It's the holidays and among the many blessings they bring there are as many headaches and obstacles even the healthiest people encounter. Last year I pushed myself so hard that I didn't take the time to take care of myself and ended up in a terrible flare in January & February. It took several months to recover. This year I am planning ahead.
We all know that the days we plan for usually work out better than if we didn't. I know that planning doesn't mean it works out the way we expected. I am not talking about the plans of going to an event and hoping you feel good that day. I am talking about the kind of planning that helps you pace yourself in order to accomplish what you want while taking care of yourself. This year to accomplish my goals, wants & needs I am using the calendar to be proactive and I thought I would share. Now I realize it is December 6th and we are week in to December, but take my advice and find a way to make it fit for you. Not everyone is trying to be "Super Christmas Mom" like I do, but everyone wants to make Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanza or whatever you choose to celebrate special, to themselves and the way remember it "should be".
First, write down all of the things you want to do over the holidays. Separate your "Christmas To Do List" by Wants & Needs, but leave room for a second category we will use later. I will use myself as an example to give you ideas.
Make Christmas Cookies
Make Christmas Candy
Decorate the house
Put up Christmas Tree
Go to Christmas parties
Kids school events
Visit with Santa
Take picture for Christmas Card
Send Christmas Cards (Need because I just moved & need to update address. Perfect excuse)
Shop for gifts
Rest & Take care of myself
That's a good start. Now, I need to break these choices down further.
Make Christmas Cookies:
Make Christmas Candy:
*Peanut Butter Cups
*Chocolate Covered Cherries
*Chocolate Krispie Crunch
*Candied Orange Peels
Decorate the house:
*Inside Lights & Knick Knacks
*Outside Lights & wreaths
Put Up Christmas Tree:
*Birthdays (during December)
*Santa Lunch w/neighbors
Kids School Events:
*Christmas Choir Concert
*Volunteer for Kid's Santa Shop
*At the Mall
*At the Greenhouse Hot Cocoa Social
Picture for Christmas Card:
*Decide on a setting
*Get setting ready
*Pick out clothes for kids to wear
*Help kids get ready
*Have kids sit for the picture
*Send picture to put on the Christmas Card
*Pick up Christmas Cards
Send Christmas Cards:
*sign Cards (if needed)
*Put on stamps (Go pick up if still need them)
*Mail Christmas Cards at the post office
Shop for gifts:
*Put names on Christmas List
*Write down ideas next to each name
*Look at newspaper ads and online for deals
*Go shopping at mall and specialty stores
*Keep track of purchases
*Stay on budget
*Sort presents by person
*Choose paper for each gifts or person
*Gather supplies-scissors, tape, gift tags, pen...)
*Wrap and label gifts
*Sort under tree by family, event, from Santa or Mom & Dad, etc
*Mail out of town gifts
Rest & Take care of myself:
*Put feet up
*Rest mind and relax
*Do MS Yoga
*Practice strategies for balance & strength taught by physical therapist
From here is where the blank category comes into play. From first glance the original lists may not seem too bad, but once they are extended they really show how crazy we can be stretched without realizing it. The blank category is where we put the things we take out of the extended categories. For example, the cookies and candy have 5-6 different kinds. This year I am going to scale down and eliminate 2 from each category to make it smaller. So use this category for priorities. This will be where you put the things that will still make you feel like you accomplished most of your goals to participate in the way you wanted to do it. Keep this in mind as we move on to the calendar.
Bring down your calendar or print a blank month of December online & grab a pen. The goal here is to get your priorities down and spaced out enough to allow you to rest and still accomplish your goals. Look at the first week of December, this is your planning week or choose 2-3 days for planning out your ideas and tasks. Look at your priority list and find out how the parties fall, when you want your cookies made by and when you want Christmas cards to be mailed, etc.
Plan, Plan, Plan. This can mean the difference in how your holiday is memorable for good or for bad choices. Here is my example calendar:
*Research websites offering "Free Shipping" or shop online & pick up at the store. Many sites offer this now. Walmart for example has a "site to store" pick up. You order online & they ship it to your local store at no charge. You just bring your receipt and they bring items to your car if you need help.
