Stress levels may increase over Christmas, with the pressure to see family, navigate relationships, buy presents and get to end-of-year celebrations.
Self-care is particularly important. Maybe the best gift you can give yourself is some rest and time to do things you love.
Here are a few thoughts that may help you plan for a less stressful festive season.
- When managing medication, ensure you have enough on hand in case of an emergency like a snap lockdown or an unplanned hospital visit. It is also a great time to check your medication expiry dates and storage requirements during hot summer weather. Our Parkinson’s hospital grab bag is your best friend in preparing for any emergencies, and is available to those who have not received one with their championship payment, or can be purchased separately. The Emergency Medical Information Booklet is also available from our office.
- Staying hydrated and cool is a priority during a sizzling summer Christmas. A dehydrated brain and body does not function at its best. Any water consumption is better than nothing! Make sure you have the opportunity to stay cool; seek shade when outside and don’t be afraid to turn on your air conditioner to help maintain your body temperature. For those who are unaware, there is a heating and cooling concession available via SA Gov Concessions and Rebates Online.
- Christmas is a time to slow down and celebrate all the hard work you’ve put in over the year. Modify your expectations in regards to exercising over Christmas.
- Our Brain x Body Fitness Studio will have a short Christmas closure, but will have a modified home plan available for those who desire. Remember that anything is better than nothing, even a short walk in the cool of the day is a positive move.
- The festive season brings with it increasing demands on energy – both physical and emotional. Consider your normal energy levels and plan days over the festive period that will allow you to rejuvenate and refresh to ensure that you don’t burn out. Plan and prioritise important tasks that you need to fit into your day and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to an activity that you feel may overwhelm you.
- A feast for all the senses is sometimes an overindulgence. We aren’t always conscious of it, but our environment can have a big impact on our ability to emotionally regulate. As the shops get busier and our festivities get louder, the amount of sensory information our brain is required to process goes up, and this subsequently leads to ‘sensory overload’. When we are experiencing this overload, our ability to regulate emotions and manage stress and anxiety is reduced.
Strategies to manage sensory overload
- Let people know about your sensory challenges, whether it be aversion to noise, heat or physical contact. When people are aware of your challenges, they are better able to accommodate your needs for an enjoyable day.
- Ring ahead. Ask the venue if they can seat you in a quieter space free from music and busy doors. View the menu beforehand, so there is one less decision to make under pressure.
- Gear up. If you need to face an activity or event that is anxiety producing, prepare a toolkit of strategies/aids to use to reduce the sensory overload. Wear sunglasses, reduce visual clutter, take time out to recalibrate, engage in breathing exercises if feeling overwhelmed, or use noise cancelling headphones in community environments.
- Make time to bounce back. Allow your body and brain to recalibrate and calm down.
Have a game plan (but be flexible)
We all like to think that we’ve planned for every contingency, but we know with Parkinson’s no amount of planning will avoid a bad day. Be prepared for disappointment and have a couple of easy Plan B’s up your sleeve that will nurture and soothe a disappointed heart.
Being realistic about how much you can do during the Christmas season can save you a lot of stress and disappointment. Become comfortable with saying ‘no’ rather than having to let people down last minute or reaching burnout.
Some final tips
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Often as a carer, you can feel the weight of everything on your shoulders. Reaching out for help is not a sign of failure or something you should feel bad about. Try reaching out to friends, family or support services such as Carer Gateway, My Aged Care and NDIS. Help could be as simple as asking a family member to care for your loved one for an hour so you can do your Christmas grocery shop, or finding respite care so that you can also have a break if you are feeling overwhelmed
- Find time for self care and time to promote positive wellbeing. Christmas does not have to be perfect, it should allow you to just enjoy time with your loved ones. Consider how you are nurturing yourself and ensure you are allowing opportunities to do those activities that you enjoy and that build capacity by giving you more emotional energy and a sense of physical restoration.