Top 3 Ways to Manage Holiday Stress

By Alene Brennan

Tis the season to be merry and bright… unless you’re living with multiple sclerosis and wanting to just crawl under the covers at the idea of the holiday commotion.

It seems like all the symptoms of MS can be amplified during the holiday season. Why? Because as much as it is a wonderful time of year, it inevitably increases stress.

For some people, it’s “good” stress – the additional social events with family and friends on the calendar.

For other people, it’s “not-so-good” stress – financial burdens, feelings of loneliness or the struggles of traveling with a disability.

Either way, stress can have a significant impact on your health and the disease process.

So how then, does one with MS manage the holiday season? These are my top three tips.

Be Selective with “Yes”

There are many opportunities to attend gatherings, participate in gift exchanges and visit family and friends. All of which can be filled with joy and laughter. However, too much of even a good thing can quickly drain your energy – the most prized possession of someone living with MS.

Be selective with what your commit to this holiday season. Choose what’s most important to you and graciously pass on anything that you know will overexert yourself.

This is one that I personally struggle with because I truly enjoy the social aspect of the holidays; however, over the years, I’ve gotten to know my boundaries and when I’ve crossed them. I’m now at a better place of respecting and maintaining those boundaries so I don’t reach the point of no-return-exhaustion before December even arrives.

Have I disappointed people I love by not being able to attend their events? Yes, and it truly upsets me. However, I also know that they love me and always want me to be in my best health.

Prioritize Self Care

Self-care is important to any health journey, but it has to be non-negotiable during the holiday season. In my opinion, it’s the only way to survive… without compromising my health.

Self-care can look differently for each person. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Read a book or magazine
  • Journal
  • Pray/meditation
  • Bath
  • Massage
  • Manicure/Pedicure
  • Facial
  • Nap
  • Enjoy a walk
  • Tea time
  • Quiet time

Schedule it into your day. It’s your appointment with yourself and it must be kept.

Rest Deeply

Last but not least, when it’s time to rest – rest deeply. Don’t multitask but scrolling through social media on your phone during nap time. Don’t be looking at emails while watching TV on the couch at time. Don’t watch TV while lying in bed.

Whatever you’re doing – napping, reading, sleeping – do it fully. Be present so your body can receive the true benefits of that time.

These are just a few ideas to help you manage the holiday season. Most importantly keep a positive mindset during the holidays. Your thoughts can be either nectar or poison to your body. Choose nectar. It may just be the best gift you could receive this holiday season.

*Alene Brennan works with individuals living with MS and other autoimmune diseases to create a diet and lifestyle that will support their healing and disease management. She holds four certifications: nutrition coach, yoga instructor, personal trainer, and natural food chef. You can learn more about her work and follow her blog, recipes, and more at www.alenebrennan.com. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook, too!

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About MSAA

As a national nonprofit organization, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America is a leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a toll-free Helpline; award-winning publications including a magazine, The Motivator; website featuring educational videos and research updates; S.E.A.R.C.H.™ program to assist the MS community with learning about different treatment choices; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; a resource database, My MS Resource Locator; equipment distribution ranging from grab bars to wheelchairs; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; educational events and activities; MRI funding and insurance advocacy; and more. For additional information, please visit http://www.mymsaa.org or call (800) 532-7667.

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