♪♪ It’s the most tiring time of the year… ♪♪
We know it all too well; the hustle and bustle of shopping centres with frantic gift-searchers, the packed grocery stores as dinner chefs hunt for the perfect turkey, and the over-heated school gymnasiums packed with proud parents watching their children’s Christmas recital. Ladies and gentlemen, The Holidays! Yes, this year is definitely a bit different - very different, actually. But it can still be easy to become overwhelmed, especially if you’re trying to make up for the lack of gatherings, parties and Christmas break activities with the kids! Now imagine you’re in the middle of baking cookies for Santa, while trying to submit your grocery order for curbside pickup all while refereeing an argument over which race car your kids want (you know, super earth-shattering quarrels), when who knocks on your door? That unwelcome relative you did not invite for Christmas! They bring nothing to contribute to dinner, they complain about everything (no… the turkey is NOT overcooked), and they brought a toy for the kids that requires 18 AAA batteries, comes in 1315 pieces and the instructions are in Chinese. NOT. HELPFUL. If you haven’t guessed yet - that unwelcome relative is my annoying friend, Multiple Sclerosis. How we handle the holidays with that relative is the same way we deal with MS - WINE! Wait, wait… before you go pouring yourself a glass of Cab Sauv, it’s actually a sanity-saving acronym. Let me spell out the way to survive the holidays, with MS, for you!
W is for “works well with others”. Think you can tackle all of the gift shopping, the grocery getting, the booze buying, the present wrapping and the cookie baking all on your own? You’re probably right - but you’re also going to burn out. And like those old holiday lights, we know that if one if burns out, the whole strand won’t work. Your family will feel your burnout, and what affects you, affects them. So, lighten your load - delegate some of your to-do list to the rest of your family. One of my biggest hurdles to overcome with MS has been letting others help me. Normally I would try to balance all of the holiday duties on my own for the fear of burdening others. What I had to realize is I wasn’t burdening them if I asked them to help. They had always wanted to help, I just never let them! So now, thanks to fatigue as my new BFF (not really, I hate you actually…) I give in and assign some of my tasks so my list becomes much more manageable. And voila! No burnout - that strand of lights shines brilliantly!
I is for “Inventory”. I love lists - I have a notebook on every level of the house so I can write down whatever it is I just thought of so I’m not retracing my steps to the refrigerator trying to remember what I was going to get. These lists are my saving grace on an average day, let alone the holidays! I keep track of gifts bought, gifts still needed, where I hid the gifts (can’t ever forget Christmas-gate 2015… forgot where Santa’s gift was hidden), what I still need from the grocery store, when I have to pick up the turkey I ordered, reminder that I already ordered said turkey, along with my other daily to-dos and reminders! Having a list keeps my holiday to-dos organized, and therefore my brain organized too! Brain fog (or lovingly dubbed Cog Fog) is a symptom that nearly half of people with MS develop. The information is there, it just takes a little longer to process it. Hence why lists are super convenient to jot things down! Otherwise I’ll be racking my brain trying to remember what that one thing I needed from the grocery store was, and in the middle of the night I’ll have a “KEVIN!” from Home Alone moment… “HORSERADISH!”
N is for “Nap”. This is pretty self-explanatory… nap = feeling refreshed, feeling refreshed = more energy, more energy = happiness! There is no doubt that the holidays can be NUTS! Dinners here and there, lists upon lists to accomplish all while trying to fit in any extra holiday activities and sights! With a schedule this demanding on an already demanding stressor on my body, I end up resenting the holidays instead of enjoying them. Yes, our current situation has definitely reduced the craziness of the holidays. But as I mentioned earlier, the craziness doesn’t necessarily stop, just changes, as we’re faced with trying to fill that void and the lack of activities with other things to keep our kids (and ourselves) occupied! “The children were nestled all snug in their beds” - Yea right… they had too many candies off the gingerbread house to settle down. “While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads” - See previous. “And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap” - Damn straight! You need that rest, people! Give yourself some time to just recover and recharge! Especially people dealing with MS fatigue - our energy is bankrupt at the best of times; the holiday rush doesn’t help! Now nap away! Nap away! Nap away all!
E is for “Evolve”. Guess what? Things don’t always go to plan (hellloooooo…. MS diagnosis was not a plan of mine!). Presents might not have arrived because they’re in the Bermuda Triangle of shipping, or you forgot to thaw the Turkey and now you’re ordering take out for Christmas dinner, or you had planned for the kids to make ornaments for the grandparents but you ran out of time. Like many MS symptoms, they can be unpredictable and like many people living with MS, we have to adapt. We need to surrender to what we need instead of what we want. Maybe that means we settle in and watch “Elf” instead of going for a walk because our legs are numb today. Or maybe we have to take a nap instead of baking those sugar cookies (we don’t need but really want). As cliché as it sounds, we just have to go with the flow. As most people with MS know, our symptoms can be erratic and pop up at the most inconvenient times. Even if your symptoms are usually consistent, maybe what we had planned to do just can’t happen anymore because we thought it was something we could handle, but it’s not, and that’s ok! It’s not conceding defeat, it’s persevering. You think the person in the Twelve Days of Christmas asked for “Twelve drummers drumming, Eleven pipers piping, Ten lords a-leaping, Nine ladies dancing, Eight maids a-milking, Seven swans a-swimming, Six geese a-laying, Five golden rings, Four calling birds, Three French hens, Two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree?” Probably not! They probably only wanted the golden rings but evolved with the situation and rolled with the dozens of birds and drummers.
Holidays are meant to be enjoyed - not stressed over! So, relax when you need to rest, delegate when you need to unload and adapt to changes instead of fighting them. Yes, MS can definitely throw a snowball (see what I did there… curve ball/snow ball) into the holidays but with the right tools you can take on MS and Christmas like Rudolph took on those bully reindeers - like a boss! So, when in doubt, W.I.N.E. (and wine) it out! Cheers!
*For the record, all my relatives are lovely and amazing and not a single one would ever be unwelcome xox