Finding Holiday Spirit

I don’t think anyone would argue the fact that 2017 has been a pretty difficult year, to say the least. National tragedies, devastating natural disasters, political and social mayhem, and endless controversy have plagued the year and we’re not yet at its end. So it’s completely understandable if you ask yourself the question, how do I get into the holiday spirit surrounded by this mayhem? Where does one find the incentive “to be jolly” in a season that’s bookended by discord on one side, and potential hope and mystery on the other that comes with the arrival of the New Year? The answer to this can actually be found in those who surround you and the spirit that others project this time of year, you only need look for the light that cuts through the darkness.

If you want to find holiday spirit, look to children this time of year, as they carry so much light and happiness and excitement for what the holiday will bring, that it’s hard not to share in this joy with them. If religion is something of interest or that you already practice, hope can oftentimes be found through faith, especially during this season. Sometimes people just want to believe in something that’s greater than them and elicits peace. Seeing how people volunteer and donate to various causes year round but especially at the holidays also spurs feelings of joy and creates that sought after holiday spirit. It’s not always easy – life can be messy and chaotic and awful at times, but it’s looking and searching for those small signs of hope and peace that keep people moving forward and keeps holiday spirit alive. Without darkness we wouldn’t know light and how powerful it can be, so be sure to embrace it when it shines through, and let your spirit be bright.

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Stress Management Tips

The holiday season is fast approaching.  This time of year brings lots of great things like family traditions, fun activities, and opportunities to celebrate with friends.  Unfortunately, holidays can also be stressful and unpredictable. Dealing with fatigue and managing your MS symptoms can add to your stress if you aren’t careful.

So, here are four tips to help you manage the stresses of the season so you can have happy holidays!

Plan ahead

Planning your holiday schedule of activities in advance can help to reduce anxiety and limit fatigue.  Planning ahead will also help you identify the things you really want or need to do and weed out anything unnecessary or unpleasant.

Relax

It is important during the holidays to take time for YOU.  Even just a few minutes to relax and recharge can reduce stress levels and help you cope with all of the chaos.

Eat healthy

We all know that holidays bring sweet and savory treats, late nights and unusual schedules.  Be sure to stick to a healthy eating plan and reward yourself by having a  few treats during the holidays.

Support

If you are feeling lonely or stressed, make sure you have a close friend, family member or someone you trust that you can call on.  Maybe attend a local support group or call the MS Friends helpline to talk about how you are feeling.  Multiple Sclerosis Friends: 1-866-673-7436

The holidays don’t have to be stressful.  Take a step back and organize your schedule for the holidays, and make sure to take time for yourself.  By doing so, you can enjoy time with family and friends.

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Gifts From The Heart

My husband loves a good deal. Seriously, he hates paying more than he has to for anything and loves telling everyone how much he saves. He’s in his glory this time of year, scouring the newspaper and internet for low, low prices. On Thanksgiving Day, as I was agonizing (OK, maybe a bit of an exaggeration) over dinner, my husband was checking his e-mail inbox and came across the following.

Grey Friday

Yes, you read that correctly. Thanksgiving Day, a day to be grateful for all we have, is being swallowed up by the spending holiday of Black Friday. I even saw a few companies refer to the week as Black Friday Week! It’s crazy! The way we are going, in 20 or 30 years, we will have lost the original meaning of all of our holidays. All that will be left will be the sales and deals galore. Don’t laugh, it could happen!

With Christmas coming up, that got me thinking. Maybe we should embrace the saying that “It’s the thought that counts”; not the price tag. So, I’ve put together a list of gift ideas that show an added personal touch (and that don’t break the bank).

1. Bake cookies and send along the recipe for future use.
2. Make homemade holiday cards.
3. Give the gift of your time. For example, offer to babysit to give young parents a break.
4. Put together a book of “secret family recipes” and give it to all family members, young and old.
5. Use your talents (such as knitting) to create unique presents.
6. Craft gifts (like wreaths) out of recycled or repurposed materials.
7. Pass along a family heirloom to the next generation.
8. Regift; if you don’t think you’ll use something, give it to someone you know will.

Sometimes, the best gifts are the ones that come from the heart.

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season!!

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Having a Stress-Free Holiday Season When You Have MS

By: Jeri Burtchell

Each year, I judge how well prepared I am for the holidays by the way Halloween plays out. When I saw my son donning the same scary mask we bought several years ago, I realized I’m as ill-prepared as ever. We’re lucky it still fits, I think to myself as holiday dread settles squarely on my shoulders.

