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Female MS patient decorating Christmas tree and looking forward to a stress-free holiday

MS and the Festive Season: 9 Tips for a Stress-free Christmas

Reading time | 3 mins
Christmas can be a stressful and exhausting time of year, especially if you live with MS. Birgit Bauer shares her tips for a stress-free festive season.


I just love Christmas. Every year over December I take up the role as Santa’s little helper. This makes for a busy month since Christmas – while lovely – can be a stressful time of year. We all envision a pleasant and peaceful time, but in reality there is much to be done to make it happen.

Not only do you need meals and biscuits and gifts and decorations, but you also need to make sure your house is neat and you have everything ready for guests. On top of this, not all family members always get along, so it can be emotionally stressful too.

As a woman living with MS it isn’t always easy to manage everything and to have everything well organised and in place.  So a few years ago I stopped trying to be perfect. I have really internalised that the festive time is there for rest and enjoyment – not for stress and worry. 

Here are my tips for a more relaxed Christmas time...

To-do lists make everything easier

I begin working on my to-do list in October so that I can make sure I have enough time to prepare everything in good time and stay calm. I use Evernote, or sometimes a good old fashioned notebook and a pen. Just make sure you don’t lose it!

Don’t go mad with presents

You don’t have to buy everyone a present. Agree with your family to present small gifts under the tree for children and close family only. Instead of spending hours in the shop, ask for a wishlist so that you can easily find something the other person really wants. 

Online shopping minimises fatigue

Start buying your presents in good time. I make a list with gift ideas all through the year and start thinking about possible gifts in earnest in August. To avoid the mad rush of the shops I buy online. It saves time and energy and ensures that I never feel overwhelmed.

Make dinner communal  

If you have a lot of people over for dinner, make sure to ask for support. Cooking with friends and family is fun and follows the cosy Danish trend ‘hygge’ which is a mix of conviviality, warmth and cosiness. So light the fire and a few candles, and get together in the kitchen. Don’t hesitate to ask your guests to bring dishes to contribute.

Do food prep and planning early

Don’t leave all your food shopping for the last minute either. Chances are it will be all sold out and you will have the extra stress of not being able to find ingredients. Buy roasts in the weeks leading up to Christmas and store in the freezer. Things like soups, biscuits and pasta sauces can also be prepared ahead of time and frozen. This will save you time when your guests are there and you can have meals ready in minutes.

Don’t go cleaning crazy

The people who love you know your house and don’t expect hotel standards. Do the same tidying and cleaning as you would normally, nothing more.

Minimise social engagements 

You don’t have to meet everyone over Christmas time. Being sociable all day can cause emotional fatigue and stress. Prioritise who is most important and who you want to spend time with. Focus on positive people and make sure you get enough rest in between.

Give up on perfect

Come as you are. Forget the rule that everything, including you, has to look perfect on Christmas. If you enjoy dressing up, fine. But if someone has a problem if you have only managed 80 per cent and not a 100, the problem is theirs, not yours.

Ask for help

As with cooking, ask for help when it comes to decorating. In some countries like Germany, most people decorate their Christmas tree on the 24th. However, if you buy it earlier, why not decorate it then? Have people over for food while you play carols and decorate the tree. This will save time over the busy days for rest.

Christmas can indeed be the most wonderful time of the year when we take care of ourselves. So relax, be cosy and make sure you get enough rest.

Merry Christmas!

NPS-IE-NP-00131 November 2020