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How Parkinson's can improve your outlook on life

Seeing the glass half full does not come naturally to me; worrying does. People tell me it does no good to worry about things that are out of my control. Why would I worry about things I can control when I could take action and achieve my desired effect?

"You are the poster child for anxiety," a psychiatrist told me shortly after I was diagnosed with Parkinson's. His pronouncement was not a compliment.

Now I really had something new to worry about, as everything I read said that having a positive attitude is key to living well with Parkinson's disease. This does not mean seeing life through rose-colored glasses. It's about believing you can cope with the challenges chronic illness presents, and learning to live in the moment rather than worrying about what may happen tomorrow.

"We gain strength and courage and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face," said Eleanor Roosevelt. "We must do that which we think we cannot."

I am living proof that it is possible to unlearn life-long behavior or, as the saying goes, to "teach an old dog new tricks." Following are some things that have helped me develop a more positive attitude. You might consider trying these things as well:

  • Drown out negative thoughts as these make things seem worse than they are and make you feel worse than you otherwise would.
  • Surround yourself with positive people.
  • Be thankful for the things you can do and the things you have, rather than angry about what you can't do and don't have. Optimists tend to live longer than pessimists.
  • Develop a support system of relatives and friends you can call on when you need help.
  • Set realistic goals and epectations for yourself. Achieving these will help you feel better about yourself and your life with Parkinson's.
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Scrabble across the miles

  • Don't let Parkinson's define you. You are the same person you always were.
  • Join or start a support group to connect with others who also are living with Parkinson's. Jean and I are our own support group, regularly playing online Scrabble with each other, and talking on the phone several times a day. We made a pact never to be depressed at the same time, and we've kept our word.
  • Stick with activities you enjoy, even if you have to make modifications, and be open to adding new ones. Having avoided exercise my entire pre-Parkinson's life, I never imagined that I would come to love boxing and swimming. It helps that I do well at both and can see that I am holding my own in my battle with Parkinson's.
  • Find new purpose and meaning for your life, helping you discover strengths you didn't know you had. Co-founding and growing pdplan4life.com with my friend Jean Burns is the most personally rewarding endeavor I've ever undertaken. What began as a web site to inspire and empower others to "live well with Parkinson's" expanded to include us taking our message to conferences across the country. The daily email thank yous we receive leave us feeling that we get far more than we give.
  • Partner with your medical team. Patients who have good relationships with their doctors tend to have better medical outcomes than those who do not.
  • Hold onto hope that the next clinical trial we join may lead to the cure.
  • Become a Parkinson's advocate.

email us directly at: Sheryl@pdplan4life.com

(c) 2015 PDPlan LLC All Rights Reserved

Without express written consent, this material may only be used for your own personal and noncommercial uses which do not harm the reputation of PDPlan LLC, provided that you do not remove any copyright. To request permission to reproduce, please contact PDPlan LLC at Sheryl@pdplan4life.com

blogger partner WPC 2016 in Portland