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A person with pink hair dances in the morning light of their bedroom.

Searching for Silver Linings: How to Stay Positive with Parkinson’s

Since I was diagnosed I have tried to stay positive. It’s often tough to see the good in difficult situations but I really believe it’s got me through the last 6 years. My body might be getting more angular and awkward every day but it’s my smile people comment on. I get up most mornings full of excitement to see what the day brings which might seem odd to some people. But positivity is by far the best treatment I have in my arsenal.

Listed below are my 10 tips on how I stay positive.

I surround myself with people who are my cheerleaders

Over the years I’ve learnt who I need around me and at what times. It’s incredibly important to make sure you have an army of people who will build you up when you’re struggling. But also try to balance that with people who challenge you as well. Just because we are the ones living with the health condition doesn’t mean we are always right when making decisions about it.

I regularly push myself out of my comfort zone and try new things

Because things I’ve always been good at are harder to do than they once were, it’s very tempting to stop trying to do anything. But I find by trying new things I find stuff all the time that I’m surprisingly good at and it feels amazing when I do. If I don’t nail it first time I either make the decision to try again and see what happens or I just move on.

I try not to dwell on the past

It would be very easy to look back at the past when things were easier and wish that I’d done more. More exercise. More spending time with friends. More work. More fun. But actually I think I do more now than I ever did before and I’m actually pretty content with my life. So by not looking back at the past and thinking of the things I can do rather than things I can’t, I feel happier.

I practice gratitude

My friend Sarah is a psychologist and encourages me to meditate and look after my mental health. One of the things she has taught me is to practice gratitude. She suggests coming up with three great things that have happened every day and it really makes you look at the day and try to find silver linings. Even after the worst day there is always something to learn from it that can be seen as a positive.

I make an effort to meet other people with Parkinson’s who express it the way I want to

A few months after diagnosis I was encouraged to go to a patient group to meet other people with Parkinson’s. I knew they would have had the condition longer than me and I wasn’t ready to see my future so I didn’t go. I built it up in my head as a massive thing and got really scared about it, deliberately avoiding gatherings with other people with it. One day I felt braver and joined a Google Hangout with other young people with the condition and have never looked back. My friends with Parkinson’s are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met and I don’t know what I’d do without them in my life. They totally understand what I’m going through and help boost my positivity with their own.

I wear bright colors

When I was first diagnosed it was tempting to try and hide away. I felt a lot smaller in my physicality. Like overnight I suddenly occupied a different amount of space in the world. And it was tempting to stay like that, to dress in dark colors and stop worrying about make-up.

But I’ve always loved color and I realized by wearing a bright jacket or a sequin dress I felt like I was bigger in the world again. Dressed like that I couldn’t hide and this was a good, if not completely uncomfortable for the first few times, thing.

I break frustrations down

Sometimes Parkinson’s itself, or the everyday annoyances that come with it, can seem too huge to overcome. That’s because they often are. I have found over the years that if I break bigger problems down into chunks they are a lot more manageable. For example, getting to work every day might be a big challenge. But if I break it down into:

  • Leaving the house
  • Walking to the bus stop
  • Getting on the bus
  • Traveling to work
  • Getting off the bus
  • Walking to my office
  • Starting work

they suddenly seem like things I can fix individually. I can set coping mechanisms for each of them and celebrate them each as small wins.

I dance like a fool every morning

When my alarm goes off I full-body dance to the playlist for 5 minutes. How can a bad day start like that? Not only is it fun but it wakes up my sleepy muscles.

I don’t stress if I can’t sleep

For the last couple of years since I’ve been living on my own I haven’t slept well. I’ve gotten really good at functioning on a really tiny amount of sleep and sometimes my Parkinson’s behaves better with less rest. I try not to stress too much, choosing to do gentle activities when insomnia kicks in. Rather than lying in bed worrying about it. Doing something creative or cleaning the bathroom usually works. Anything that physically or mentally tires me without being in front of a screen. By not stressing about it and letting the activity make me sleepy rather than frustrated I tend to wake feeling fairly refreshed in the morning.

