Holiday Stress and Parkinson's Disease

Holiday Stress and Parkinson's Disease

I know the holidays are upon us and like many families that brings tremendous stress and, on top of that, you’ve got Parkinson’s. This is NOT a good combination! You’ve got family coming, the decorations aren’t up and a trip to the mall is a nightmare. Welcome to the holiday season. For those of us living with PD, any amount of stress is detrimental to our health. To explain, there is the endless worry and anxiety of incomplete “to do lists,” meals to plan, where are we going to put everyone? These additional realities associated with the holidays seem to exacerbate the symptoms of PD to the extent that our normal routine of sleep, resting, expectations and prescription drug regiment gets interrupted. This is a problem for anyone living with PD and the attempt to reduce stress in their lives. Stress can take many forms, good and bad. For example, the excited anticipation of seeing distant relatives or the dread of navigating the mall to purchase a last minute gift. Here is some of good advice that I have put into practice.

Positive advice to reduce stress

  • Ask others for help (delegate).
  • Create a “to do” list and subdivide into: Urgent, Important and Not Urgent categories.
  • Learn the effectiveness of time management. (Don’t wait until the last second)
  • Be aware of your energy level. (On – Off Times, apathy, fatigue, etc.)
  • Remain flexible. (Don’t be critical for the sake of tradition at the expense of your health)

Although this list is nowhere near complete, you can probably add your own thoughts on this important issue. Additionally those of us trying to stick to a strict diet or nutritional regime, this can be another source of stress. Use good judgement and sensible planning. This brings up another good point. Early planning and developing a strategy for accomplishing all your holiday goals.

In order to successfully achieve your holiday goals, you must write them down, then, put forth some effort in accomplishing them even if it means stopping and resting or acquiring some help. Personally I use a white board and update it often as my priorities change. There is no shame in asking for help when it is needed but there is in overextending yourself to the point of exhausting yourself and perhaps a holiday trip to the emergency room. Maybe this is a good time to educate your family and extended family to what Parkinson’s disease is especially if you are newly diagnosed.

Do's and don'ts of surviving the holidays

  • Do recognize your strengths and limitations.
  • Don’t say, “Just leave it and I will take care of it.”
  • Do ask for help when it is needed.
  • Don’t put things off to the last minute.
  • Do shop early and during off peak times when crowds are less likely.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying, don’t enjoy the holiday season. To the contrary, I am saying basically acknowledge that you have Parkinson’s and pace yourself. Just don’t drink too much egg nog. Have a happy and safe holiday season.

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