11 Living Well Strategies for Enjoying the Holidays

African-American family enjoying tea and snacks while celebrating Christmas at home

The holiday season can be both a time of cheer and exhaustion, especially when you’re living with Parkinson’s. Davis Phinney Foundation Ambassador Patty Wargo knows this all too well, so she recently passed along 11 strategies she’s employed during her 17 years of living with Parkinson’s to help you navigate—and enjoy—this festive season.  

#1 — Be realistic in your expectations of yourself. 

It’s important to know both your strengths and the situations that challenge you and to adapt as needed. If you’re feeling less than enthused about putting up a Christmas tree, hang a festive wreath instead. If in the past you always prepared a New Year’s Eve dinner from scratch but this year don’t feel up for it, order takeout instead. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you modify your traditions—there’s always time to start new ones!  

#2 — When it comes to decorating, keep it simple. 

“A holiday tablecloth and centerpiece can get you into the spirit and help you feel the joy of the season without too much expense or stress,” Patty says. There’s no need to go overboard. (And remember, if you’re planning to string holiday lights inside or outside your home, ask for help and be exceedingly cautious if you are climbing a ladder, as instability is a very common Parkinson’s symptom and can lead to falls and significant injuries.)  

Hanukkah celebration with menorah and sufganiyot on wooden table#3 — Identify your ON times and plan accordingly. 

Knowing what times of day you typically feel your best will help you set schedules and make the most of your days. (You can find some helpful worksheets for this kind of symptom tracking here.)  If you know that you tend to feel tired or OFF most days as evening approaches, plan gatherings for earlier in the day. If you’re aware that your wearing-OFF periods happen an hour before your next dose of medication is scheduled, build a rest period into your day during that time rather than planning a group outing.  

#4 — Accept offers of help. 

“If someone asks, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ say yes!” Patty says, “and be specific.”    

#5 Prioritize your mental health. 

Every part of you is connected, so if your mental health is suffering, so too will your physical and emotional health. And, because the holidays can be tough for many people (especially this year, when the pandemic is again front-and-center), it’s especially important that you take care of yourself and prioritize self-care this monthKnow that you are not alone, and that there are countless members of the Parkinson’s community who are always eager to connect. (Looking to chat with someone now? Connect with an Ambassador!) For resources to help support your mental health and wellbeing during this season (and throughout the year)click here 

above view of woman in white knitted sweater composing gift list in notepad before Christmas

#6 — Make lists. 

Keep track of your medication schedule, your gift lists, your appointments, your social activities, your menu, your exercise plan, or anything else that helps you stay organized. After all, Patty says, “making lists works for Santa!”  

#7 — Shop online, and have gifts shipped directly to the recipient. 

This strategy may not only save you money (if you’re planning to shop presents to your loved ones rather than handing them out in person) but can also help you avoid wrapping gifts (which can be difficult if you experience tremor in your hands) and lifting heavy boxes.   

#8 — Pace yourself. 

Pick one task to accomplish each day. And celebrate each accomplishment!   

#9 — Embrace naps. 

The famous line “a long winter’s nap” is famous for a reason. If, like many people with Parkinson’s, you struggle with quality sleep, build nap times into your holiday schedule.   

#10 — Avoid long lines and crowds by shopping early in the day. 

Holiday shopping in the midst of crowds can be stressful, and if you experience dyskinesia or are feeling OFF, it can be a task you avoid entirely. To make this activity less taxingconsider shopping at times when your store is the least crowded. Take advantage of delivery or pick-up options for items that are large or heavy. Use a metal wallet or steel clip to hold cash or credit cards to help with payments, and accept help from store employees who can help you deliver bags to your vehicle. 

Two women talking in produce section of grocery store#11 — Plan ahead for holiday entertaining. 

Patty suggests the following when it comes to gatherings: 

  • Be responsible only for the setup and main course. Ask guests what they would like to contribute to the holiday meal.  
  • Set the table early. Pick out serving platters, bowls, and serving utensils, and label them with what goes in each. This can be done several days ahead of time. 
  • Let others help. Assign tasks to your guests, such as carving the turkey, mashing the potatoes, making the coffee, washing the dishes, and serving dessert.  
  • Sit down and rest whenever you can. If little ones are in attendance, plan a “movie time” with them in a quiet room.  

Remember, during the busy-ness of the holiday season and throughout the year, to be grateful for what you can do. Enjoy your time with friends and family. Have fun. Happy holidays! 

This blog post was written by the Davis Phinney Foundation.

This blog post is sponsored by Sunovion.

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