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10 Ways to Keep Joy Alive in the Holidays

By Gay Falkowski
During the holidays, “to-do” lists grow longer and demands on our time and energy seem never-ending. For those with MS, this time of year is especially challenging; the inability to do everything you once did can bring about feelings of sadness or even guilt, not to mention exhaustion. If this sounds familiar, consider making some changes in your holiday routine. Give yourself the gift of a stress-free holiday by following this helpful advice from MS experts and fellow MSers:
 
1. Before you hang your first ornament or buy your first gift, have a conversation with your loved ones and let them know that your holiday traditions may need revisions, depending on your health and energy levels. Ask them for suggestions and let them know you welcome their help in all holiday preparations.
 
2. Prioritize. Make a list of everything that needs to be done and decide which things are “must-do” and which are optional.
 
As you prioritize, think not only about what's important, but what you truly love to do. If wrapping presents with lots of elaborate ribbon and bows makes you happy, don't deprive yourself by going with gift bags or delegating it to someone else. This season is about joy, so don't give up things that give you joy!
 
3. Feel all right about saying “no” to low-priority activities that will overload your schedule. Don’t worry what others think.
 
4. To deal with the unpredictability of MS, build in flexibility to your schedule. Look at your average energy and under-schedule each day based on that. If you finish up and still have energy, work ahead. If you have a few days when you can't get anything done, catch up during he next several days, reprioritizing to take care of the most important things first.
 
5. Schedule daily naptime. The length of your rest is something only you can define. Lying down for half an hour may give you a nice boost, or you may need a two-hour nap. Your scheduled rest period is not the time to check e-mail, watch TV, read or make your grocery list. Your mind needs rest just like your body. Even if you can’t sleep, meditate, take a bath, or just relax.
 
6. While it’s true that pre-chopped and prepped foods can be more expensive, adding some of those convenience items to the shopping list may be well worth the added savings in time and energy. Spread out the mealtime work by cooking and freezing ahead of time. Or try having a potluck instead.
 
7. Try shopping online. It’s the easiest way to conserve energy, avoid frustrations, and find things you may never find in stores. You can shop online by store name or key words and can get a jump on holiday deals. Most coupons and promotional codes are good online as well.
 
8. Consider giving gift cards. They are easy to purchase and easy to send. Some people worry that giving gift cards is too impersonal. However, the receiver often appreciates the chance to shop for something he or she really wants or needs.
 
9. If gift-wrapping is a hassle, forgo the wrapping paper and deliver your gifts in colorful boxes, decorative bags, and artsy canisters.
 
10. Think even further outside the box and completely take a break from gift giving for the season. Instead, donate funds to local families who are poor, and struggle to have just the basics. Many charitable organizations can help you funnel your donation to the right place. Then relax and enjoy the warm fuzzy glow that comes when you make your holiday about the spirit of giving.