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How to give your brain a break over Christmas

Sarah Rees

Christmas can be a demanding time. Find out how Sarah Rees manages her time and enjoys the festivities. 

Christmas is rushing towards us once again. And this year the festive season brings hope for something more ‘normal’ after last year’s lockdowns. While it’s wonderful to contemplate time with friends and family, I can’t help but approach the season with caution. My brain will need a holiday over Christmas too!

For many of us with MS, mental stimulation can be one of the most tiring things we experience. If not carefully managed, being busy and engaging with lots of people can nudge us into the ‘cog-fog’, of fatigue that reduces life to a lie down on the sofa. Not fun.

But we can still do the things we want this Christmas. With a bit of careful planning and sensible decision making, we can optimise our energy reserves and enjoy the season without suffering the pain of fatigue. Below are my top tips for making it to the New Year with energy and enthusiasm to spare:

Think small and simple

Meeting fewer people at one time and doing simpler, slower activities can be less tiring. And helps you manage your energy levels more efficiently. It’s also a lot nicer to spend quality time with fewer people. It allows for a decent natter and there are more opportunities for taking some time out if needed.

One big activity a day

Don’t cram too much into one day. This could be a day out, a theatre trip or a party. If you’re hoping to do something ‘big’ on a single day, plan for the rest of the day to be quieter. Then you can ‘charge up’ your battery for the fun.

Rest is best

Even if you don’t think you’re tired, build in time for rest every day. This will help you maintain your energy levels throughout the season. You’ll know what works best for you when you need to recharge. I like to be in a familiar and quiet space, lying on the sofa with something ‘easy’ on TV. But you may need silence or a gentle walk.

Get comfortable saying ‘no’

The people who care about you will always understand if something is too much for you to handle. Even if you have to cancel at the last minute. Be confident in saying ‘no’ when you need to. Put your health first, because you’re the one dealing with the fallout when you push it too far.

Know thyself

Make lists of activities you know are tiring and activities that are restful for you before the Christmas week. Keep this to hand and use it as a reference point when making decisions on what to do. And how to plan each day. We’re all unique. No one knows you better than you, so trust your instinct.

Get over the fear of missing out

You can’t do everything. And that’s ok! Focus on the key activities and the most important people. If you can manage more, great. But be realistic about what you can achieve. There’ll always be another opportunity for the things you have to miss.

Being sensible isn’t always enjoyable. But it’s worth it to avoid the seemingly endless, debilitating fatigue that can descend if we don’t take care. A little self-management goes a long way. And a busy time like Christmas is a key moment to be mindful. That way you can maximise the pleasure of the season.

Give your brain the breaks it needs this year and enjoy all the festive fun without the fatigue. I wish you a very merry (and restful) Christmas!