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Christmas is Here! VIPs, Make It Less Stressful

Some of you will remember 2019 as the year you found out that you have macular degeneration. Some of you will remember it as the year your vision declined while others are wondering if it will happen to you. The stress of that alone can be overwhelming! We know that stress can affect our vision as well as our overall good health. Achieving and maintaining overall good health is key to managing the disease and living our best life possible.

By the way, in the title I use 'VIP.' In the context of macular degeneration, that stands for Visually Impaired Person. Not all of you are visually impaired, but you are ALL Very Important People!

Festive stress

Have you ever heard of ‘festive stress’? It is ‘a thing.’ Even if your holiday is a happy one, enjoyable activities can be stressful. Add that to the stress from the diagnosis, and you may end up having a meltdown.

Here are some ideas as to how to reduce the stress of the holiday season. They’re good tips for everyone, but especially important for those of you whose diagnosis of macular degeneration has had a tremendous impact on your life as well as those around you.

Expecting perfection?

I know people whose stress comes primarily from expecting perfection in what they do during the holiday season. Is that realistic for anyone? Certainly not for me! Some of the things you used to do perfectly just can’t be done, at least not easily. If you have a visual impairment, everything takes longer to do.

The to-do list

Do you normally keep a to-do list? If you don't, now is the time to try one out. If your vision isn't great, you can use a black marker on white or yellow paper to make sure it's easier for you to see.  With technology like smartphones and voice assistants, many people are dictating items for their list.

Now that you have a to-do list, prioritize the items on it. Remember that you are not aiming for perfection in everything. Note:

  • What MUST get done.
  • What you really WANT to do.
  • What won't matter one way or another. Yes, there are some things that really won't matter in the scheme of things.

Just say no!

I know that some of you are worried that if your vision declines, holidays with the family and friends will not be the same. I'll bet some of you are afraid to decline invitations to go here and there, do this and that. It's true that they may not be same, but they don't have to stop.

Don't overextend yourself to the point of exhaustion. You may find that you won't enjoy this year's festivities if you do. Think of it in terms of the quality of the time that you spend which may not be the same as the quantity of time.

Shop online

If you have a visual impairment, I’ll bet that you get very frustrated in a store because you can’t read labels on products or see where to find what you’re looking for. Maybe being in crowds makes you anxious. Shopping online has many benefits. You can use a device that allows you to enlarge the text and the photos of items. Just make sure that whatever you buy is easily returnable for free.

Want to give a gift that fits everyone? Think gift cards and gift certificates. When they first became available, I know people who thought it meant that the giver didn't care enough to find something special for a person. Now, they are preferred by some over getting things they don't want or what doesn't fit.

Don’t trip over the furniture!

Some people move living room furniture around to make room for a Christmas tree or to make room in a dining room for guests. Even if your macular degeneration is in the early stage, many of you know that it’s hard to see things if there’s not good lighting and contrast. If you do move things, make sure your path is well lit. Some people put down contrasting throw rugs as well. The only problem with that is for those of us of a ‘certain age’, we can trip over them, so be careful!

Setting the table

Are you getting out your favorite holiday tablecloth? If you don't have them, maybe this year you can get contrasting placemats. Make the new placemats contrast not only with the tablecloth but with the dishes you’ll be using. If you need another layer of contrasting colors, use what are called plate chargers. They’re basically plates that are bigger than dinner plates. No one has to know that you are doing that because of your vision impairment, do they?

Eat right...most of the time

It’s unrealistic to try to stay with your eye-healthy way of eating during a season where food is more than just something to keep you alive and healthy. It can be a time for doing something that binds us to our traditions and loved ones. When my parents were alive, Christmas was a time for the traditional meals that were something to look forward to. Mealtimes were events that strengthened our bonds.

There are three foods to be careful with:

Too much of any of them can leave us tired and anxious. But you know that, right?

What do you think?

Have you already been using some of these suggestions? Have you found the balance between having a stressful holiday season and having a stress-free one? Aim for less stress this year!

I hope that whatever you do, you will enjoy this special time of the year. As Dr. Seuss wrote, "And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." - from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

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