MS and the Holidays

MS and the Holidays

With the Holidays quickly approaching, my first thought is cold weather, added stress, and great food.

This article first appeared on Healthline Contributors on 10/17/13.

With the Holidays quickly approaching, my first thought is cold weather, added stress, and great food.  Halloween is just a couple of weeks away, and then there is Thanksgiving and Christmas where life just becomes one major roller coast ride. Family, work, and social events fill our calendars so quickly that it is hard for one to keep up. With all of these wonderful events though, I would like to bring our health to the front burner.

We are excited that the heat of the summer is behind us which many of us probably experienced increased symptoms. Our bodies are trying to adjust to the cooler weather which brings smiles to many of our faces. As happy as we are with this behind us, jumping from the heat into the most stressful time of year is a difficult transition for our bodies. This is why I want to make some suggestions to help make the “favorite time of year” a good one for all of us.

MS and the Holidays

Keep close track of all potential obligations that you may want to attend. Don’t over extend yourself so that you are overly fatigued. Exhaustion increases our symptoms and lowers our immune system which in turn increases our risk for infections and illness’s such as the flu. Pick the events you really want to attend and make polite apologies for the other events that are less important. Your absence will be missed but should be understood. Make sure if you are not feeling your best that you avoid events where a lot of people may be present. You never know who may be sick or what illness you may be exposed to.

Reduce your stress level by planning well in advance.

Start by making lists of foods to prepare, grocery lists, gifts you want to buy, or anything you will need to make the shopping as painless as possible. One suggestion would be to do as much Christmas or Holiday shopping on-line. You can find all kind of bargains without the hassle of standing forever in a check-out line and reduce your exposure to possible illness. Many of these sites will also gift wrap for you as well. Do as much cooking as possible long before an event then freeze it. This will leave more time and energy for those last minute foods on the day that you need them. Make a to-do-list for your family to help with cleaning and putting up decorations. They might put up a fuss, but try and make it fun by putting on music appropriate for which holiday you are getting ready for and putting out snacks for them to enjoy while completing their tasks. Make sure if you have children that they provide you with all deadlines in advance for what food or gifts are needed for their special occasions so it doesn’t require a last minute or late night trip to the store to purchase what is needed. Set up a family calendar expressing the need to write down all important dates and what they are needing to bring to help reduce forgetfulness. Put it up where they can all see it on a regular basis. Hopefully this will also reduce double booking you for events with different family members.

Eat as healthy as possible during this season. There is always an overabundance of food during the holidays, usually foods high in fat and processed sugar. We all enjoy these type of foods which are also called comfort foods. I’m not saying not to have any of these favorites we wait all year for, just eat them in moderation. Make sure that you also include healthy choices remembering fruit and vegetables that are not saturated in heavy sauces and dips. Fast foods are so easy to purchase on the crazy nights when you are on the run but not so healthy for you.  Prepare meals such as casseroles in advanced that you can pull out on those hurried evenings. Keeping salad fixings in your refrigerator to serve with soups, stews, or chili make a nutritious meal and are quick to prepare. Have grilled or bake chicken along with lower fat meat or fish in the freezer to pull out on those hurried evenings to add with vegetables. Our immune system is primarily located in our gut so remembering to eat healthy will aid not only with better digestion, but also boost our immune system.

There are so many things we can do to not only make this time of year enjoyable for all our family and friends but also to make it easy and enjoyable for us as well. We never know what each day will bring to us as far as symptoms we will experience, but planning ahead, reducing our stress level, and getting plenty of rest should help decrease the severity or longevity of what symptoms might appear. Make time for yourself is important. Get in whatever exercise you can, schedule a massage or hair appointment if that helps you feel better, take frequent breaks on those busy days, whatever you choose to do, take care of YOU. It will pay off in the long run.

MS Blogger and Multiple Sclerosis Activist shares her journey living with MS, tips for others living MS and her husband, Steve, offers his insight as a caregiver for MS.