*Buy your Christmas cards if doing boxed ones with no picture and keep near your favorite resting chair.
*If doing a Christmas photo, decide & plan layout, clothing, etc
*Write in Christmas parties on calendar once you've decided which you will attend. If you want to have a "maybe group" of events you will play by ear or by your MS body then put them on in a different color to indicate they are a "maybe". Example: Use Red for definitely & Green for hopefully.
*Send regrets for the "No" events
*Decide which Christmas goodies you will make and print out or pull out the recipes to set aside.
*Review recipes and see which take longer steps such as "refrigerate dough overnight" and plan out accordingly.
*Plan shopping trips, but space out. Know your advantages, for example: The USPS will deliver stamps to your door with the postman. He/She can also pick up the packages you want to ship. This reserves a good part of your energy.
*When scheduling yourself, add days for just resting. At least one between events. If you can't have a day, schedule in nap or to out up your feet for an hour or two. This can really make a difference.
*Find ways to cut corners on the tasks you have chosen. I decided to change my sugar cookies to the pre-cut or pre-shaped kind. Some stores offer this. I bought mine through Market Day that is sold through my child's school. I am also giving my kids free range to decorate these themselves. If you make the dough one day and bake the next do that.
*Another way to save time & energy is separate or set up your tools the day before. For example: Get out the bowls, the dry, non-refrigerated ingredients, the spoons, cookie sheets all that you will need and put them on the counter or the kitchen table for the next day. When the next day comes you will need to preheat the oven, get out the cold ingredients & begin baking.
*Ask for help. Don't be proud. Our families & friends want to visit with us. Many want to help, but aren't sure how. Either they don't want to overstep or do the wrong thing or they don't know what little things will make the difference for you.
*Ask someone to bring the decorations up or down from the basement or attic. That will save you energy.
*Ask if someone can bring the empty boxes back for you when you finish and establish where to leave them and when they will do it.
*Ask someone to do the dishes after you bake the cookies or make the candy.
*Once your cards are ready to be addressed, leave them near your favorite chair or spot. Have a goal of addressing 5-10 a day. Leave them for the postman to take to the post office.
*Shop online & arrange free shipping or site to store.
*Other options are having the store or site ship it directly to the person's home.
*Ask friends & family for money saving tips they have discovered.
*Sort Gifts as you buy them
*Set up a wrapping "station" or area with your supplies
*Ask for help with wrapping
*Set a number goal of how many gifts you want to wrap a day
*Finish up baking
*Put together any goodie plates or tins you need
*Write out labels for gifts or tins in advance
*Take a nap before an event
*At least take time to rest or put your feet up before your party
*Schedule "Your Time" wisely
*Have an exit strategy for when you need to leave a party, whether this is a must leave by time or a "Code word" that tells your driving companion, I need to leave now.
December 23-December 31st:
*Finalize your plans & details
*Keep up the 5 cards a day or 3 gifts to wrap a day
*Plan ahead for ALL your events & special moments
*Rest! Rest!! Rest!!!!
*Remember: Only YOU will put your health first. Others are happy to SEE you & interact with you. Our own adrenaline at these events makes us push further & masks the oncoming symptoms so know your body & plan accordingly.
*Pace yourself by scheduling your time wisely.
*If you want to attend more than one the same day or in the same weekend then pick a time frame & stick to it. It you believe 2 hours at each will allow you the energy and rest time to do both then follow your own plan. You will be happier in the long run.
*i find when I get in my car or arrive home after an event, the energy drains out of me. I didn't even realize that my excitement was pushing me further then I would normally tolerate. We know ourselves, so that is why planning is best.
Make plans that will fit your lifestyle and at your pace. My timeline is an example and a rough one at that. Make things happen the best way to keep you healthy AND happy. Make your holiday Merry & Bright and not a Holiday MeSs. Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanza! and Merry Everything in between!! (Happy Birthday to my fellow December/January Birthday Friends too! ) <3 Love & Kisses <3 ~Tammy