Wednesday, 4 December 2013

'Tis the season to be exhausted

Christmas is a challenging time for women everywhere and especially if you have MS.  Round about October time it can look like a particularly huge mountain to climb that is looming ahead.

Why is this?   Because largely for us mothers we are motivated by the fear of our children's faces before us wearing an expression of disappointment and representing our failure.  In this way failure to 'do Christmas' properly means that we have failed as a mother and a woman too.

This is especially true if you have a Scandinavian family background as I do.  For in Scandinavia Christmas is especially important, even more so than in the UK, if that is possible.  in terms of decorations, cuisine, presents and tradition Christmas reaches heady heights: the bar is set incredibly high.

It is therefore at this time of year, being a Woman with MS, that I have to be especially careful not to exhaust myself totally.  Fatigue management is especially important at this time of year   Otherwise festive fatigue (FF) can set in in a big way.  Severe FF can result in a ruined Christmas Day when you are too tired to enjoy it and left thinking 'why oh why did I overreach myself?'.

Consequently I have learned over the years several tricks to employ in order to avoid this.  Firstly it is essential to break down that looming mountain that is Christmas into smaller and more manageable hills. Writing lists really helps break big tasks down into smaller ones, so write as many lists as possible and work your way through them methodically.

Next, pace yourself.  This is an essential skill in the fatigue management armoury anyway but especially important in avoiding FF.  Never be tempted to go Christmas shopping and then attempt a seasonal drinks party in the evening as we'll: it is one or the other I'm afraid but not both. 

Also, start your Christmas shopping really early.  It is not a bad idea to become one of those really annoying people who takes up buying Christmas present bargains in the summer sales and hides them away somewhere:  just do not forget where the hiding place is (that has happened to me before now and is intensely annoying).  Be realistic and do not attempt to achieve more than one task per day

Use your diary to the max.  Use it to plan in essential tasks, for example 'December 1st, put Christmas decorations up'.  This way you will not be surprised by things that jump on you from behind, like the Ghost of Christmas Soon.

From experience I have found that although this pre-Christmas planning sounds a bit like a military operation it is best not to over plan Christmas Day itself so that it withers and dies from lack of spontaneity.  Rather, let it unfold naturally as it wants to. That way you can sit back and enjoy it and trust that your efforts will pay dividends behind the scenes.

Never ever be tempted to host Christmas Day yourself.   Leave this up to the able bodieds who are mad enough to offer.  For several years I was forced to do this against my better judgment because I was living at home with young children around.  Each year it took me about a month to recover and each year I was left saying 'never again!'.  But each year it comes round again.   Christmas is one of those universal laws that you just cannot stop.  Resistance is pointless: it just makes you unhappy and earns you an unwelcome 'bah! humbug!' reputation. 

Hopefully by now you will be able to enjoy an FF free Christmas with your family around you feeling really smug when your friends complain of how exhausted and stressed they feel.  The ultimate goal here is to have a Christmas without stress because as everyone with MS knows stress is just about the worst thing for the condition.

Anyway I wish all Centre members a really enjoyable, FF free and stress free Christmas with plenty of family togetherness, for it is this that is really important at this time of year.  Happy Christmas to one and all!

December 2013

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