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Riding out the festive season

Dec. 07, 2018

The festive season can be a time of great joy as families come together to eat, drink and enjoy each other’s company – but not always.

The reality for some people is that the festive season – and the lead up to it – can be a time of increased anxiety. There are additional bills to pay, crowded shopping centres to visit, presents to wrap and Christmas lunch or dinner plans to make.

Travelling away from home to be with family means careful medication planning and preparation is needed.

Mental Health Accredited Social Worker and Parkinson’s counsellor Amanda Spillare offers some tips to help negotiate the festive season:

Take time out

The festive season is a time of celebration, but can also be a time of reinforced loneliness, isolation or obligation. Be kind to yourself in these situations. Remember to take time out and reward yourself with people and things that you enjoy doing as well.

Remember that you don’t need to answer any overly personal or invasive questioning about your Parkinson’s. Be ready in your own mind with what you want to, or don’t want to, say to others about your health status beforehand so you don’t feel caught out.

If you feel the stress levels rising, take time out for some deep breathing, or progressive muscle relaxations.  There are some great apps like Headspace or Calm that you can try for free. Get out for a walk or book in a massage to help clear your mind and manage stress.

If you are away far from loved ones, embracing this time to focus in on yourself and your self-care can be a healthy distraction. For example, book a small escape or pamper day.

Know your limits and plan ahead

Having Parkinson’s means you may need to factor extra time for tasks such as shopping. Stressful situations can exacerbate symptoms, so shopping off-peak or after hours can help relieve potential stressors. Taking someone to help with physical tasks can also help alleviate stress. Try to be organised and use lists to make the best use of your time.

Online shopping is a great way to avoid the crowds and busy shopping centres. Do this well in advance to allow for shipping times.

Try not to overload your calendar with social functions and be kind to yourself.  Allowing for rest days between functions and suggesting catch ups better suited to your specific symptoms is optimal, eg in less noisy environments or when your mobility is best.

Be assertive with others and don’t feel cornered into taking on responsibilities that will cause you stress and exhaustion. 

Reaching out for help

The festive season can also be a time of personal reflection and can evoke feelings of loss and grief over diagnosis, progression or changed relationships.  If you are struggling personally with feelings of sadness or depression, consider:

  • reaching out to a close friend and share how you are feeling. Sometimes just saying things out loud to someone who cares can really help
  • joining a Parkinson’s Support Group to meet other people experiencing similar issues and form friendships
  • speaking to your GP and linking into more formal supports, such as a counsellor or psychologist under a Mental Health Care Plan.

This piece was written by Amanda Spillare, who offers a Parkinson’s-specific counselling service. Call our Health Information Service on 1800 644 189 for more information. For 24 hour counselling and support across the Festive season, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.


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