Tips to make it through 12 days of Christmas whilst living with a Functional Neurological Disorder

When you have a chronic health condition such as a Functional Neurological Disorder, Christmas can be a nightmare rather than a joyous occasion. Here are 12 days of Christmas tips to help you cope over the holidays.

1. Acknowledge your limitations: Everyone will have an idea in their heads of the perfect Christmas, but in reality, you may not be physically able to do all the things you used to do and need to plan activities accordingly. Try to conserve your energy and acknowledge your limits so you can enjoy the Christmas festivities.

2. Be aware of your triggers: Flashing lights, loud noises, lots of stress … Christmas has it all. Think about things you can do to reduce your exposure to triggers. Try to make time every day for your relaxation techniques and stress busting activities.

3. Be grateful: It’s hard to feel grateful when you are living with a chronic condition, however you will find it easier to maintain an attitude of health and wellness if you look for things for which to be grateful. Instead of dwelling on the pain, fatigue and physical difficulties through the Christmas holidays, you may be able to gradually bring in some light. Even through the toughest times of your life, there is always something to be grateful for.

4. Cooking made easy: Frozen and already prepared food is much better quality than it used to be. You can get almost everything already chopped and peeled, which will save time as well as energy. It’s not ‘cheating’ to make use of these.

5. Coping with loneliness: If you feel lonely or isolated talking with others in the same position can bring comfort, support and help you to cope. You may not be able to leave your house at present so on-line support groups can help you connect with others and make friends. Local community charities can also offer buddy schemes, planned gatherings and activities to help people connect. You do not have to be alone.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: It can be difficult enough to manage everyday tasks and Christmas holidays can bring along a lot more demand on your time and your health needs. Sometimes you really do need to be honest with your loved ones and those around you about what you need to help you get through the day.

7. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to things: People may not like your decision, but your health takes priority. You will be the one who will have to manage your symptoms if you overdo things … no one else. You want to be able to enjoy the holidays, not endure the holidays.

8. Guilt must go: Guilt is created when you fail to live up to your own expectations for yourself. At this time of year, we are bombarded with adverts for the ‘perfect’ Christmas, complete with family, friends, food and festivities. Take ‘perfect’ out of the picture and aim for ‘good enough’.

9. If you can’t keep to Christmas traditions, make up new ones: Whatever your idea of how Christmas is supposed to be, it doesn’t have to be like that for you to enjoy it and be happy. Happiness and ease are key, and the greatest gift you can give can’t be bought – the greatest gift you can give someone is your time.

10. Pace yourself: Fatigue can make you feel like cancelling Christmas altogether, so it’s important to take time out and rest. Take breaks in between tasks, maybe get out of the house if you can, have a nap – anything to take your mind off the matter in hand and rest your body. Remember to also try to factor in time to rest when you have something coming up.

11. Plan ahead: A large portion of stress can come from the last-minute rush to get everything done. Planning is not straight forward for someone who has a chronic condition, but not waiting until the last minute to do everything might just allow enough energy left over to enjoy your holidays.

12. Remember what Christmas is all about: It’s so easy to get caught up in the baking, partying, shopping, decorating, etc., but that’s not really what it’s all about. Christmas is about creating memories, enjoying the magic of the season and spending time with loved ones and friends.

Wishing you all a merry Christmas and well wishes for the new year.