How I manage Christmas with MS

Wed 22 December 2021

Rachel Cooper

I’ve loved Christmas since I was a child, but somehow some of the shine and sparkle came off it when I got older.

It’s true that when I had children of my own, their joy and excitement reflected back at me added something special. But at the same time, as I became responsible for the shopping, the decorating and the cooking, the stress mounted up and the season became more of a drudge than a celebration. When you add MS in, it all just makes me want to stay in bed with the duvet over my head until Boxing Day.

Compromising and reorganisng

Over the last few years, though, I’ve learned - like so many other things in my life after MS - that I need to compromise and reorganise my life to do the things I once took for granted. And by doing this, I can continue to enjoy the things I want to.

I realise Christmas Day may not be one of the rare days I’ll have a bit more energy and be able to cook the Christmas meal. I could delegate, but sadly, it turns out I’m a huge control freak when it comes to cooking, so I had to find another way to do it. I didn’t want to change what we eat on the day either - the food is the thing I most enjoy.

It turns out, though, that if you plan well Christmas dinner is one thing that can mostly be prepared in advance, leaving you with little to do on the day.

Christmas dinner preparation hacks

It’s tempting to go totally over the top at Christmas and cook far too much, most of which ends up in the bin. But choosing to eat fewer things that you really enjoy creates less stress, costs less and doesn’t feel wasteful and greedy.

I write a menu for Christmas dinner well in advance, almost all of which can be prepared in advance and stashed in the freezer. That means I can shop for food bit by bit and I don’t end up having to do, and pay for, all the food shopping at once.

I start the cooking in early December, allocating a day per item from the menu I’ve put together. You need lots of zip-lock bags - they can be squished down to make more room in the freezer.

Making Christmas relaxing and joyful again

Potatoes, carrots, parsnips, in fact any veg you want can be parboiled and put in the freezer. Then if you want them roasted you just need to defrost them and put them in a baking tray of hot oil. Other vegetables can be microwaved or boiled until fully cooked.

A few years ago I discovered there’s another way to make gravy than standing next to the hob stirring for half an hour. Jamie Oliver’s prepare ahead gravy recipe can be made weeks in advance, frozen and then defrosted and heated up when it’s time to eat.

These hacks have helped to made Christmas relaxing and joyful again. But the most important thing I’ve done is to cut myself a lot of slack and concentrate on the little things that make me happy.