Parkinson’s is a disease where many sufferers learn how to navigate and continue to live their best possible life over time. One thing to consider during the journey with Parkinson’s is how you can reduce stress.
Stress is something we all encounter every day. For most people, some stress is actually a good thing as it stimulates them to keep going and stay active. This is not necessarily the case when you are struggling with a progressive disease like Parkinson’s. Some experts actually believe the added stress can cause the disease to progress faster. According to Neurology reviews “Stress may be a modifiable risk factor for Parkinson’s disease progression, according to research presented at the 69th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. In a study of more than 4,000 patients, a stress proxy score predicted mortality and was associated with worsening mobility. The findings suggest that stress reduction may be an effective intervention in Parkinson’s disease”. According to studies on animals, stress can damage dopamine cells which could cause more severe symptoms. According to the study in Neurology Reviews “acute stress can worsen motor symptoms, including bradykinesia, freezing, and tremor.” So the goal is to reduce stress which can slow the progression of the disease.
How Do You Avoid Stress?
Avoiding stress, especially after finding out about having Parkinson’s, can be a difficult undertaking. As one begins to navigate the course they have been set out on from the disease they may not find relief as quickly as they would like. Positive attitudes can wane when medications don’t work as well as hoped and life choices need to be modified because of the disease. Adding stress to these situations only makes things worse. Consider reducing as many of the outside stressors as possible. Here are some ideas:
- Turn off the news. Overexposure to events that are beyond your control can create tension and worry.
- Eliminate violent and mindless TV and stressful video games. Use that time to engage in a hobby or something you enjoy.
- Minimize exposure to negative people. Instead, connect with people who uplift you.
While we can try and avoid stressful situations and people we also can try and improve our outlook and chances of reducing stress. Some ideas from the Parkinson’s Foundation:
- Learn some relaxation techniques. Meditation, yoga and deep breathing can help restore a sense of calm. Seek a yoga class tailored to Parkinson’s patients.
- Seek solace in music. Try classical, soft rock, nature sounds or alternative. Set up a comfortable listening area where you can fully enjoy the moment.
- Stay passionate. If Parkinson's takes something you love away or care about, find a hobby to replace it. If you can no longer paint, pick up a camera and take pictures or learn to sing.
- Stay open-minded and resilient. This will help you handle adversity.
- Exercise away the anxiety. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about setting up an exercise regimen that meets your health needs.
- Socialize. Nothing can empower you like a feeling of camaraderie. Get involved with a community organization, a support group, or a charity that you believe in.
- Learn to laugh. Keeping a sense of humor is a sure way to beat anxiety. Watch a funny video and read something that makes you laugh every day.
Reduce Stress with Symptom Management
Finding ways to relieve stress: There is ample evidence that stress can make symptoms worse. However, they usually return to normal levels once the cause of stress is removed. Activities that can help reduce stress include meditation, yoga, deep breathing, getting outside, spending time with loved ones, participating in hobbies or physical activity approved by a physician.
Maintaining a good diet: For those with Parkinson’s, proper nutrition will not only help manage symptoms but can help slow the progression of the disease in some seniors. In addition to healthy, nutritious food, it’s important to prevent dehydration too.
Adapting your home: Depending on the Parkinson’s symptoms that someone is experiencing, there are a variety of ways to improve everyday life with a few adjustments to living space. For those with trouble walking, or those that need a wheelchair, wide walkways help manage mobility. Mattresses with adjustable features can be helpful for anyone with difficulty getting in and out of bed, and grab bars may be helpful for those with balance issues.
Preventing falls: Having trouble walking is a common Parkinson’s disease symptom. Minimizing fall risk is an important safety management strategy that is easy to execute. Wearing proper footwear, making sure rooms are properly lit, and removing trip hazards can all help reduce the risk of falls.
Some other techniques for reducing stress in seniors.
When Stress Becomes Overwhelming
If stress builds up over time it can become a major problem. This can lead to a more serious situation of depression. When this happens it’s important to consult with your doctor and consider getting assistance from a mental health professional. Depression is one of the likely complicating factors of Parkinson’s. No one should feel embarrassed that they need help coping during such difficult life transitions. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry “Parkinson’s disease is increasingly recognized as a complex disease process with diverse neuropsychiatric complications”. Because Parkinson’s disease is so complex and impacts fine motor movement the nature of many antidepressants may have a negative impact on the disease. There is currently no consensus as to which types of antidepressant drugs work best for Parkinson’s patients while not further complicating other disease issues.
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Neurology Reviews. 2017 June;25(6):5
American Journal of Psychiatry