There's no Holiday Break with MS
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… or is it? The days of autumn remind me that the season of holidays that comprise a parade of obligations, indulgences and excesses is closing in. These holidays pose problems much greater than deciding what to wear or who to buy gifts for – especially for those of us living with Multiple Sclerosis or any other chronic disease. It’s exhausting just thinking about the calendar from Halloween until Christmas, and if I am wise I will adopt some different tactics to make it to January 1, 2014.
Chanukah, the Jewish holiday celebrating the Festival of Lights, occurs on the same day as Thanksgiving this year. Yes, November 28 is the start of eight days of Chanukah for my Jewish friends. How many of you will eat two major meals this date with Thanksgiving observed midday, and Chanukah starting at sunset? Among the traditions of Chanukah are consuming foods cooked in oil, to symbolize the oil in the lamps in the temple, and I wonder can these two holiday observations be blended together by serving deep-fried turkey? Furthermore, would it be ok to use the Thanksgiving meal leftovers for any of the remaining days of Chanukah? Either of these approaches would definitely conserve some energy for the cook.
These days with my MS fatigue and limited energy stores, it makes sense to let others help with the celebrations. We normally host Thanksgiving at our home for our large gathering of family and friends and I’m thinking this year might be different. Even though everyone brings food to share, it still takes a lot to prepare for the day and by the time the turkey is being served, I feel like someone should stick a fork in me to see if I’m done.
Thanksgiving or Chanukah, the day can be physically overwhelming, so would it hurt if we let someone else host or at least assist us? Don’t turn down offers to help. Everyone eats the food, so let them help prepare or buy it. If you don’t have others coming who can help and you have to make the food yourself, grocery stores and delicatessens make great assistants. We can still that special ‘must have; traditional food item – for our family it is pecan pie at Thanksgiving – and buy the rest already prepared and ready to serve.
We do not observe Chanukah, so at least after my Thanksgiving meal I can call it a day and turn my attention toward Black Friday, the mother of all shopping days here in the U.S. If I am to believe all the commercial hype, the only way to complete my Christmas gift list and get a bargain as well, is to participate in running up my credit card debt the day after Thanksgiving. Getting up before the sun, and standing in lines with crowds of anxious, sleep-deprived shoppers has never been entertaining to me and now it is no longer possible, and in its place I have become a fan of online shopping. If you have a list of people to buy gifts for, no matter what your budget you can do well via the computer.
Here are my highlights of the many advantages of stay-at-home shopping - I don’t have to find a parking space because my recliner chair is always available and I can stop and take a nap during my shopping excursion if it becomes too tiring. Tell me what shopping mall or big box store I might be able to do this at? There is always a virtual shopping cart available to load my purchases and there are no crowds to push my way through, or long checkout lines. I don’t have to struggle with all those shopping bags to lug to my car because the mailman or that big brown truck brings my purchases directly to my door.
Because MS doesn't take a holiday, here are a few other reminders that might help you get through the long days ahead -
Take your meds – take all of them and on time. The holidays are not the time to neglect our medical care and it’s important to not skip any of them. Don’t postpone those doctor appointments, either.
Pace yourself – we know what we can do and how long we can do it. Those of us living with MS get signals all the time that it is time to stop and recharge, and we have to be willing to listen to our body, whether it is the holidays or not; if we don’t, we will usually pay for it more the following day.
Set reasonable expectations for the holidays and also accept that sometimes even those can’t be met. We live with the unpredictability of MS and some days just go better than other days, whether it is a holiday or not.
What tips about coping with holiday stress do you have that could be shared with other people living with Multiple Sclerosis?
Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty about any shortcomings over the holidays. Despite what the marketers want us to believe, the holidays aren’t really about the food or the gifts, the coming seasons are meant to be celebrations and not endurance trials and survival of the fittest.
Now excuse me while I go take a long rest …. just writing about the holidays and how to get through them has worn me down.
Wishing you well,
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