Managing Christmas & holiday stress with MS

20 December 2022

A Christmas Elf who has his head in his hands.

Managing stress

The winter holiday season is fast approaching. Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa or any other festive celebration, the holiday season presents us with its fair share of challenges.

Cooking for large numbers of people, sourcing gifts, travelling long distances and ever rising costs of living … It’s completely normal to experience stress or nervousness from time to time, especially when there’s a lot going on. However, feeling this way for long periods can have an impact on your health and MS symptoms with some research even suggesting that it can increase the risk of having a relapse.

I forget all the commercial nonsense. Presents only for close family and a couple of good friends. Xmas cards the same. 
Lunch is just a roast dinner with pigs in blankets and bread sauce. 

Janet MS Trust Facebook Group

Learning to manage your stress levels is an important part of taking control of your condition, all year round. Here are some techniques which might help:

Put things into perspective. Maybe the meal didn’t turn out as planned. But, do your loved ones want to see you or a perfectly cooked dinner?

Egg and chips for Xmas dinner..... Perfect

Debbie MS Trust Facebook Group

Get to know yourself. Learn what your own stress signals are so you can take charge or a step back before things get too much. 

Try to keep an open mind. If your local supermarket has sold out of festive puddings, why not start a new tradition with a different dessert?
Plan ahead. The more organised you are, the less pressure you will feel as the big day approaches. 

Getting stressed already thinking about Christmas. Best way not to get stressed is plan well ahead and enjoy Christmas

Steve MS Trust Facebook Group

Ask for help. The winter holiday season is a time for giving and a time for sharing. If you need someone to lend a hand, make sure you ask.
Be pragmatic. The perfect festive day doesn’t exist, so don’t heap pressure on yourself to provide your loved ones with perfection. Enjoy your time with others and try to have a good laugh at any mishaps that arise.

Be kind to yourself. Above all, remember that you are only one person and that you’re doing your best.


As one of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis, fatigue can sometimes feel like a barrier, affecting things like your short-term memory, concentration or the ability to find words. 

With so many potential stressors over the festive period, it can be easy to overdo it. Help manage your fatigue by thinking about ways to build up your energy levels, such as getting enough sleep, eating healthily and taking time for yourself when you need to. You could try some relaxing exercises, perhaps yoga or mindfulness.

Yoga and sherry! (Maybe not at the same time but hey...)

Jo MS Trust Facebook Group

It’s also worth checking that you’re using what energy you do have, as efficiently as possible. Planning and prioritising key jobs, delegating things to others and pacing yourself can all be useful options. 

Talking to friends and family about MS

If you’re newly diagnosed with MS, the holiday season may be the first time you’ve been around friends and family since receiving the news. Even if you’re ready to tell others, it can still feel nerve wracking. You might be worried that people will see you differently or change how they behave towards you.

Choosing exactly what and how much you share is a decision that only you can make. You might want to keep it brief, or you may prefer to go into more detail, sharing information about MS in general while describing what it’s like for you. 

If you’re looking for some help on how to explain MS to others, you could speak with your MS nurse or look for resources online. Here are some other things you may wish to keep in mind:

Set some ground rules. If you would rather they didn’t tell others, voice opinions or anything else, make this clear from the start. 

Voice your own concerns. Don’t want people to treat you differently? Emphasise this. 

Prepare to listen. It’s likely that some people will have questions or want to know more. 

No right or wrong. How you tell others is your personal choice. There’s no right or wrong way to approach sharing an MS diagnosis. 

Loneliness and depression

The festive season can also be a lonely time of year and it may not always be possible to be with your loved ones. If you’re spending Christmas alone, it’s important to try and focus on the positives where possible.

Doing an activity you enjoy or getting outside for some fresh air, if you can, are all great ways to lift your spirits.  It’s also good to remember that there are no obligations to celebrate the festive season. Instead, you could try thinking about it as a ‘self-care day’ and a chance to take some much-deserved time out.

However, if you do struggle with persistent low mood, during any time of year, then you should speak to your GP, MS nurse or neurologist.