For many, the holidays are a joyful time to gather with loved ones and friends, reflect on the past year and think about what’s to come. But for some with recently diagnosed or progressing Parkinson’s or with depression or anxiety, it can be a stressful or lonely time. Visiting with others can bring worry or increased symptoms, and not attending social events can bring feelings of isolation. These are natural and common reactions.
Continue medications as prescribed.
Traveling long distances or switching time zones can make medication dosing confusing, but most doctors recommend that you stay on the same schedule. For example, if medication is prescribed every three hours and you’re awake overnight (such as on a long flight), continue taking it every three hours.
Always consult with your personal doctor about your specific medication regimen.
Take an updated copy of your medication list and bring medications in their bottles in your carry-on when flying. A few weeks before leaving, check your medication supply. Notify your doctor and/or pharmacist if you need extra refills to cover the time you’re away.
Don’t forget to exercise.
Regular activity is sometimes the first thing to drop off a full schedule, but exercise can boost your mood and help your sleep. Even 30 minutes of walking per day is beneficial. If you are visiting family or friends, make it a group activity.
Keep your usual sleep schedule.
Going to bed and getting up around the same general times (within an hour or two) will help keep you in the same routine of exercising, eating and taking your medication. It’s okay to relax on vacation, but sticking close to your typical patterns will help you feel better in general.
When going out, always plan more time than you think necessary to get ready and get to your destination since holiday traffic and weather can be unpredictable. Give yourself a cushion to remove any pressure from potentially getting lost or running late that would otherwise create worry and worsen symptoms.
When leaving the house make sure you bring your Aware in Care Kit in case of emergencies.
Stick to a healthy diet.
An abundance of Christmas cookies, cocktail parties and family dinners make it easy to eat and drink in excess. Of course you should enjoy treats in moderation, but for people with Parkinson’s, a change in diet can have important effects. After big meals, especially protein-heavy ones, your medication may not work as well (meaning your symptoms may not be as well-controlled). You also may have constipation if you’re not following your usual eating habits. (Make sure you drink enough water and eat lots of fiber-filled fruits, vegetables and whole grains.) And remember that your balance may be more sensitive to the effects of alcohol.
Choose your social events thoughtfully.
You don’t have to go to every celebration, but there may be some events you can’t miss. Think about your stressors (an undisclosed diagnosis, family dynamics or difficulties communicating in crowds, for example) and set limits. Leave after one drink, pivot if certain topics arise in conversation, or commit to no more than two engagements each week.
But don’t avoid socializing altogether. In general, people who are more connected live happier, more fulfilled lives. And in Parkinson’s, talking with others may benefit cognition, and positive relationships can boost mood.
Much of this advice applies to daily life with Parkinson’s, but it’s key during busy times like the holidays. Pay attention to your feelings and needs so you can enjoy any time you celebrate with family and friends.