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Ways to Thrive, Survive and Enjoy the Holidays With MS

By Mary Pettigrew

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or is it? We’re officially in the throes of the holiday season! What tips do you have to share with others as to what makes it easier to deal with living with #MS? Ideas may be related to:

* shopping
* cooking
* children
* family/events
* resting
* saying “no”

When you have MS or any other chronic illness, this phrase can or cannot always be true. During the last two decades living with MS, I’ve learned what I can and cannot do. I continue to learn and adapt to this life change each and every year. My first several years after being diagnosed with MS were filled with guilt and overwhelming fatigue, but I now continue to learn new ways (mentally and physically) to find the holidays to be fulfilling and joyful. 

Here are some ways you can make holiday wishes workable and your dreams come true. Accept help when it's offered – and ask for it if it isn't. It's not easy, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. And think of how good it makes you feel to help someone. You wouldn't want to deny someone that wonderful feeling, right?? Give them the opportunity to feel that good – ask for some help.

Shopping – If you genuinely love to shop, do it early. If you shop too late, you’ll be fighting the crowds and disability parking spots. Therefore, my suggestion is to do a “one stop shop” through gift cards or online shopping. Same issue applies to food shopping – with all the apps available, this can be such an easy, quick job for you and the recipients will love being able to use or purchase whatever they choose.

Cleaning – Nothing has to be cleaned up or done “right away.” Also, ask for help. If family or friendly help is unavailable, seek otherwise. MerryMaids or the like is one option. Another option is to not host at all. Your friends and family will love you just the same and you’ll be all the healthier and stress-free for doing so. 

Children – It’s hard to fulfill the wishes of children when you have MS or other disabilities. Whether you’re married or not, whether the children are toddlers or grown, it can still be hard. Again, ask for help. A funny friend of mine included the option of “shoving them (the children) in the hall closet with all the other things I want to hide before company arrives!” Hilarious in thought, but not an option. 

Hosting – Depending on your level of disability, energy or otherwise, say yes or say no! The power of saying “no” is liberating and you’ll feel all the better for it, but it takes time to feel okay with yourselves for saying so. Another MS friend of mine says the same. “On saying ‘no’, I just say it. People who don’t like it get the stink eye. My stink eye game is strong.” I love this! 

Events – Again, the power of saying “no” can free you to do other thing you feel more passionate about during the holidays. Think long and hard as to what’s most important to you and your agenda.

Cooking – If you must cook, use crockpots, gadgets, cuisinarts, and stools to sit on when prepping meals. Per my friend, Nancy Day, Pinterest is a fantastic resource for such items. Otherwise, don’t feel guilty about being perfect or even doing the things you feel are expected of you. You come first. Consider catering or ordering premade entrées, appetizers, etc. or don’t be the host, attend elsewhere.

Lastly, remember your own emotional wellness and self-care. Find little moments during the day where you can reflect and you feel truly blessed because of family and friends. Definitely pace yourself and not try to do it all at once. Feel confident and less guilty about saying no to outings and get-togethers if you feel the need to. These tips are not an exhaustive list of how to get through the holidays, but they can surely help make the times a bit more merry and bright!