The ME/CFS Survival Guide to Christmas 1: Preparations

Christmas can be an exhausting time even if you’re full of energy, but for many people with chronic illness it can be a time of huge anxiety. It’s not just the preparations for Christmas that can take it out of you, it’s also all the added socializing that might be expected of you. And family get-togethers can often mean having to spend time with people that might be less understanding of your illness. Here are some top tips for dealing with Christmas preparations. Next week I’ll write about surviving the social demands.

Christmas Shopping:

  1. Start early and pace.
  2. Prioritize: write a list of who you want to buy for. Prioritize that list in terms of how important it is to get them something really thoughtful. If there’s anybody who you know would appreciate cash to spend as they wish, put them at the bottom of the list even if you prefer giving gifts. (If you run out of time at least you know they’ll appreciate the money!)
  3. Consider one person at a time. Don’t sit down and try to plan what you are going to get everyone, all in one sitting. Remember that thinking can also be hard work too.
  4. Have your list at hand so that whenever you come up with ideas you can put it on your list straight away. It can be incredibly annoying to know that you thought of something for Aunt Madge but you’ve completely forgotten now and you know that you can’t really trust the idea to come back to you.
  5. Internet shopping is a wonderful thing. Although I’m not comfortable with the tax evasion strategies of some of the big internet shopping companies, It saves me so much energy. Don’t try to do it all in one sitting though! Although you’ll get free delivery with some sites if you spend over a certain amount, too much time shopping on the web can be exhausting too. Do just enough to get your free delivery each time! And if you’re in the UK you can make money for charity as you shop!  Here’s the link for helping the ME Association as you shop.
  6. If you do go out shopping physically, aim for a little at a time. No matter how tempting it might be to do just a little more to get closer to getting it all done, remember the satisfaction won’t be worth the crash!
  7. Wrap each gift as you get it, but don’t forget the tags, I can easily forget who things are for. In fact I’m so good at forgetting that sometimes I can enjoy the surprise of giving as well as receiving!
  8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember it really is the thought that counts! Often there’s fun to be had in sharing a secret surprise with somebody. Think about who might enjoy being involved in shopping for the gift for each person. Your children (if old enough) might enjoy helping you get something nice for their other parent; a sibling might enjoy helping you get something nice for your parents etc. If you ask for help too humbly with a million apologies for the extra work involved, your helper is more likely to see helping as a chore. However if you try to engage them in doing something nice for another person, they might just enjoy it!
  9. If you’re not well enough to work but well enough for some carefully paced creativity, homemade cards or edible treats, are often greatly appreciated. I make my own Christmas pudding usually in October, Christmas cards in November, and chocolate truffles in December which I’ve recently discovered I can make early and freeze. As well as the joy of giving something unique and created with love, you should find that the mere act of creativity is also very good for your spirit!
  10. Aim to have everything finished a week before Christmas socializing is due to start so that you can rest up in advance!

Do you have any tips for keeping Christmas preparations low energy and fun?

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