This feels a bit early to be posting about but I’ve found that I’m actually feeling quite organised this year and doing some present shopping already. Unfortunately I did leave my decoration buying a bit late as I missed out on two of the things I wanted from Paperchase but I might see if they have it in an actual store as sometimes things are in there longer than online if they don’t sell.
It’s a couple of weeks until December so sorry if you think it’s a bit early to be doing a post with Christmas stuff in it and it does feel a bit odd talking about it now but I have found over the years that being organised and getting everything done ahead of time helps a lot with ME. It’s probably something I do all through the year but as there’s so much stuff going on around Christmas anything I can do early means I have the energy for the family meet ups and all the fun family things we do around Christmas.
Some years I’ve ended up feeling so ill over Christmas as I’ve overdone it in the build up with everything we do like decorating and travelling to visit family members. I haven’t go to the point of having everything timetabled in, though to be honest that does sound like it might be a good idea, but I have got quite a lot of the Christmas presents I’ve got planned or they’ve been ordered and on the way. This way I won’t have any last minute rushing to the stores or panicking about needing to order things online near the time because I don’t have the energy to walk around the stores and then using up the energy being anxious and just getting so exhausted.
I know Christmas is an exhausting time for most people anyway so if we have ME we have to be even more careful about how we spend the little energy we have and try to adapt Christmas to what we can do. I’m not going to talk about Christmas day as it really does feel too early for that but in the month and a bit leading up to it there are some things that I have found helpful in ways to change what we used to do. Some of them might not be relevant to you as everyone has different family traditions and things but I thought I’d post them anyway.
Decorating the Christmas tree, and the house in general, is something we always used to do on the first weekend of December and it would literally be the two days of decorating. Our house is fairly big and we do an icy look branches, like those white ones you see in a lot of stores, in the conservatory as well as a real tree in one room with nice decorations and a smaller fake tree in another room with things that are past their best or me and my sister made when we were little, it’s like we don’t throw things away but instead they go on there.
The main thing that’s changed about this is we do the decorating in smaller stages now. Since my sister moved out we always leave the fake tree for when she comes home so that’s an afternoon near Christmas, it’ll probably be Christmas eve this year, rather than being in the weekend. We also buy the Christmas tree one day and often decorate it the next, then do the conservatory the next day in the evening when mum’s home and then do other rooms as and when so it probably takes over a week with two weekends in it. I normally end up helping with putting the lights on the tree if I have the energy but I stand round the back and don’t have to actually do much besides move it from one side to the other. I also tend to go with decorating the lower down branches as much as possible unless I’m feeling particularly good that day as reaching up to put things at the top makes my arms ache for so long afterwards.
Other than decorating another big part of Christmas for my family is the food, preparing it early and then having it be more relaxed on the day. I don’t really do much of the cooking, though I do help a bit, but things like making the mince pies and freezing them before cooking them means on the day you just put them in the oven for however long they need and that’s it. There’s no mess or stress about them coming out ok as they’re already made. The Christmas cake is pretty much always something that gets made early so that’s not much of a problem but we tend to ice it near the day and recently we’ve bought the roll out type icing rather than making it with egg whites and icing sugar so it’s a lot easier, we still put the old decorations on it though, I think we’ve had some of them since I was little.
Gift wrapping is something that I love. I’m one of those people that will get the ribbons and make little labels for the presents and I’d probably get a load of tissue paper and things as well if I had the energy to spend the time on it. Though tissue paper is pretty good at times, especially if you have a sensitivity to noise or have very low energy levels as it’s very easy to unwrap and rip if you have trouble with normal wrapping paper. Gift bags are also great, I tend to keep them and reuse them each year if I get one, and you can just put the present in and either add some loose tissue paper to hide it and then put some tape on the top or just tape it and stick a label or write on the bag or label that comes with it as they often have one already stuck on there. Most years I used to just wrap everything in one go but I’ve found that spreading it out makes a big difference to me, plus it makes the Christmassy feeling last longer. I have had some years when I’ve ended up having to have breaks when unwrapping presents as my arms ache as on the day you’re less likely to be able to spread out opening especially if you’re opening them with other people there but spreading it over the whole day is a good idea if you can.
I think the local town is turning on the lights soon, that’s something we used to go and see every year but recently I’ve just been too tired and it’s always so full of people and noise that it’s a bit overwhelming. And then there’s the bit where they turn on the lights and we have to all stand still in a group and watch which is never great but at least after knowing about POTS I kind of know why it doesn’t work for me so I can cope. My goal is to actually get to it this year, I think they’re cordoning off some of the roads and having a bigger thing throughout the day so I might go earlier, even if it means I miss the lights being turned on I will still get a bit of the Christmas market feel.
I think that overall the main thing that I’ve learnt about Christmas, like with everything I suppose since having M.E. is that you have to compromise. There are so many things going on that you need to be able to know how much you can manage, be able to turn down some things, even if you would love to do them, if it will have too much of an effect on your health. I used to just try and do everything anyway and be so exhausted afterwards that it’d last a lot longer than if I just had a day or two off hear and there in the middle of preparations. I know this isn’t always possible, especially when it comes to jobs or commitments or if your family all lives a long way away, but if you can then I think this time of year it’s especially important to remember about pacing, mainly because it’s easy to forget when you’re enjoying yourself doing everything until it’s too late and you’ve overdone it. If you do decide to go through with everything be sure that there is a chance for you to rest afterwards and I’ve tended to find when I do that I have to rest longer than I expect or I do something and it knocks me back further than it would if I hadn’t used so much energy before.
I’m sure there were more things I wanted to talk about but my mind has gone a bit blank part way through. I hope someone finds this useful, not that there’s really many tips, it’s more just saying what I do but still, I will do more tip type posts in the future. There’s family trips but they’re kind of a post on their own as there are so many things to think about with that. We go to visit family in Wales every year for a meal so I’ve finally managed to make a list of ways I can manage it besides just ‘rest before’ which doesn’t always work on its own. I’m probably going to do a post about Christmas eve and after Christmas, maybe make it two posts because surviving the sales almost needs its own post, I’m still not sure I’ve figured that out!
Sorry if it kind of turns into a bit of a Christmas theme in this part of the blog coming up, I have a couple of things planned that are less specifically Christmas, more winter, but with ordering my decorations yesterday I got in the mood a bit and realised we’ve already started with getting things ready so thought it was a good time to post it. Are there any traditions or things leading up to Christmas you do in advance? I know that mince pies are pretty British, or at least I think they are, I could be wrong. Are there any local or national things you do before December or early in December?