By Renee Lorch, LMFT, Reiki Practitioner
Statistically, those with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease are at a 50% risk of developing symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. I have noticed that my clients with PD unknowingly become stuck in cycles of living in the past, trying to stay present, and worrying about the future. I want to break down these cycles to help increase more positive and productive thought patterns.
We all know Parkinson’s disease comes with it’s long list of potential motor and non-motor symptoms. While I am a huge advocate of staying proactive and educated about the disease, there is a fine line between being prepared and becoming anxious. With a diagnosis so full of uncertainty, how do we stay present? I will teach you some tips you can implement to help keep you focused, but it will take motivation, dedication, and practice, practice, practice.
Comparing the Past
“Comparison is the thief of Joy”- Theodore Roosevelt
I see this most often as comparing oneself to a former, younger, healthier version of themselves. My clients often complain about not being able to multitask, get dressed, or move as quicky as they once did and become very critical of themselves. Although these changes are no doubt frustrating, the added pressure and comparison are not productive.
It is important to notice your thoughts when they start to go into the past. Awareness is the first step to improving our thought patterns. Awareness is simply recognizing that the thought is there. When we become aware of our thoughts it allows us to take control over them, instead of allowing them to take control over us!
Instead of beating yourself up about what you can’t do, remember to meet yourself where you are every day! Give yourself Grace. Don’t compare yourself to what you did yesterday, last year, or last decade. MEET YOURSELF WHERE YOU ARE TODAY and learn to MODIFY! If you are having trouble buttoning your shirt consider switching to a shirt that doesn’t require buttoning, or one that has snaps or magnets. Modifying allows you to set yourself up for success. Your ego will tell you to keep fighting with the buttons, your pride will want you to prove to yourself that you can do it! The more tasks you simplify for yourself, the more time and energy you’ll have getting to do the things you want to do!
Worrying about the Future
I am reminded of a quote I once heard, “Once you have met one person with Parkinson’s, you have met ONE person with Parkinson’s”.
The list of potential symptoms that come with PD can be overwhelming. This is where anxiety can get in the way. Thinking ahead and wanting to be prepared is never a bad thing. You want to make sure you are not comparing stories or experiences of others with PD. Although you may share a diagnosis with someone, your journey will be your own! It is important to have a safe place to discuss these fears/worries/concerns. Keeping them inside won’t make the problem go away! If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your family or friends, seeking out support from a professional could help you manage these feelings and improve your confidence as you face new changes and transitions.
When we feel out of control about the outcome (of anything) we jump to conclusions based on things we have read, heard, or seen and apply it to our own experience. Our thoughts can be very powerful and often create stories that we can easily justify as truth. If we don’t watch our thoughts, they can spiral out of control leaving us worried about something that hasn’t even happened yet, or may not ever happen! As mentioned before, becoming mindful of these thoughts is a great first step to changing irrational thought patterns.
Learning to keep yourself grounded is an excellent way to help with thoughts that get carried away. Staying present allows us to face the here and now. Comparing the past and worrying about the future can create increased stress. We cannot control the past or the future, so lets focus on the NOW! I am going to show you a few simple exercises you can practice to help keep yourself grounded/present, especially when you notice unproductive thoughts sneaking in.
1. 5 senses exercise: Start with taking a deep breath, and sit comfortably. Use each of your 5 senses to allow yourself to feel present wherever you are.
· Name 5 things you see
· Name 4 things you feel (touch)
· Name 3 things you hear
· Name 2 things you smell
· Name 1 thing you taste (if possible) Click here for a print out: Grounding Exercises (therapistaid.com)
2. Deep breathing: This is excellent for helping you connect to your body. There are many different breathing methods. Here is one you can try:
· Breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds
· Hold for 4 seconds
· Exhale though the mouth for 6 seconds
· Repeat steps for 2-10 minutes Click here for a print out: Deep Breathing (therapistaid.com)
Other beneficial activities:
Count your heartbeat
Puzzles/cards/other games that require focus
Listen to music
Listen to a guided meditation.
Renee Lorch is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Reiki Practitioner. Renee specializes in working with older adults, particularly those with Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and dementia. Renee also helps facilitate the South Orange County Care Partners Support Group. You can find out more about Renee at ReneeLorchTherapy.com