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Managing The Holidays

Managing The Holidays

It’s that time of year again when we look at the calendar and a sense of panic sets in – where did another year go and what are we going to do about the holidays? And then the overwhelming sense of guilt can set in, followed by anxiety and depression. For many people with MS (or any chronic condition), this is the cycle of the holidays and there is a great sense of relief when the calendar flips to January. All too often, it’s not what others expect of us but rather what we often do to ourselves with negative ‘self-talk’ that makes the holidays worse than necessary, and I thought it might be helpful to visit some of the ways we can improve our holiday mood.

All or nothing

First, we have to eliminate the “all or nothing” thinking. For example, yes, I want to do that cookie exchange and reconnect with my longtime friends, but finding the perfect recipe and making 14 dozen cookies to share is a bit much with limited physical energy and my ever-present MS fatigue. Instead, I have compromised and dropped the all or nothing approach and met myself in the middle where I’ve opted to not exchange cookies but still went and caught up with these longtime friends. Think about where you can do some things but not feel you must do all or nothing.

Must do vs. can do

The holidays also cause us problems in the area of ‘should do’ vs ‘must do’ and can create self-loathing when we fail to meet all the items we imagine accomplishing. For example, it has taken me years to stop feeling guilty as I open beautiful holiday cards that are sent by friends, feeling like I must always send one in return. Some years, I don’t send cards at all and others I have mailed them well after the holidays are done. There are many times when the must do’s and should do’s, turn into ‘there’s no way I’m going to do that’, and that’s OK.  Give yourself permission to take it easy.

Everyone else does it

Then there is the pattern of over-generalizing. When I think everyone else is doing entertaining, decorating, card-writing, and creating the picture-perfect holiday, it affects my own mood. I think if they can do it, so should I, and then I feel especially bad when I barely find the motivation to put up a small tree. The reality is there are few people anymore creating perfect holidays, and I need to stop thinking everyone else does it all and expecting to match their efforts.

First, be kind to yourself

Maybe it comes with age or time, but I’ve found the less self-talk I do about expectations of myself and comparing my efforts to those of others, the happier I am.  Depression and anxiety are common symptoms in multiple sclerosis due to the disease, and adding to those with negative self-talk ideas is counterproductive.  This holiday season, I urge you to be kind to yourself and try to let go of the thought that you have to do everything and that you have to do it perfectly. See if you can find small moments of joy, peace, and happiness to lift your spirits.

Wishing you well,


This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • baggie58
    2 months ago

    Thank you for such a helpful and inspiring comment. I have just had to look through my photo albums for a very old photo to send to a friend, and came across so many photos of me and my hb out enjoying ourselves, a smile and a cocktail usually present.
    I yearn to do this, and I could actually probably manage it, but this is Christmas Eve and if I do, then I’ll be in bed all tomorrow!
    I’ll try the old movies and candle idea and see if that helps.

    Many thanks again.

  • Janus Galante moderator
    2 months ago

    thank you so much for your comment. It sounds as if like so many of us here, you’ve learned to pace yourself so you don’t suffer the “done too much’s.”

    I think your idea of the candle and old movies sound wonderful! Janus

  • salodeb
    1 year ago

    Thanks for the tips! Good info for anyone, especially for those of us with MS. Best gift is be kind to yourself. I’m working on it!

  • potter
    1 year ago

    It just hit me yesterday when some Christmas cards showed up at the house that I haven’t done anything for Christmas. The worse part is I really don’t want to. My son and his wife have returned from living in MicroIndonesia so it has been three years since we have had a family holiday. I am going to my son’s birthday party Saturday at a bar. I am dreading it, the sounds and chaos will be overwhelming. I will have a chance to leave early to take my 95 year old mother in-law early. By the time I am dressed and headed out the door I am already worn out. I will be glad when the holidays are over. Potter

  • Lucylucylucy
    1 year ago

    “I’ve found the less self-talk I do about expectations of myself and comparing my efforts to those of others, the happier I am.”
    Wise words 🙂

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