Top tips to surviving the festive season

This time of year is hard for everyone but it can be especially hard when you have a chronic condition like MS. We put such a lot of expectation on ourselves that we need to remember to pace ourselves. I find it very hard at Christmas time as the fatigue sets in, and family and friends forget that they are nearly more tiring to me than my full time job! Although it’s exciting to spend time with my loved ones, the constant chatter, emotional highs (and lows) and all of the travel takes it’s toll over the festive period.

Here are my top tips to help you survive and make it through into the new year.

1. Get organised

It can be hard to do everything that needs to be done for Christmas on your own. From buying presents to sending cards, the holidays are a very time-consuming event. However, if you plan ahead and prepare in advance, you will find that Christmas will run a lot more smoothly. I find it beneficial to start writing lists well in advance for presents and food which can help focus my shopping, and assist me in telling my loved ones what I want, what they need to help me buy. When I go shopping, I save money because I’ve already planned (keeping unwanted items out of my trolley)

2. Making a budget and sticking to it!!

Christmas is not an easy time for anyone, especially if you’re someone on a limited income. If you are reliant on a lower income since cutting down hours at work, since living of benefits or since having little ones, then you’ll know that it’s important to have more realistic expectations about what you can afford. Plan out what you afford to spend and a buffer just in case things are more expensive than you anticipate. Make sure you budget for food and drinks, and any extra travel.

If you have children (or even tell your family and friends!!) what your budget is… and perhaps save throughout the year. I have a Monzo card that puts my petty change away from every transaction. This means I’ve been saving without even realising it. Over the course of the year, I’ve saved around £300!!

3. Don’t forget to treat yourself

Make sure you buy yourself something to open on the special day to celebrate how hard you’ve worked for the whole of the year. You work hard all year long looking after your family, going to work and looking after yourself and this is a little way to give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. It’s nice to have something to open and enjoy that you want. I save points on my Boots card so that I can shamelessly and with no guilt buy myself a present each Christmas. This year I’ve saved more that £70 to spend on myself with my Boots points.

This means that I’ve got my money for my gifts to spend on family from my Monzo card and money for myself on my Boots points. Yay!!

4. Create a tradition.

Create a new tradition that is personal to you and your family which may be watching a family, going for a walk or having a drive on Christmas Eve. For me and my husband, we don’t have children and we were fed up with driving miles and dashing around to see family on Christmas Day. We decided that our tradition would be a walk on the day, and then we would go out for a meal. We always decorate our tree together, we buy a new bauble each year and we Treat our family to a new bauble too. Having set up these new traditions for ourselves, it has made Christmas even more special for us.

5. Don’t spend the day alone

Christmas can be really hard and it’s easy to feel the isolation set in if you aren’t surrounded by friends and family. When I was first diagnosed I didn’t feel the Christmas spirit. It’s easy to want to spend it alone and not want to go out and join in with the festive fun. See what family and friends are up to, maybe invite some friends around to come and have a buffet at your house – ask if you can pop around to go and share time with others. Just make sure you aren’t alone.

6. Make gifts and try and give meaningful presents

Create keepsakes that family and friends can keep for future. Try and make gifts that are meaningful and will show your family how much you love them. Gifts don’t need to cost any money – maybe you could make something or write a poem?

7. Don’t overdo the party

Our partying generally starts with the work’s Christmas party. Of course, it is the time to let your hair down – but not at any cost! All too often people go a bit too far and then live to regret it. If you don’t care what an idiot you make of yourself, then go ahead, just make sure you are not causing a nuisance to anybody else.

8. Don’t over expect thingsit’ll only fall short

Don’t expect to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas as it’s near likely to fall short of your expectations. The most important thing is for you and your family to have fun. That does not mean landing yourself in debt for the next 12 months by buying expensive gifts – just spending a bit of time together can be the best present. Remember, if something does not go quite to plan, it really is not the end of the world.

9. Don’t try and be the hostess with the mostest

If you are responsible for cooking and hosting the Christmas Day activities, then don’t take it all upon yourself. Why not ask other family members to bring different parts of the meal, such as snacks, salads or desserts – don’t be afraid to ask for help. You could even rope in the kids to help out. Make sure you have some time for YOU, even if it’s just allowing yourself to watch one special TV show that you really want to see.

10. Be active

As soon as you are feeling remotely human, and your chances of throwing up have lessened, then think about doing some exercise. A brisk walk, light jog or swim will help work off those extra roast potatoes and all those second helpings you may have had. Getting active will also help you feel normal again, dispel any festive cabin fever and help repair some of the damage you have done to yourself.

11. Sleep

Sleeping is the time when our bodies recover from the excesses of life. Drinking and eating too much can severely affect our sleep patterns, as can the frequent late nights that are a regular occurrence during the festive period. Over Christmas and New Year, many people are sleep-starved leaving them not fit for much after a few late nights, let alone being the life and soul of the party

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