PD and the Holidays

Ah, the Holidays!

A time for families and friends to come together in the spirit of the season. A time to relive old memories and build new ones. A time of warmth and joy. A time for grand feasts and what were once called “Kodak moments.” A time to tap into personal and longstanding cultural traditions for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa. Remarkable, magic times! Solemn, momentous times.

And for young men and women with PD, a time of stress.

Holiday stress is common for everyone. People with PD may struggle for precisely the same reasons as their friends and neighbors: Unobtainable expectations and a frenzied effort to obtain them anyway. There are cooking, decorating, and shopping to do. There are trips to crowded churches, synagogues, shrines or masjids. Lengthy trips may be in store. Rushing and multi-tasking become the first order of business.

Holiday expectations are typically fueled by our recollections of an earlier day when the world seemed more predictable and fair. We hope to recreate that sublime experience for our loved ones by having a holiday season that is just right in every detail. The pursuit of this experience is very labor intensive, at times pressure-filled.

In contrast to the larger world, PD cares not one whit what season or holiday it might be. The rhythms of PD are unique and demanding. Attempts to crowd more activities and preparation into any day, holiday or not, are bound to be marked by frustration and fatigue.

How does a person with PD respond to the challenges the disease brings to the holiday? Moderation, planning, and realistic expectations.

• Moderation. Accept that there are physical and emotional limits to what you can put into and take from the holiday.
• Planning. Decide before the holiday arrives what is important to you. Create an importance hierarchy, from most to least important activities. Make a list, written or mental and stick with it.
• Realistic expectations. Our memories are quite selective and it is very likely that this process makes us forget that holidays past had their share of things that didn’t quite work. Strive to enjoy the moment rather than to recreate the past.

In a recent Tweet (#PDpsych), I noted that “PD writes the symphony; people touched by the disease interpret this score. The art of living w/PD? Play one's part w/gusto.” You have limits but within the boundaries of those limits, one can experience a life, well-lived. I think there is no better time to apply this thought than the holiday season, whatever time it may be for your family.

Regards,
Dr. Paul

NOTE: Dr. Paul Short is neither an agent nor employee of ADPA or any of its affiliate organizations. The views expressed in this blog are the opinions of Dr. Short and do not represent the opinions or endorsement of APDA. The information contained on this site is for your general information only and is not intended as, or a substitution for, medical advice. You should also be aware that the information on this site may not reflect the most current medical developments, nor is it provided in the course of a physician - patient relationship. You should always consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider or expert with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a health or medical condition. You should never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on this site.

About the Author

Paul Short, PhD

Dr. Paul Short, The Parkinson's Coach, provides Internet-based coaching to individuals and famlies challenged by Parkinson's disease and helps them develop personalized plans for coping with the disease.