Updated: Apr 24, 2019
I'm sure that all of us can get pretty stressed out this time of year - shopping, planning meals, choir rehearsals, family get-togethers, riding in Santa's sleigh (?!?) and the like. Really we shouldn't, though, because getting gifts isn't the reason for the season! Still, it can be stressful - and having Parkinson's just makes it worse, since stress always seems to cause our symptoms to flare up more than usual.
So I thought I would update and "re-publish" my holiday blog posting from last year just to remind us Parkies of some (additional) hints that may help keep things in perspective, and help us enjoy this holiday period a little better. And, as before, I want to remind all of you of that 'special' gift everyone can give to all Parkies out there!
So without further ado, here are my top 10 tips for the Holiday Season!!
Tom's Top 10 Tips for Parkies During the Holiday Season
1. Don't Do Too Much At One Time
During this busy time, we all try to cram as much as possible into the time available; which usually means our stress level goes through the roof! But for those of us with Parkinson's, this can add even more stress to our lives, and all that extra stress usually does one ugly thing - it can make our symptoms even WORSE than they were! Plus, a lot of us - myself included - move much more slowly than we did before; so trying to go overboard and do everything at once may not only be simply impossible, but in some instances may even be harmful to the body!! (Like trying to rush down that escalator at the mall to get to that ONE store that carries that special gift you want; and then falling flat on your face!) So remember to do only what you can do during a certain time, and don't try to do everything at once. Just remember, it will all get done - eventually!
2. Take Time Out to Relax We Parkies are always trying to come to grips with the fatigue that PD causes. And during the holidays, we're on the go more often, which usually means we - myself especially - get plain pooped out! So make sure you take some time out of each day to just sit back and relax a bit. It will decrease your stress level, and hopefully reduce your PD symptoms a bit. This could involve meditation (Ahhh... Ummm) or Tai Chi; reading a book; talking to friends; having a long chat with Santa; taking a nap; or even just sitting back and watching a good Christmas movie! Just remember that whatever it is you choose to do, RELAX!
3. But Don't Forget to Exercise! On the other hand, with everything going on, we can sometimes forget that we need to exercise. Remember, exercise is the only thing that we know of for sure that can slow down PD; so always take time out of your schedule to do your exercise regimen - whatever that may be. Even puttering around the house, or walking around the mall while shopping (and bearing the weight of those heavy gift bags!) is better than sitting around eating Christmas candy and watching Christmas specials from sun up to sun down!! (But I like Christmas specials! In moderation, anyway...) So remember to get off the couch, do your exercises, and keep moving!
4. Sleep Even if you still have the energy to party into the wee hours of the morning, don't forget to stay on your SLEEP schedule if possible.. As someone who never seems to get enough sleep now that I have PD, I can say with certainty that keeping a good sleep schedule is one of the most important things you can do for yourself during the holiday season. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day if possible. Keeping this schedule as close as you can to your other scheduled activities (meals, exercising, taking Rudolph for his daily walk, etc.) will just make you FEEL better during this time!
5. Remember Your Pill Schedule
During this time we all have A LOT on our minds - which makes it easy to forget your pill schedule if you are not careful. This can be especially true if your symptoms are mild or you have something like DBS that helps to control those symptoms better. But of course if you do miss your meds your body will most likely let you know about it! But going 'off ' can easily ruin an evening holiday get-together, party or even a shopping trip, so don't forget your meds! If you have a smart-phone, you can set alarms for each time during the day when your meds are due - that way, if you're having a good time celebrating or opening tons of gifts (lucky you!), you'll still be reminded that it's time for your meds.
6. Plan Your Meals Accordingly
Let's face it - during this time of year, we eat a lot - Thanksgiving, Christmas parties, nights out with friends or relatives, Christmas cookies with Santa, and the Christmas meal itself (I think I'm getting fatter just THINKING about it all!). It's easy to go a little overboard and either eat too much and come away with stomach issues, or eat something that interferes with your meds (like a gigantic turkey dinner!) So always think about what you are eating, when you are eating it, your next med intake, and so forth. Doing this can not only help keep you 'on' but also keep you from putting on that excess holiday weight!!
