Depending on who you talk to, there’s likely a bit of irony about the holiday season. While it’s typically referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year,” it can also be considered the most stressful time of the year by many. While there is much joy to be found in celebrations and gatherings with family and friends, the often-long list of “to dos” and obligations can leave us feeling frazzled, even as we enjoy the traditions and rituals the season brings.
For people living with ALS and their families, the holiday season can bring its own set of challenges, both physical and emotional. But the season can still be a time of togetherness, peace—and joy—even if they are different than holidays of years past. Here are some suggestions to help manage changes and enjoy this holiday season:
Focus on what matters most to you. Part of what causes stress this time of year is the amount of “stuff” we feel we need to do. For people with ALS and their families and caregivers, these long lists of obligations can be even more challenging as they add to already long lists of daily tasks. Take time to reflect on what things are most important to you and yours and make those a priority. Learn to be okay saying “no” to those things that are just too much so you can have the time and energy to enjoy what matters most.
Be okay with imperfection. We all want our holidays and gatherings to be special for everyone involved, but the pressure to ensure that everything is “just so” can add to stress and also wear everyone out. Remember that while traditions are important, it is almost always the people taking part in the traditions that make them truly special.
Take care of yourself. We all need down time to recharge our batteries, and this is even more so for people living with ALS and their caregivers. Be sure to plan enough time for yourself, even during this hectic time of year. Know your own signs and symptoms of fatigue. Consider having a pre-arranged signal to communicate you are ready for a break.
Make time for gratitude. For some, the simple act of expressing gratitude for something or someone can bring a sense of peace and joy. Make a conscious decision to be grateful for time with family and friends, for the opportunity to share stories and memories, for the opportunity to laugh or cry, and for whatever warms your heart.
Accept or seek out help and support. A helping hand is often welcome—and downright needed. So take others up on their offers to help, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. You may have been the one to host family dinners in the past, but it is just too much now, and that’s okay. Or maybe you are up for hosting, but not cooking. Be open about how and where others can lend a hand.
There will always be some stress mixed in with good tidings of comfort and joy that comes with the holiday season, regardless of the holiday you and your family celebrate. But by allowing everyone to have some “not-so-perfect” moments this time of year, we can all have a season to celebrate and remember, together.
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