MS and the Holiday Season: Question of the Week

Cathy Health Guide
  • A chill is in the air.  The days are getting shorter.  Homes are resplendent with twinkling Christmas lights. The department stores play sweet sounding holiday music. It’s that time of year again – the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.


    Our thoughts turn to everything we need to do in the coming month.  Gift lists, party lists, holidays cards, grocery and gift shopping, cooking lavish meals, baking holiday cookies, cleaning the house, setting up traditional holiday decorations and wrapping presents.  (Reminder to self: find time to donate time or money to a local charity.) 

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    Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve – these are joyous holidays.  These are holidays we wait for all year, yearning to renew that unparalleled excitement we once felt as children.  A feeling of joy, hope and wonder. 


    As a child, I loved when the annual Christmas specials were televised (especially “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol”).  I loved walking through my neighborhood with my friends, singing Christmas carols door-to-door.  I loved lighting my menorah with my family while we chanted familiar Chanukah songs.  I loved everything about the holiday season – the freshly fallen snow, the smell of holiday cookies baking in the oven, and the giving and receiving of presents. I look back at my childhood and realize how blessed I truly was.  It was something right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.


    Blessings.  Hmm.  Not exactly a word you use when you have a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. The holidays for someone with a chronic illness can be a time of depression, isolation, loneliness and anxiety.  We want to be able to do everything we used to, but our MS isn’t always gracious enough to allow this.  It can be an anxious time for us.  As a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend I love showing those I love how much they mean to me.  This could include buying or making gifts, inviting friends and family to my home or simply writing some carefully chosen words on a holiday card.  When I start thinking about everything I want to do this month, I feel completely overwhelmed!  Will my legs cooperate?  Will my fatigue prevent me from doing what I want to do? Will I experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which may affect my ability to regain that holiday excitement I long to feel?


    Here is what I have learned to help conquer my anxieties of the holiday season:


    1.     Take a calendar or a piece of paper and make a list of everything you absolutely need to do this month.  Prioritize them.  Eliminate things you don’t necessarily have to do.  Include not only chores and errands on your list, but also chunks of time to rest and take care of your physical and emotional needs.  This is priority number one!

    2.     Use free apps available through your cell phone (if applicable).  On my iPhone there is a NOTES app that I use all of the time.  When I am away from home and suddenly remember something I need to add to my master list, I open the app, type my notes, add it and then save it on my phone. When I return home I add these notes to my master list.  I also use a free app called Dragon Dictation.  You dictate into your phone and it records what you say. If you have cognitive issues, these apps (and I am sure there are many other useful ones available) are a godsend.

  • 3.     Ask for help.  This one took me a long time to do. I admittedly still have a hard time doing this, but I do it anyway.  Family and friends who care about you really want to help, but they don’t always know how.  By asking for their help, they feel good about helping you, and it gives you extra time to rest and rejuvenate.

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    4.     Give yourself a break.  Do the best you can, and then be proud of all you have accomplished.  You are a special and unique person.  The holidays are a magical and miraculous time of year.  You deserve the pleasure of sitting back and enjoying the company of those you love and the beauty of the season. 


    So, here is my special gift to all of you  – best wishes for a blessed, joyful and HEALTHY holiday season. 


    Here is my Question of the Week:  How do you healthfully survive the holiday season?  Do you have something that works for you that you could share with us?   Do you experience any sadness, loneliness, anxiety or depression and, if so, how do you try to conquer it?  What coping mechanisms do you use?  I’d love to hear from you!



Published On: December 05, 2011