7. Rely On Your Care Partner If Necessary
Don't forget that your care partner is there for you! If you have trouble remembering things, or walking (due to stiffness), or anything else that may be more difficult for you to do, remember your care partner; and don't feel bad about relying on them a little bit more during this season. Remember, they want the best for you, and if you're miserable they will most likely feel miserable too... It's their job to help you when they can - so don't forget about them, and thank them when they do help you out!
8. Watch Out For The Weather!
Obviously, the holiday season is right near the start of winter, which usually means (unless you live someplace like California or Florida - lucky you!) the weather can change in a flash. I know this is especially true here in Michigan - we have a saying here that goes kinda like this... If you don't like the weather in Michigan just wait a little while, cause it'll change!
So always keep an eye out for changing weather. It's real easy to ruin your entire holiday time by having a fall on an icy sidewalk! Watch out for snow, ice, snowballs thrown by friends (ha, just threw that one in there to see if you were paying attention!), and such - and as I mentioned above, rely on your care partner, if necessary, to help you navigate messy winter weather!
And remember to dress warmly in multiple layers if necessary - that way if you come in from the snow to somewhere like a greenhouse (or Grandma's house where the oven has been running all day), you can remove those layers if necessary. Believe it or not, being too cold or hot can be a symptom of PD - and that could turn a beautiful evening into a miserable one!
9. Traveling For The Holidays
It's usually a given that a lot of us travel during the holiday season. Whether you're going "Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go!" or just traveling across town, things can get stressful trying to navigate messy roads or airport/bus/train terminals.. And of course, what will that extra stress do to our symptoms? Yep, make them worse... So take steps to help prepare yourself for traveling beforehand so that it is less stressful on your poor body and brain! Some ideas:
Make sure you arrive early if traveling by airplane/train/bus/etc.
Leave yourself plenty of time in case of backups, late arrivals, etc.
Make sure you have ALL your meds that you will need WITH YOU ON YOUR PERSON! NEVER pack all your meds in checked baggage!!
Prepare for the worst - in case you get stuck out in the snowstorm or a flight gets canceled. You might prepare ahead of time an 'Emergency Kit' tailored just for you in case of an emergency or similar event.
10. Gifts for Parkies!
"So", you ask, "what can I give my Parky friend this Christmas?" Well, believe it or not, we Parkies are like every other normal human being, and we like all kinds of things (well, maybe NOT that ugly Holiday sweater!!) so get us what you might get for anyone else with the same interests... Just keep in mind our 'special' circumstances (like being slower or not as coordinated as we used to be - so most likely a gift certificate for a Watch Repair class would NOT be appropriate! ) and you'll be fine!
But there are gifts YOU can give to help ALL us Parkies - and that would be to remember to contribute to Parkinson's related organizations during this time of the year - especially if you are itemizing on your taxes and want to get that last charity item in for the year. More importantly, though, is that giving to these organizations can not only help those in need that are struggling with PD, but can also help with research. And who knows? It could be your gift to research that finally turns the tide in this battle with Parkinson's - be it discovering better drugs, or even finding a cure! So don't forget to give this season if you can. Below are some excellent Parkinson's related organizations that I highly recommend:
Michael J Fox Foundation (87 cents of each dollar given goes DIRECTLY into research programs!)
Michigan Parkinson's Foundation (if in Michigan)
I believe that with a number of these programs, you can give a gift in memory or in honor of someone, so don't forget your favorite Parky out there - he or she will be thankful for remembering them, I'm sure!!
I hope I've given everyone (once again) something to think about this time of year, and maybe even some good advice to help you get through the holiday season without TOO much stress. And I want to thank each one of YOU, my readers, for continuing with me in this second year of my blog! It's been a fun ride so far, and I am hopeful that it may have helped or touched someone out there, no matter if they have PD or not!
I'll be back again here soon with some more interesting topics, and I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas, and a blessed New Year!