Why bother with New Years Resolutions when you have Parkinson's?
For many people, New Year is a new beginning for minding one's health in the attempt to keep healthy and keep chronic disease at bay. But when you have an incurable, progressive neurodegenerative disease.....why bother.....right?
Unfortunately, when one is diagnosed the message is often delivered with little focus on all the ways people can take control to live well with Parkinson's. When people are diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, or cancer, they are provided with advice and tools to help them manage, as well as access to specialist health professionals. This is not the case for the majority of people with Parkinson's and especially women and people of different ethnic minorities.
Often Parkinson's is positioned in such negative ways it almost paralyses people from taking action against the disease. FEAR creeps in and sadly some people give up the things they love doing in the face of this fear. But this is exactly what Parkinson's wants you to do. It loves to make your world small.
It wants to make your walk small, your handwriting small, your voice small, your motivation small, your thinking small and your world small...
So you have to do everything BIG to counteract its cunning ways!
You can focus on large movements during exercise
You can sing with a choir to help you speak louder
You can practice bigger writing
You can dance, swim, paint, volunteer, do whatever you like with your friends to keep your world bigger
People who don't have Parkinson's can struggle to motivate themselves. It is even more difficult when you have Parkinson's which causes the loss of the brain chemical -dopamine - that motivates and moves us. Dopamine is often called the "happy hormone" and results in feelings of well-being. By keeping the activities, hobbies, and relationships that bring you joy, you can boost your own dopamine and your well being.
Medication can help you go BIG
If you were diagnosed with diabetes, you would have to replace your hormone insulin in order to live with the disease. In the case of Parkinson's, your dopamine needs to be replaced.
The timing of your dopamine medication (levodopa) can really help with going BIG against Parkinson's. Adhering to your levodopa medication schedule is really important. If it's not working for you, then track your symptoms over a few days to see when you notice your energy is at its best, or when you are feeling good. Then time your activities according to those times.
Make your support team BIG
Sometimes you need a helping hand to go BIG. This could be a physiotherapist to help with your arm swing and stride; a speech and language therapist to get you speaking loud and proud; an occupational therapist to get your handwriting bigger or a CBT therapist to help get your motivation going.
However, If you are really struggling with apathy, regardless of attempts to push back and your life feels lacking in joy and you are not getting the positive benefits of your levodopa, you should speak with your neurologist. They can review your management plan including your medication and health professional support.
So make it your resolution for 2023 to go BIG against your Parkinson's in whatever way boosts your well being.
Wishing you a BIG New Year.