, and a few family members who aren’t cooking will join me. My extended family knows about my diagnosis and is very supportive. The nieces were the last to “get it,” but as they’ve grown up, they understand that I have physical limits. Still, it is sometimes frustrating when people underestimate my capabilities and try to baby me. That said, my wife knows the signs and will pretty quickly tell me to go sit down and take a break.
The chaos of holidays seldom lends itself to detailed scheduling. That’s where flexibility is key. I learned to accept that nothing ever goes as planned. It really doesn’t do me any good to get stressed about changes, I just have to be strong enough to politely decline obligations that may exceed my limits. Sometimes that is a real challenge. It’s also easy to lose track of time and miss a medication dose. I put an alarm on my smartphone to remind me when I need to take them. Unfortunately, that once resulted in an alarm going off during a Christmas Eve service because I didn’t remember either a time zone change or to silence the phone!
To me, planning and relaxing are key. This can be said for life in general, not just during the holidays. I try to plan ahead. Pack early, shop early, know what I can commit to and what I cannot. Then plan for when the original plan falls apart and take a deep breath. If things didn’t go exactly as I thought they should, I asked myself whether it really mattered or if it was just inconvenient. Relax—the sun will rise again tomorrow, but family time is finite; enjoy.
Nurse Catherine Sums It Up
Whether or not you’re living with MS, the holidays can be very hectic. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments and ask for help if you need it. You’ll most likely find that your family and friends are more than happy to give you a hand. Remember, things might not always go according to plan, but being flexible and knowing when it’s time to take a break can make the holidays much more enjoyable. Really it can make any time of year more enjoyable, so don’t hesitate to apply these tips to everyday life. I hope everyone had a great, low-stress holiday season! Comment below and let us know, how do you keep up your energy and take care of yourself during the busy seasons?