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8 Tips for Surviving the Holidays With Parkinson’s Disease

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My name is Nikki and I’m an overachiever. An overachiever with Parkinson’s disease. This should make for some interesting conundrums over the holidays — you think?

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Like many other situations over the two years since my diagnosis, the holidays open up the opportunity for some wonderful teaching moments — for myself.  I’ve had to learn to adjust my holiday expectations and there seems no better time to share these revelations with fellow overachievers than this week.

The following are some of the things I have done to not only survive the holidays with Parkinson’s disease, but maybe even thrive during the holidays with Parkinson’s disease.

1. Be kind to yourself.

I think this may be the most important tip to follow, not only during the holiday season but all year long.  Parkinson’s and perfectionism are not a compatible couple. I find myself giving up a few of my perfectionist tendencies every day. What a beautiful gift to give one’s self this time of year — a bit of patience and grace.

2. Shop online.

This is a huge one for me! Each year I seem to do more and more of my gift shopping online and each year I feel more and more of the burden of holiday shopping crowds, noise and chaos lift.

3. Wrap as you go.

My husband will get a real kick out of seeing this one because I have not been true to this tip myself this year. But it can really make a difference. Instead of having to spend an entire day (or four) wrapping all the treasures you plan to gift friends and family with, keep your paper, ribbons, gift bags and tissue easily accessible and wrap as the gifts arrive.

4. Adjust your expectations.

I get it. This one is really, really hard for overachievers. But once you’ve done it, it’s also really, really liberating.  Our tree is smaller this year, I didn’t send out Christmas cards this year, and the winter-themed dinnerware is still safely packed away. And guess what? No one has said anything about any of it. At least out loud to me. So I’m going to let these things go this year, and I’m going to be OK with it.

5. Listen to your body and pace yourself. 

I’ve had to work pretty hard on this one. I cannot do everything I used to do. I’ve had to learn to factor in “rest days” and I’ve had to learn not to be angry about these days. I’m learning to accept that these rest days are what allow me to be fully functioning and fully present on my most treasured days.

6. Accept help when it is offered.

This has been a hard one for me, the overachiever. I don’t like to ask for help and I often struggle with accepting it even when it is authentically offered.  I have had to adapt and to learn to both ask for and accept the assistance of others. If you usually host friends and family, make this year’s celebration potluck-style.  If a loved one offers to open their home for the celebration, try replying this year with a gracious “yes, thank you.”

7. Adhere to your medication schedule.

This piece of advice is coming from experience, and not necessarily a positive experience. It is very important during the busyness of the holidays to remember to take your medications on time. The easiest way I have found to do this is to set a reminder alert on my phone.

8. Take breaks when needed.

This is often necessary when you’re cooking, wrapping or baking, but it can also be necessary when you’re visiting and celebrating. Parkinson’s has affected both my balance and my strength and energy.  Frequent breaks while preparing dinners and treats have become a must. Parkinson’s has, unfortunately, also affected my tolerance for crowds and noise. Ten minutes in a quiet room or a slow stroll around the block in the fresh air can be rejuvenating for a spirit that may be overstimulated.

A Parkinson’s diagnosis comes with its own set of challenges.  When combined with the activities of the holidays, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Parkinson’s or not, go into this holiday season with an open mind and an open heart and embrace everything it has to offer.

Getty image by Julia Sudnitskaya.

Originally published: December 23, 2019
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