For many, the new year is a time of reflection, contemplation and resolution. It’s an opportunity for change and a chance to try again to make yourself better and stronger in the year to come.
Not everyone makes resolutions at the beginning of the new year, but it’s a great time to reflect on what you can do to live your life in a manner that aligns with your vision and dreams.
Parkinson’s, as you well know, requires a lifelong commitment to exercise, nutrition, medication and appointment management, refining your medical and care team, and taking actions to live well every day; so, chances are you already wake up every day resolving to do something to live well. Still, there’s something about the clean slate of a fresh 365 days ahead of you, and in this case, a brand new decade, to add some extra pep in your step. If that feels true for you, here are six ideas you might try to make 2020 one of your best years yet.
#1 – Take a leap of faith
Trying new things isn’t always easy. And if you worry about how your symptoms affect you from day to day, it can feel like more trouble than it’s worth to go try a new exercise class or join a choir. But you are in charge of your own wellness, and that means if living well is on the top of your list then it’s up to you to make the decision to take a risk and put yourself out there.
Having external motivators can often be helpful to encourage you to try things that scare you. By inviting a friend to join you at an activity or offering yourself a reward for doing something difficult, you can start a positive cycle of achievement.
I realized that I shouldn’t limit my hopes and expectations, because the sky's the limit.
- Patti Burnett
Your goal doesn’t have to be monumental for it to be worthwhile. Sometimes, it’s not about running a marathon, it’s just about going for a daily walk. The most important thing is that you do it. That you do something every single day. Whether that means joining a clinical trial or taking a family trip, use 2020 as your opportunity to take a leap of faith and challenge your own ideas about what is possible.
#2 – Find your tribe
Building and maintaining a social network is one of the most positive actions you can take to build mental health, and research shows that surrounding yourself with resilient people can not only make you more resilient but also improve your physical and psychological health.
A great step toward furthering your social connections is to find a group and meet new people. Whether that means you join a walking group, reach out to one of our Ambassadors, participate in classes at your local YMCA or recreation center, attend The Victory Summit® event near you, set up a lunch with friends or participate in Sidekicks®, there are many ways to get involved. Getting out and interacting with others is an important step for your mental and physical health; so, the next time you see someone new at your Pedaling for Parkinson’s class or you’re checking out at the grocery store, take a moment to say hello and make a connection. People will appreciate the gesture, and your health will benefit as well.
#3 – Make a commitment and make it stick
Apathy is one of the many non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s, and it can be difficult to make and keep commitments if you’re not excited for them, or if all you want to do is stay in bed. But fighting the temptation to do nothing is essential to living well with Parkinson’s.
Your commitment could be a one-time thing – “I’m going to attend a lecture at the university in my town” – or an everyday dedication – “I am going to walk two miles every morning with my dog.” Either way, the dual nature of the choice and the follow-through are what will help you combat apathy and depression, and depending on your commitment, other symptoms as well.
The two keys that have unlocked the success of this hiking group: giving members a lofty goal to train for and doing at least some of the training as a group.
- Dr. Michael Braitsch, PT, DPT
Setting a clear, concrete goal and achieving it can work wonders for your confidence and your health. It may be easier to stick with your plans if you have other people cheering you on and working alongside you. Just make sure that you’re choosing something that you actually want to do because if your goal feels like a chore from the outset, you’re much less likely to stick to it.
#4 – When you fall, get up
Setbacks along the path of Parkinson’s can be overwhelming and demoralizing, and it can be upsetting when medications are no longer effective or when an injury disrupts an exercise routine that was working well; however, maintaining hope and developing resiliency is essential for long-term success and happiness. A Parkinson’s diagnosis itself is a monumental change in a person’s life, but it is not the end, and refusing to see it as the defining feature of who you are can help you persevere to live well despite Parkinson’s.
Don’t forget to seek out sources of inspiration to keep yourself going. Consider keeping a journal or sketching and on bad days you can look back to what you wrote on good days as a reminder of what is possible.
#5 – Find a purpose
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the concept of making important choices that will affect your livelihood and longevity may feel daunting. But, if you take the time to establish your purpose, you may find that resolutions in support of that purpose come easily.
For many in our community, exploring ways to help others in a similar situation becomes a purpose they never would have predicted. It gives them energy, confidence and self-efficacy that not only benefits those they help but themselves.
For some, putting their health and wellbeing first is their new purpose, and when they resolve to focus on this every day, they feel better, stronger and able to meet any challenge they face.
Only you can decide where you want to focus your time and energy; so, as you consider what you want in 2020, consider what areas of focus will move you closer to your goal.
If you’re a Parkinson’s care partner, you may feel a great deal of purpose in helping your person with Parkinson’s live well, but there will undoubtedly be moments of frustration and even burnout if that becomes your sole focus. Make a resolution to take time for yourself. Parkinson’s is a lifelong journey, and if you let self-care slip or don’t acknowledge your limits, it can be detrimental to you and your person with Parkinson’s. Even care partners need care and making the decision to balance your responsibilities with your own needs can be a chance to improve both of your lives heading into the new year.
#6 – Celebrate all of it
The smell of a freshly brewed cup of coffee. A new art installation at a local museum. The satisfaction of finishing a good book. A hug from a partner, child or friend. The joy of accomplishing something you worked hard on. Every one of these experiences is worth celebrating, but our lives can often feel so busy and hectic that we don’t stop to appreciate the little things in life.
Take the opportunity to live this new year with intentionality. It’s unreasonable to expect anyone to take the time to be grateful for every little thing in their life, but you can take the initiative to vocalize your gratitude and notice the special things in your life. Whether it’s thanking a friend for driving you to physical therapy or savoring the fact that you got eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, you can change your mindset and become a more appreciative and introspective person by taking just a moment out of your day to celebrate the small things.
The only thing that has remained constant for me in my approach to Parkinson’s is my philosophy: celebrate the little victories. You’ve got to stop to really see it, to ‘chalk it up.’ - Davis Phinney
One of our central tenets is the idea that Every Victory Counts®. Don’t hesitate to take pride in your accomplishments, no matter how small, and remember to stop and smell the roses.
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Much more can be found in our Every Victory Counts® manual. It’s packed with up-to-date information about everything Parkinson’s. It also includes a worksheet and resource section to help you put what you’ve learned into action. Request your copy of the Every Victory Counts manual by clicking the button below.