As we approach a new calendar year, we should use this time to reflect on how our disease has changed, how it has affected our quality of life and what we have done, or neglected to do, that has contributed to how we are feeling today. Because although we may not have control over our diagnosis, there are certain variables that we do have control over. So upon reflection, if there is room for improvement, begin to make those changes as a part of actively managing your disease.
(1) Don’t become complacent with your self-care routine. Extreme self-care can be a time-consuming and effortful commitment but an absolutely necessary one. By not putting yourself at the top of your list, you will not be able to effectively and successfully fulfill all the other life roles that you play – family, work and community. It may be tempting to slack off, skip a few steps or even a few sessions but try your best to minimize these indiscretions. Nurturing your physical, emotional and spiritual self requires ongoing practice. So resolve to commit yourself to self-care.
(2) Don’t give up activities easily. Although it may be difficult to face the fact that our functioning may be declining over time, don’t be discouraged to the point that you would rather just give up the activity you’re having difficulty with. Perhaps, you need to delegate part of what needs to be done to others – such as getting help with the gardening. Or perhaps your expectations need to change. For example, moving the time you walk the dog from the morning rush to the evening when you can allow yourself more time at a slower pace. Look back at what you gave up this past year and resolve to think about ways those activities could be modified instead of given up.
(3) Don’t give up new adventures. Just because you have Parkinson’s disease doesn’t mean you can’t open yourself up to new experiences. Try a new activity, challenge yourself, push yourself. You may be surprised at how much you are able to do when you replace a self-defeating mindset with realistic confidence in your abilities. So resolve to make a list of things you’ve always wanted to try and start exploring the logistics of how you can make them happen.
(4) Don’t use your Parkinson’s as an excuse. We all do it – sometimes as an excuse to others to get out of a commitment or to ourselves to explain an unanticipated failure. But be careful to not settle into a self-defeating mindset, one where it becomes easier to blame your disease rather than making the effort. Ultimately this will lead to you defining yourself and your capabilities by your illness. Resolve to be more aware of this tendency and make an effort to avoid it.
(5) Don’t lose hope. It’s easy when dealing with a chronic neurodegenerative illness to feel hopeless. But keep in mind there is a large community of researchers and clinicians dedicated to finding better Parkinson’s treatments and a cure and progress is being made. That time will come, it’s just a matter of when. Until then you have a choice – succumb to the burden of pessimism or choose to be optimistic about your future. Resolve to be optimistic.
Facing another year with a chronic illness like Parkinson's disease is not easy but it is for now, part of our reality. It is however within our power to choose how we face this disease and avoid those pitfalls that are further detrimental to our quality of life. So do whatever it takes to optimize your life!