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Holiday Survival Guide

11/29/2023 12:13 PM | Anonymous

8 Tips for a Stress free Holiday Season - YOPN Member Eric Slominski

Now that the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone, and you've waved goodbye to family, it's time to start preparing for the homestretch of the year. As kids, we tend to remember this time of year fondly, but now as adults, the warm memories of good times and the exciting anticipation of Christmas morning may have been replaced with excessive stress and even loathing. The stressors that can contribute to this are many. 

Over-hyped - Right after Thanksgiving, Christmas songs begin playing, decorations go up at many homes and businesses, and Black Friday and Cyber Monday kick off holiday shopping. The insanity is practically inescapable, and the outsized expectations of the holiday can often lead to burnout and disappointment. 

Commercialization - With religion playing an ever-lesser role in families, it seems that capitalism has taken the opportunity to step in and offer an alternate emphasis on the gift-giving aspect of the holiday. But it's all too easy to go overboard and spend too much on things nobody really needs. With the steady allure to spend, spend, spend it's no wonder it's so easy to end up cranky, exhausted, and broke. 

Too many temptations - From holiday parties full of tasty treats and alcohol as well as visits from well-intentioned friends and neighbors who often bring more treats, even the most disciplined among us can struggle and may eventually cave to temptation.

Traveling - Traveling during the holidays can be a nightmare. Traffic jams, waiting in line, and crowds. Who needs that? 

Too little sunlight - Being outside in the sunshine is simply good for you. Unfortunately, there's precious little of it this time of year. This can lead to or worsen mental health problems for some. 

But it doesn't have to be this way! To me, the holidays are a time to relax and appreciate all the good things we have in our lives. Also, it's a time to create great memories and have fun with friends and family. Particularly for those of us with Parkinson's Disease, connecting with people who understand us can help us remember that we're never truly alone and do wonders for our mental health. Organizations like Young Onset Parkinson's Network (YOPN) can help you get plugged into a thriving community of individuals who are thriving despite Parkinson's Disease. 

Read on for eight tips for making it through the holidays with sanity intact:

Tip # 1 - Embrace Moderation - If we can adopt a mindset of moderation, that is instead of eating 3 cookies, just savor one. Or instead of eating 3 huge pieces of each cake, just have a small slice of each. That way, you can enjoy the tastes of the holidays, without going too over-board. And if you overdo it...don't stress out about it. Just vow to put in some extra time on the bike or sneak in some extra burpees (see Tip #3 below). 

Tip # 2 - Do something nice - Successful management of Parkinson's Disease often requires us to spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves. This is not necessarily selfishness; Parkinson's is a time-consuming disease to manage. However, I don't know about you, but if I'm not careful I can really start to take all the good things in my life for granted. Especially this time of year, it's good to remember those that are less fortunate. Know someone going through a tough time? Consider surprising them with a random text or call. You may be surprised how much a simple thing can brighten a day. Simply letting someone know you are available for a chat can make a positive difference. It seems counter-intuitive, but being less self-centric can really end up helping us in the end. Thinking of others can remind us to be grateful for what we have, leading us to be more satisfied with our lives overall. 

Tip # 3 -Don't stop moving - I'm sure exercise is already part of your daily routine (it IS ...right?). But in case you somehow don't know by now, exercise is the absolute best way to banish stress. This, along with all its undeniable benefits for People with Parkinson's (PwP). For PwP, exercise is an even more important part of your overall holiday survival strategy. But between all the traveling, finding the perfect gift for loved ones, decorating, parties, and other holiday activities, it's easy to get knocked out of your normal routine. Don't let that stop you from squeezing some movement into your day. Only got 10 minutes? Just do something. How about...3 sets of 25 air squats? Say 2 hours later you have a spare you have a spare 5 minutes. How about doing as many pushups as you can? In the next opportunity do planks. You see? In almost no time at all you've managed to squeeze in a mini-workout! Even a little exercise can go a long way towards making you feel and move better.

Tip # 4 - Establish a Budget - To help keep your spending reined in try to create a budget ahead of time to decide how much to spend. There are programs to purchase out there that can help but a simple spreadsheet can work fine. Even if you later decide that it's just too much effort to add in each individual purchase, having gone through the mental exercise will have given you an idea of what you want to spend which will have helped to keep it under control. 

Tip # 5 - Communicate gift-giving plan ahead of time- Agreeing beforehand what the gift-giving expectations are with the adults can alleviate a lot of unnecessary stress. Many adults I know would rather focus on seeing family rather than stress unnecessarily over what to get each other. 

Tip # 6 - When driving, leave early...and be flexible - When driving pack ahead of time and leave as early as you feasibly can. Northern VA, where I live, is notorious for unexpected delays. A very early departure at least reduces the chances of a traffic jam spoiling your plans. If you do get delayed, try to keep an open mind about exploring something potentially interesting off the next exit and getting back on the highway when the traffic dies down a bit.

Tip # 7 - Embrace hibernation mode - This time of year I tend to get really great sleep. Maybe it's the cozy feeling of being warm in bed while the weather outside is so cold and wet? Whatever it is, great sleep can help combat some of the stress common this time of year. To get the best sleep possible, don't eat or drink too close to bedtime. It's generally accepted that a light snack before bed is ok. Alcohol to me is an absolute no-no before bed as my sleep is just not nearly as rejuvenating.

Tip # 8 - Mental hack to triumph over short-day anxiety - If you're one of those folks like me who can feel a bit trapped when the days get so short you can maybe try a little mental trick to help you out. Remember that the shortest day of the year coincides with the first day of Winter. As that day falls on December 21st or 22nd annually, the days are already getting longer by the time it's Christmas morning! It's location-dependent (science! actual math!), but you'll expect to receive about 2 more minutes of lovely daylight each day until summer! And you thought you didn't get anything good for Christmas?

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