Stress, anxiety or depression are common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Those symptoms can worsen this time of year with so many holiday activities. But with a little planning and routine your inner joy can shine this holiday season.
Holidays are supposed to be cause for celebration, but they’re often full of stressful demands like shopping, cleaning, baking, traveling, hosting or attending parties. People with Parkinson’s may also struggle with feelings of loneliness, grief, anger, sadness or self-doubt this time of year.
Instead of dreading the holidays, learn to recognize your triggers – be it financial pressure or feeling overwhelmed – and take the following steps to keep your mental and emotional well-being in check.
Acknowledge your feelings.
Perhaps this is the time of year that brings up painful memories. Maybe you’re disappointed you can’t be with your favorite people this year. This might be your first holiday without someone close to you. The first step to processing emotional pain is to acknowledge that it’s there. Realize that it’s normal to feel anger, sadness or grief, and that it’s OK to cry and express your feelings.
Manage your expectations.
You might have an image of what you think the holiday should consist of based on past traditions. But as families grow or evolve, traditions will change as well. Choose a few to hold on to but be open to creating new ones. For instance, if you can’t see some of your friends and family in person, find other ways to connect like videoconferencing or texting photos. Remember, not everything will go exactly as planned, and that’s OK.
Stick to a budget and plan ahead.
Before you go gift or food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. Remember that gifts don’t have to be pricey to express your love or appreciation. Consider making homemade gifts or donating to a charity in your loved one’s name.
It can feel good to say no.
Saying yes when you really should be saying no is a tough habit to break, but if you don’t stand up for yourself, it will leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. It’s important to be realistic about how many activities you can comfortably fit into your schedule. Your friends, relatives and colleagues will understand if you can’t make it to every project, activity or event. They’re probably struggling to juggle their various tasks and obligations too – we all are!
Don’t abandon healthy habits.
Studies show that when you eat nutritious food and exercise on a consistent basis, you don’t just feel physically better, your mental and emotional health improves as well. While it’s perfectly fine to imbibe in the occasional holiday treat, skipping workouts and eating unhealthy will only add to your guilt and stress. It also helps to limit alcohol consumption during the holidays because those types of beverages tend to add fuel to the emotional fire.
Make some time for yourself.
Everyone needs time to unwind, especially during the holidays. Spending just 10-15 minutes alone – without distractions – can give you the rest and recuperation you need to handle all those tasks on your To Do list. Find something to do every day that reduces stress and clears your mind. This could include yoga, meditation, taking a walk, stargazing at night, listening to soothing music, getting a relaxing massage or curling up with a good book, movie or podcast.
Reach out for support.
If you’re feeling lonely or isolated during the holidays, there are many organizations that can help. The Parkinson’s Foundation has a helpline that you can call to talk with nurses, social workers and therapists. The American Parkinson’s Disease Association has an online tool to help you find support groups in your area. You can also plug into the Parkinson’s community through Team Grant. Our easy-to-use online tool allows people with PD and their supporters to track their exercises, earn fun fitness badges and connect with likeminded individuals around the world. Visit team-grant.briangrant.org to sign up.