I allow myself time to be sad and am honest about my emotions

I think I was perhaps a little over-positive in the early days, it happens to all of us. You get told you have Parkinson’s and you think ‘it’s not that bad. I can pretty much do most things I used to do, why does everyone make such a fuss!’ And then the symptoms start getting steadily worse and the penny drops. Ahhh THIS is Parkinson’s. This is hard. So nowadays I make sure whether I’m talking to a friend or giving a lecture on a stage in front of 500 people I’m telling it like it is. With my sunny slant to help others to understand. Or as I like to call it ‘positive realism’.

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

Comments

  • Lorraine Wilson moderator
    1 week ago

    I love that you address both how these actions help you, but also why they help you. I take a similar, positive approach to living with Parkinson’s and am grateful for every opportunity to be encouraged. Lorraine, Parkinsonsdisease.net moderator

  • Christine1
    2 weeks ago

    Bravo, all of this is right on. Thank you!

  • Scott91956
    3 weeks ago

    Great read for someone who got diagnosed 6 weeks ago. You approach is very realistic and uplifting. Thank you

  • Emma Lawton moderator author
    3 weeks ago

    Thanks @scott91956 i’m glad you found it useful. Hope you’re doing ok. I remember the first few weeks were pretty rough. But by reading things and commenting you’re already miles ahead of where I was in the ‘coming to terms with it’ process, that’s a huge step. You have my respect and the support of a fantastic community.
    Emma (post Author and parkinsonsdisease.net moderator)

  • Dan Glass moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Great post, through and through, Emma. Awesome points to stay positive and active. Keep getting up there on stage and speaking for better days!

  • Emma Lawton moderator author
    3 weeks ago

    Thanks so much Dan 🙂
    Emma (post Author and parkinsonsdisease.net moderator)

  • Posy
    3 weeks ago

    Really helpful tips, thanks! X

  • Emma Lawton moderator author
    3 weeks ago

    Thanks! Really appreciate your comment!
    Emma (post Author and parkinsonsdisease.net moderator)

  • JMB46
    3 weeks ago

    Your article was most interesting, Emma. I find you so positive and inspiring. An example of this was your f***itlist . I try to take up new opportunities and invitations and my family are so supportive seeing me not giving up on life. Clothes are important to me and how I feel and I too have indulged my love of colour. it shows the world I am not to be dismissed as a shaky old woman !
    My most recent activity is joining the Fun Choir , as a non singer this is an amazing thing for me to do and I love it. A great bunch of people too. So much to be thankful for even though my symptoms are getting worse.

  • Dan Glass moderator
    3 weeks ago

    Fun choir does sound Fun! Thanks for reading and the compliment for Emma.

  • JMB46
    3 weeks ago

    To Dan and Emma,

    The Fun Chorus is a choir that anyone can join. No auditions, don’t have to perform if you don’t want to just go along . The founder, Anna, has got several groups now established (Nottingham area) and occasionally she organises a Big Sing when the groups get together – it is a great sound ! We will be singing at some events in the run up to Christmas.
    Anna has made the decision not to support any charities as there are so many . However I am shaking (pun intended) a tin for Parkinson’s at our next event singing in my local market place. Also some of the choir are doing a flash mob at my house on Dec 1st when I am holding a Parkinson’s fund raiser – I am excited about that !
    It is all about the enjoyment of being with others and enjoying a good sing – very good as a mood lifter. After each session I feel as though I could dance all the way home !
    Jo Brudenell

  • Emma Lawton moderator author
    3 weeks ago

    ”Fun choir” sounds brilliant, can you tell me a bit more about it please @jmb46? Excellent that you’re still rocking bright colours 🙂
    Emma (post Author and parkinsonsdisease.net moderator)

  • Allan Cole
    3 weeks ago

    Thanks for sharing your insights and wisdom, Emma. I always benefit from hearing your perspectives.

  • Emma Lawton moderator author
    3 weeks ago

    Thanks for your kind words Allan!
    Emma (post Author and parkinsonsdisease.net moderator)

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