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Photo of the gingerbread men Jenny's children made

My 5 tips for managing my MS at Christmas

Jenny Clarkson

From resting to asking for extra help, discover Jenny's top five tips for enjoying the festive season.

I would love to able to say I’m mega organised at this time of year. That I’ve bought and wrapped my presents, planned the menu and arranged exciting Christmas crafts for the kids. All so I can sit back, relax, and crack open the mulled wine. But the reality is I’ve done some of my shopping… and that is it.

My secondary progressive MS means that I need to think carefully about how to spend the run-up to Christmas to make sure that I stay as healthy as I can and enjoy the Christmas traditions my family love.

Below are some of the things I do.

1. Choose activities wisely

As my MS progresses, one of the hardest things is saying no to something I would have loved to have done in the past. But I know that, sometimes, one extra night out with friends can floor me for days. I know my good friends will understand if I can’t always make it out. Having friends or family over in the afternoon for mince pies and a cuppa is enough for me. And will allow me to still feel festive without overdoing it.

2. Prioritise rest

As things get busier, I just crave more and more ‘me’ time. It’s so important to factor in rest. It allows me to feel more present and enjoy the activities I take part in. I sometimes use my rest time for extra sleep. But also for little indulgences like a hot chocolate with my favourite TV programme. Or listening to a sleep story on my meditation app.

3. Adapt family time

This is one of my ‘non-negotiables’. It’s really important to me that the kids remember Christmas with fondness. In the past, I used to watch my kids try out new adventure playgrounds on days out. Or visit Santa at a garden centre. The kids are a bit older now and I’m more reliant on my wheelchair. So I’ve bought gingerbread house making kits they can do at home. This keeps things festive but a bit easier than going out and about whilst energy is low.

4. Keep it easy

I buy most of my presents online and often buy ready-made treats from the supermarket. I’d love to be a baking extraordinaire. But when I’m tired I don’t always have the energy. Last year, the kids decorated pre-bought gingerbread men and still had fun doing it. Another tip is sticking to a present ‘theme’ (such as books) so I don’t have to buy from multiple shops. And I’ll put gifts in a bag rather than struggle with paper if my hands aren’t playing ball.

5. Ask for help

This is hard for me to do sometimes, but asking for help can make the holiday season much easier. Relatives are usually happy to contribute towards Christmas food for the big meal. And friends can take the kids out to Christmas activities that may not be accessible. When I was struggling financially, I asked my siblings if we could buy gifts for just the children. They were relieved when I asked as they were finding it difficult too!

Whatever you are up to, I wish everyone health and very best wishes this holiday season.