The subject alone brought in some of our members who hadn’t thought they’d be able to join us. No matter whether you’re a laid-back holiday person or someone who really goes out for the season, holiday stress sneaks in. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah or any other annual festivity, there’s no denying it. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the month of December. The fullness of the festivities, from children’s school performances, family and neighbor parties, charitable activities are just cushion around the edges of budgeting, shopping, decorating, planning, shopping, wrapping, mailing, entertaining and worshiping. There are, of course, those who float through the season on a river of calm but most of us aren’t them.
People with Parkinson’s Disease learn early on that stress is not their friend. We all have times when our medicines don’t work for some reason. But when you are stressed, you are also less likely to get enough exercise, to eat right or to get enough sleep. And Christmas holidays just multiply the time you are likely to be “too busy” to take care of yourself. For all these reasons, symptoms tend to be worse during stressful times.
We do have some options to try to avoid holiday stress. One of our members said its important to realize when you need to ask for help. Whether you hire a cleaner or an aide or just rely on your friends, children or spouse, being honest and asking for help can reduce your stress level during the season. Another suggestion was to break down activities, even cooking, into small manageable pieces so you can control your fatigue and still accomplish what needs to be done. It might also be time to reduce holiday celebrations to more manageable and realistic levels. There are also times when you just need to say no. Over-obligating your limited time and energy will leave you feel worse and won’t add positively to the season.
Lastly, no matter what else you do, find time for physical activity every day. We all know the importance of daily exercise. Even in a busy season, this needs to be one of our most important obligations.
Other topics covered:
Driving continues to be a concern. We discussed when to quite driving, driving symptomatic and driving at night, on highways and in bad weather. General agreement is that no one wants to give up driving absolutely before they need to because of the lack of independence. One of our members who has had to quit driving expressed the frustration of not being able to run even simple errands close by. At the same time, no one wants to hurt themselves or any one else by driving beyond when you can do so safely.
Some members talked about having had to make decisions recently or are facing decisions in the near future about living situations, obtaining help, handling job requirements, and managing symptoms. Everyone’s needs and situations are unique and each of us have our own priorities, but it’s helpful to be able to discuss options with others affected by PD.
One of the beautiful thing about this group is what I call the “Have you ever…?” “Me, too!” moment- the moment when you discover you are not alone with your struggles. We had one of those moments this week, an almost universal one. One member spoke of wishing her adult children would have children so she could know her grandchildren while she was still well enough to get to hold them and so on. The “Me, too’s” broke my heart. It is definitely a collective longing. And it is one that none of us has expressed to our children.
Members should check back in a few weeks. We are considering a change for January to have an informal lunch together instead of a formal meeting to kick off 2015.