Managing Chronic Stress in Parkinson's

Last updated: April 2022

Chronic stress has a confounding effect on people with Parkinson's disease (PD). I recently came across 2 studies that reported how stress affects the motor symptoms of PD, including freezing, dyskinesia, bradykinesia, tremors, and gait.1,2

What is the impact?

These studies concluded that stress significantly affected tremors. In addition, stress increased ruminations in people with Parkinson's (PWP) and influenced a decrease in quality of life.1,2

They also showed that increased stress contributed to a lower ability to exhibit self-compassion. Other stress-related conditions included a perceived worsening of disease severity.1,2

Subsequently, PWP who have chronic stress exhibited additional symptoms such as increased impairment in cognition, confusion, and executive functioning. Additionally, focus, speech, comprehension, anger, apathy and pain were negatively impacted.1,2

The Benefits of mindfulness

One study surveyed 5,000 people living with Parkinson's and found that over 80 percent most often utilize exercise to reduce stress. Additionally, over 30 percent of the survey respondents incorporated mindfulness. The survey participants noticed an improvement in their depression and anxiety as a result of both exercise and mindfulness.2

Meditation, yoga, tai-chi, progressive relaxation and deep breathing exercises may be beneficial for PWP and their caregivers. Mindfulness is considered by many healthcare providers as a complementary therapy to care for many symptoms associate with chronic stress.2

Implementing mindfulness may even help reduce heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, anxiety, and depression.2

Combatting chronic stress

Chronic stress can have a detrimental affect on many areas the body. Some of the ways I like to combat stress are by listening to my favorite music from the past, reminiscing, and watching my favorite old-time movies.2

Also, I go on Zoom and speak regularly with family and old friends. Weekly, I Zoom with high school friends from 60 years ago and reminisce about life in the 1960s. It is fun to keep up with long-lost friends.

I joined a Brooklyn Club online (yes I was born in Brooklyn), and reminisced about our childhood growing up there, games we played, high school memories, and growing up in happier times. This is one of the happier places I go to de-stress.

Other stress management techniques

Humor is the way I try to reduce stress. Making people smile with my witticisms quickly changes my mood and others. 

Furthermore, I give myself to helping others cope with their PD issues. We talk about life in general, and since we are all anonymous, there are no taboo questions or subjects. By helping others, my stress level is reduced and gives me purpose. This is my other happy place.

Other stress-reducing activities I utilize are painting, sketching, 3D art, and drawing Zentangles. Doing mind stimulating games and activities such as crossword puzzles, word search, and completing jig-puzzles refocuses my thoughts away from feeling stress.

Also, I like to watch Jeopardy at home. I try to answer the questions. However, I do not watch any stress-provoking television shows anymore.

Avoiding negativity

Avoiding toxic and negative people helps me deal better with everyday life with little stress. In my opinion, it is not helpful or productive to expend energy dealing with them. I prefer not to have toxic people in my life. 

I try not to spend time watching toxic current events or television shows in the media. Preferably, I would rather be chatting with my grandchildren, which is always stress-free and fun.

Divorcing myself from toxic situations has helped me reduce stress. I try not to think of what will happen healthwise with my PD. In my opinion, there is no positive reason to hold onto stress when living with PD.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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