Mindful Meditation and Visualization for Parkinson's Anxiety
The initial diagnosis of Parkinson’s can be devastating. A feeling of helplessness, fear, and anxiety are common reactions. I was overcome by anxiety after my diagnosis. What did the future hold? How quickly would I progress?
Mornings seemed to be the worst. If I woke up feeling achy or shaky I decided it was going to be a bad day and it usually was!
After doing some research, it seemed that the practices of mindful meditation and visualization would work for me. I found some very helpful TedTalks available online. There is no wrong way to use mindful meditation or visualization. Nothing is mysterious - there are no rules.
Recently, much attention has been given to mindfulness. It is certainly nothing new. To quote the Buddha, ”Our life is shaped by our minds, for we become what we think.” Mindful meditation is not mystical. It is purposeful.
Worrying about the past or predicting the future just added to my anxiety. As a result, I forget about the present. Mindfulness is simply the act of staying in the present moment. It takes time to master. I don’t add it as an extra activity, but instead, strive to live my life mindfully.
I begin each morning with a body scan. I concentrate on each part of my body. Beginning with my toes, I notice - are they curled or relaxed? Focus on every part of your body. I can plan exercises that need to be done that day by assessing how my body feels.
Once you determine how your body is feeling, become aware of your surroundings. By doing so, your awareness of your 5 senses becomes heightened. I find the more I pay attention to my body the more aware I become.
Noticing your 5 senses
Take a mindful minute. Pay attention to what is happening now. Close your eyes if you wish. Also, spend a minute being fully present in the moment before asking:
- What can I hear?
- What can I smell?
- What can I taste?
- What can I feel?
- What can I see? Concentrate on one object. Notice it in detail.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a set of practices that allow you to change your perceptions and insights. This results in an enhanced sense of awareness. Release negative thoughts and just focus on breathing calmly.
Lie down or sit in a comfortable position. I use the 4-7-8 technique. Close your eyes and breathe slowly through your nose for 4 seconds. Hold for 7 and breathe out through your mouth for 8.
Breathe normally for 30 seconds and repeat. Naturally, a negative thought might pop up. Acknowledge it. Let it go and refocus on breathing.
What is visualization?
Visualization is imagining yourself performing a particular task. Picturing the best way to move my body to accomplish a task ensures success and results in fewer injuries. I “see” how to go down a step or bend to pick something up before trying.
I find this to be helpful in performing daily tasks. The outcome of my visualization has been having fewer falls and episodes of freezing. Granted, I wish I could visualize being symptom-free, but that would be magical thinking!
Anytime I begin to feel tense I return to one or all of the techniques above. My goal is to incorporate them into my daily life until it becomes an automatic coping mechanism.
Practicing these techniques has certainly had a positive effect on my dealing with Parkinson’s.
Do you participate in a support group for PD?