Life is stressful for everyone, particularly those of us with PD. Just as your body can’t tell the difference between real and imagined stress, your body can’t tell whether the relaxation response was triggered by a change in circumstances or a change in your attitude. This can work to your advantage because you can learn to promote relaxation and reverse the stress response by using various mind-body techniques.
Studies have shown that people who are well-trained in mind-body techniques can voluntarily lower their blood pressure and heart rate, alter their brain-wave activity, reduce blood-sugar levels, and ease muscle tension. With practice, you, too, can put mind over illness and use stress-reduction techniques to help control your Parkinson’s symptoms.
You can learn more about each approach by checking books out of the local library or contacting a community center or health clinic to inquire whether classes are offered in your area.
Expressing Your Emotions
When diagnosed with PD or any other chronic medical problem, many people feel depressed, stressed, and angry—emotions that can make matters worse by further compromising the immune system. These feelings are to be expected, though you should try to take steps to work through them so that they do not further undermine your health.
Experience has taught me that I can often decide to be happy or decide not to let my Parkinson’s get me down; on those upbeat days, I almost always experience more joy and more humor than on the days when I let the dark cloud follow me through the day. Don’t underestimate the power of learning to laugh at yourself.
Openly discussing the emotional side of illness can help many people resolve their negative feelings. Some people find it helpful to talk things over with a friend or loved one, while others appreciate the assistance of a professional counselor or a support group for people who share a similar medical problem.
Laughter produces endorphins, the feel-good hormones, which go a long way toward improving mood and general outlook on life. There is a close relationship between dopamine and endorphins; the more we laugh, the more we produce endorphins, which allow the dopamine we have to work more effectively. It’s okay to laugh, even if you have Parkinson’s; you need to enjoy yourself and have a good time despite this illness.
Find ways to bring joy into your life, whether it’s spending time with your grandchildren, watching funny movies, or just joking around. The more we laugh, the better we feel.