4 ways to reduce holiday stress with Parkinson’s disease

These strategies help my dad avoid symptom exacerbations

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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Years ago, my dad realized that acute stress made his Parkinson’s symptoms worse. He was more inclined to freeze or experience exacerbated tremors, especially if he was full of anxiety. This revelation led him to focus on reducing the amount of stress he experiences on a regular basis.

However, the reality is that, for many people, stress levels climb during the holidays. Uncomfortable social interactions, event planning, and travel are just a few potential catalysts for a tough season.

Over the years, Dad and I have implemented the following strategies to keep our lives in balance, even when holiday stress throws us out of whack.

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Emphasize self-care

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s really easy to overlook self-care when our routines are disrupted. Self-care looks different for everyone, and our individual needs may vary each day, but maintaining our well-being is crucial to managing holiday stress.

For me, self-care usually involves some kind of gentle movement, such as yoga, walking, or swimming, along with plenty of rest. My dad’s needs change, but sometimes he may want to prioritize eating a healthy meal or napping when he becomes fatigued.


In my parents’ household, a main source of holiday stress is the workload. We have a big family, which means that tasks like meal preparations and travel logistics take a lot of energy. But the perk of having a big family is that there are plenty of people around to pitch in. So, if my mom and dad are feeling particularly overwhelmed, I might nudge them and ask how I can help. (For example, I’m an excellent vegetable chopper, and I don’t mind a long drive to the airport.)

Delegating can help reset the balance in the household to make everyone happier.

Book an extra therapy session

Therapy isn’t for everyone, but it’s been a staple in my life for a long time. Knowing that the holidays are often a time of heightened stress, I usually allow myself the budget and time to book an extra session. I find that some additional therapy evens me out and makes me more adaptive to my changing environment.

Therapy isn’t a regular staple in Dad’s life, but he does reach out to friends and family pretty regularly. So, for him, this might look like an extra phone call to a loved one to take a break from the immediate celebrations.

Reduce opportunities for family conflict

Most families face some kind of conflict, whether it relates to beliefs, values, or something else. Our family is no exception. But when conflicts emerge, we often find that we can’t completely resolve them, which leaves everyone feeling tense and more prone to stress. So, like many households, we tend to just avoid conversations about topics like religion or politics.

Stress is inevitable, but how we manage it can change the experience. As the holidays approach, paying attention to self-care and stress management is particularly vital. Everyone is different, but these strategies have helped my dad and the rest of my family to live more happily during this chaotic time of the year.

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


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