Parkinson’s Holiday Stress and How to Handle It

Last updated: December 2022

The holidays fill my life with a potent mixture of joy and tension. In a conversation with my therapist, I recently explained some of the obvious reasons for my joy: I get to spend Christmas with my longest-standing friends (siblings). I always go home for the holiday, which brings a comfort and familiarity of its own. And I usually take a significant break from my laptop, putting most of my work assignments on hold.

But the reasons for holiday tension are usually less simple to pinpoint. Political and religious topics often emerge during familial conversations, which almost always creates tension. Traveling disrupts my workout routines because I don’t always have access to the same tools when I’m away from home. And this can create changes in my body, my confidence levels, and how I feel about myself. And then there’s the backlog of work that accumulates while I’m taking time to be away from work. Sometimes resting creates tension of its own.

Change and disruption

When it comes to Dad’s reaction to change and disruptions to his routine, I know that he struggles, too. He recently told me that stress worsens his Parkinson’s symptoms, which is why he fights so hard to keep his life structured and consistent. The holidays are the antihero in his story, wreaking havoc on his lifestyle. But he isn’t totally unprepared for the changes that he experiences over the holidays.

Some of the advice that I’d give my dad when it comes to the management of stress is really just based on my own approach to holiday stress.

Choose social events carefully

Relationships should be symbiotic. And social events exist for enjoyment. I’m much faster to skip out on social events if it doesn’t feel mutually beneficial. Or if I don’t expect myself to have fun. These days, Dad is pretty selective with the social events that he attends. Oftentimes, he just stops by for a quick visit instead of sharing an evening together. This is a great way to stay connected to your community without overwhelming yourself.

Don’t be sfraid to say "no"

Admittedly, I struggle with this step. But this time of the year is incredibly busy. And, realistically, you probably won’t be able to go to every event or do everything that you want to do. When my energy levels begin to drop, or when I’m having a particularly bad day, I try to say "no" without providing an explanation. "No" is a complete sentence.

Try to maintain your sleep schedule

When you’re traveling, especially long distances, it can be really hard to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. But sleep is vital to physical wellness. Without it, your body never has the chance to repair itself or to store the beautiful memories that you’re making.

I usually travel through 2 different time zones to get home, which naturally impacts my sleep schedule. But I usually try to maintain my natural schedule anyways. With all of the holiday activities that are going on, I know that this key step helps my dad to stay rested and supported, too.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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