Positive or Negative Change Is Hard 

The self-help industry would have you believe change is easy. Just follow a few steps and you will embrace change. Reality says change is hard.

A new job may be a positive change, but you might have to make difficult changes as a result. Those of us with chronic diseases like Parkinson’s face changes that are not our choice and often are negative in nature as our disease progresses.

Barriers to change

What makes change so hard? I was recently reading an article written by Jim Taylor who holds a PhD in Psychology. He believes there are 4 obstacles to change:1

Baggage - This most often includes low self-esteem, perfectionism, fear, need for control, anger, and need to please.

Habits - Your baggage drives your thoughts and behaviors. Overtime, these behaviors become habits that inform your actions and reactions.

Emotions - Negative emotions, like fear or anger, can deter your from change or cause you to retreat.

Environment - The environment you create, such as the people you surround yourself with, may not support change. It could even discourage it.

Living with a progressive disease with no known cure, can cause fear, low self-esteem, a feeling of hopelessness, and a view that you can do nothing to change. Add in that Parkinson's only presents change that you must accept and is often negative. Those changes seem inevitable and it can feel like you have no options.

Finding acceptance

Rather than dwelling on the mind-bending thought of embracing the negative changes Parkinson’s can present, I think of change differently. Here is my pledge to myself:

  • I will accept that my Parkinson’s will change me. The question is, how and when and to what extent.
  • I will refuse to believe I have no choices as to how this change will affect me in the long term and short term.
  • I will fight negative change where I can.
  • I will admit the coming changes scare me.
  • I will practice self-forgiveness.

Taking action

How does one do all that? By converting the pledge to action. The big picture of negative change can look bleak and uncontrollable. Determine what parts you can control, educate yourself, and form the best team available to help you.

My support team members include a movement disorder specialist, a family physician, a physical therapist, a personal trainer, Parkinson’s exercise classes, a supportive family, and a group of friends with Parkinson’s.

The big picture can be overwhelming. By changing your paradigm, you can take a step back and look at the smaller parts of the big picture for both positive and negative changes. Find at least 1 positive.

Small steps

Too many plans for achieving change are so big and take so long that they fail. Make incremental changes. Find, acknowledge, and celebrate the wins or victories. They may be small but they keep you going forward.

Manage how change affects your emotions and take care of yourself. Be aware of stress, depression, anxiety and apathy with change as a root cause. Know when to ask for help.

Change is hard work. There will be good days and bad days. It’s OK to slip or even to fail. Forgive yourself, pick yourself up, and continue.

Change doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Break it down and work on what you can. Make goals that are time bound and real. Share your goals with someone who is supportive. Plan, commit and achieve.

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