Getting Too Cold/Hot: Many of us with MS are sensitive to temperatures. I know that when I get too hot, I start losing function. Usually, this is a summertime problem, but I have also experienced strange symptoms while standing over a hot stove or sitting too close to a hot fire (experts say that a rise of as little as one-half of a degree in one’s core temperature can bring on a pseudoexacerbation). Although I am not one of them, many people complain that their symptoms get worse in cold temperatures. Plan accordingly, and don’t hesitate to use your disabled parking placard when you need to.
Read more: An Overview of Heat Intolerance and MS
Eating Too Fast or While Talking: Swallowing problems, also known as dysphagia, are a pretty common problem for people with MS. I have never been formally evaluated, but have experienced enough uncomfortable moments of coughing when food went “down the wrong way” to guess that I can add this to my MS symptom list. I try to remember this when I am at holiday gatherings, and really put effort into eating slowly and only talking when my mouth is completely empty. I also try to avoid eating or drinking when I am talking to people whom I know to be humorous, as laughing and trying to swallow are a very bad combination for me.
Trying to Do Too Much: Most people with MS battle with fatigue and often have to limit what we do. Holidays can be fun and exciting and make us push past feelings of fatigue in order to get one more present wrapped or attend one more party. Schedules that would make other people feel a little tired the next day can bring us to our knees with fatigue. I’m not recommending that social events get skipped or preparations go undone out of fear of worsening our fatigue. However, I will say that often something has to give. Let up a little on the housework in lieu of a holiday concert. Delegate others to bring something to the meal, rather than doing it all yourself. Do some of your shopping online and avoid busy stores and long lines. Bring the frenzy down a notch and enjoy what the holidays have to offer instead of just adding a bunch of stuff into your existing schedule.
Skipping Meds, Exercise or Other Things that Keep Us Well: When the holidays get in full swing, things get overlooked, especially those things that might not be the most pleasant things we do each day. I know that there have been times that I wake up, bleary-eyed, the day after a holiday and notice that my nighttime syringe is still sitting by the sink. Exercise also tends to get ignored or crossed off of to-do lists when everything else seems so pressing. It goes without saying that we need to keep up with personal “maintenance” during the holidays – otherwise, you get the double (or triple) whammy of neglecting important health or medication tasks, compounded by all of the holiday-related health hazards, which often comes with a big ol’ dollop of guilt on the top.
Constipation: Hmmm, let’s see… do we choose bran cereal with blueberries or Aunt Helen’s famous homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of indulging in the treats that are associated with the holidays. However, realize that many of us with MS are prone to constipation, and last time I checked, chocolate peppermint truffles and egg nog were not known for their fiber content. Do yourself a favor and supplement with fiber, use a stool softener or stick with the eating plan that works for you and just take small samples of the goodies.
Depression: Depression is a very real symptom of MS. Depression also peaks around the holidays, probably as a result of stress, seasonal effects of reduced sunlight and all sorts of other factors. Keep one simple rule in mind: If you have MS and feel very sad or have no interest in things around you, you need to seek help.