Living with M.S.

"Living with M.S. is sort of like training for a long race. The harder you try, and the longer you keep at it, the stronger you become.
Eventually, looking back, you may be amazed at the power you possessed, even when you had no idea it was within your reach." (Linda Ann Nickerson)


How do you manage MS for the holiday season?

Here’s an equation every MSer knows all too well:

Stress + Fatigue = Likely MS flare-up

Ugh! We get it.

The holiday season is filled with excitement and festivities and tons of activity. It’s filled with baking and crafting and shopping and wrapping and reveling. It’s filled with family delights … and maybe some family drama.

And the December calendar overflows, although our energy levels may not. As anyone living with multiple sclerosis knows, the energy bank account can be immediately and unexpectedly overdrawn. We can go from enthusiasm to inertia, full to empty, and plugged in to zapped in a heartbeat.

Geez. I love the holiday season. But I can almost feel the vision in one eye blurring and the same old head-spinning vertigo setting in – just at the thought.
And my right ankle is tingling again. (I am not even kidding.)

How do you minimize MS symptom overload during the busy holiday season?

This takes a conscious and deliberate effort. Like a determined accountant, counting every expenditure, we carefully evaluate each errand, project, and invitation before committing.

Sometimes holiday invitations are no picnic for an MSer.

Sure, it’s lovely to be asked to a seasonal fete. But juggling a bunch of social and volunteer commitments during the holiday season can be daunting for anyone with multiple sclerosis. Let’s say it again: fatigue and stress are troubling with MS. The appointment book takes some smart management for anyone with a chronic medical condition.

Even when we do accept a task or decide to participate in a holiday season event, we often choose to take it in smaller pieces. Perhaps we linger only a short time at a boisterous Christmas party. Maybe we offer to help pass a few appetizers, but we bow out of the after-party cleanup. It isn’t that we aren’t willing to pitch in. It’s just that we can pretty much count on being wiped out afterwards.

If we are smart, we will try to clear the calendar for the day after a big party, a long holiday concert, or a whirlwind Christmas shopping trip. We know we will likely need to re-gather our energies and faculties afterwards.

Is holiday shopping a pleasure, a panic, or a pain for the MSer?

And, to be honest, we may benefit from reining in long, drawn-out holiday gift hunting in the first place. Many of us make lists and pick out the lion’s share of gifts online or in mail-order catalogs and have presents sent directly to recipients, whenever possible. Hey, all those holiday season free shipping offers are a big plus!

Here’s another help. Why not take someone along for holiday shopping? Another driver, merchandise browser and sorter, gift list checker, shopping cart pusher, and post-purchase bag carrier can be a big plus.

Are holiday crafts a stress buster, or do they foster MS flare-ups?

Lots of MSers, like other folks, enjoy making crafts for the holiday season. Maybe we started working on Christmas projects back in July. If not, will making handcrafted d├ęcor and gifts end up costing us plenty in last-minute holiday fatigue and stress?

As for holiday decorating, those pre-lit artificial Christmas trees really do simplify things a lot. 

What about wrapping?

MS can wreak havoc on once-nimble fingers, which used to make fancy and neat gift wrapping a snap. Gift bags to the rescue, especially for local giving!

Hosting holiday events takes some self-protecting savvy for the MSer.

Maybe we bake two or three kinds of holiday treats, instead of the 10 or 12 we used to make. We might even choose to whip up a few batches of delicious bars, rather than the labor-intensive rolled cut-out cookies we made in our pre-MS days.

If it’s our turns to host the holiday gatherings, more than a few of us will allow others to bring dishes. We may opt for simpler menus, including items we can prepare ahead of time, rather than on-the-spot heavy prep fare. We might serve a buffet, rather than a multi-course plated meal, which requires lots of table serving and clearing.

When it comes to living with multiple sclerosis, it’s all about managing our energy levels and staving off extra stress. Aren’t fatigue and stress the MonSter’s primary food groups?

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including adapted public domain artwork

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