The problem with his costume is not that we aren’t creative, it’s just that life is busy and time slips through our fingers like greased marbles these days. We end up making last minute plans and this Halloween was no exception: get the plastic pumpkin off the top of the fridge and start searching the house for that mask (two hours before Trick-or-Treat officially kicks off). I’m not creating the perfect childhood memories for my son, I fret to myself as I look under the bed for the face from Scream.

The limitations that my MS fatigue and reduced walking ability have placed on me are showing. I’m not looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas with the same enthusiasm as I once did. I’m filled with angst as part of me wants the ultimate “joyful” experience, while the other part just wants it all to be over.

But the holiday season is stressful for everyone. The difference is some people thrive on the stress, which they call “anticipation.” But others like myself are filled with dread. Ever since I was diagnosed with MS in 1999 it seems like I stopped looking forward to the time between Halloween and New Year’s Day. I think it’s because I worry about stress triggering a relapse. And then part of me feels guilty because the children in the family aren’t getting the full “magical” experience.

While I do face physical challenges, my MS isn’t the only factor shaping our family holidays. Mom is 91, and though she’s still undeniably the sharpest knife in the drawer, she doesn’t get around as easily as she once did. Still other family members are living with everything from lactose intolerance to diabetes which influences the dinner menu.

But we are managing. Together our family is learning to adjust to our new collective “normal”. We’re redefining what our get-togethers look like. The emphasis is on comfort and ease while downplaying commercialism. So what if the tree isn’t up or we don’t have a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings? We can define the celebration on our own terms.

The holiday dinners will be potluck so that we can each focus on one dish and prepare it ahead of time. Nobody will be banished to the kitchen and make-ahead dishes can be prepared when the cook (or baker) is feeling up to it.

With dinner prepared in advance, we’ll be free to enjoy each other’s company. The conversations, the laughs, the squealing children, and the photo ops will fill our memories of the day.

If Mom has to take a nap or I have to go lay down for a while, that’s okay. Everyone knows we both have our limits.

At Thanksgiving we’ll draw names for Christmas gift giving. Everyone ends up with a present but only shops for one person instead of ten. With a $20 limit and the convenience of online shopping, we can eliminate the stress of holiday crowds. We’re trying to make it more about the get-together and less about “what-did-I-get?”

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve come to learn a lot about managing my MS. I need plenty of rest, I need to eat right, and I need to exercise. But it’s just as important to reduce the stress in my life. Not only is it bad for MS, but for everyone’s health in general. By reducing the amount of effort (and stress) it takes to pull off a family gathering, we’re really looking out for our health.

The holidays should be about family, love, togetherness, and appreciation for every positive thing in our lives.

So when next year rolls around and my son is reaching for the same old scary mask at Halloween, I’m going to go a little easier on myself. The mask can be a new tradition, a symbol of how we can let go of society’s expectations. It will signal the start of a stress-free holiday season and–with the help of my family–I know we can do this!

References:
http://www.healthline.com/video/managing-multiple-sclerosis

*Jeri Burtchell was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999. She has spoken from a patient perspective at conferences around the country, addressing social media and the role it plays in designing clinical trials. Jeri is a MS blogger, patient activist, and freelance writer for the MS News Beat of Healthline.com. She lives in northeast Florida with her youngest son and elderly mother. When not writing or speaking, she enjoys crafting and photography.

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Planning for a Stress-Free Holiday

With Thanksgiving a little over a week away, many families have already started planning for the holiday season. Who is hosting, who’s making the turkey, and who will be opening their home to holiday guests this season? As if the actual day wasn’t hectic enough, with the shuffling around of foods, the constant chatter, and all of the hugs and kisses; why stress this upcoming week in preparation?

The following tips may help keep this holiday season a little less stressful:

1. Make a plan: Start by listing out each of the tasks that need to be accomplished. Breaking them down into groups can help keep things organized (i.e. cleaning, shopping, cooking).

2. Ask for help: Be prepared to delegate tasks to others. Go through the list and identify tasks that can easily be accomplished by someone else. Family and friends are usually asking, “What can we do or what can we bring?” Use this opportunity to check something off that list.

3. Practice self-care: Take breaks throughout the day; do not push through to finish a check list. Find a good mix of tasks that you enjoy with ones that are less pleasurable; when it comes down to choosing one or the other, always choose the one that makes you happy.

In what ways do you plan for a stress-free holiday?

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