“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Abbie Hoffman
“Your life is a work of art that you will work on the rest of your life.” Richard Blanco
Introduction: The year is closing in on us, one for the record books; a year like no other, it would seem. The Pandemic of 2020 has been real, severe, and life-altering. 2021 promises to start the same way 2020 is ending. However, there is a glimmer of hope with two vaccines approved and becoming available. With increased awareness of the situation’s seriousness, we can begin to renew, heal, and live-on. In the backdrop of COVID-19, we still have our preexisting disorders; in my case, Parkinson’s. Here is a reminder of what we are going through and a wellness checklist to kick start 2021.
A Few Things to Remember About Life with Parkinson’s:
1 . Be kind to yourself. You have a chronic progressing disability that may not always be obvious to those around you. Nonetheless, stay the course, be kind to others, but mostly be kind to you.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Wendy Mass
2. Make sure to take your medication on time. Especially during the holiday season, you are busy doing things with family, friends, and loved ones; your schedule is likely different from usual. No matter, stay the course with your daily therapy, timing matters.
“Timeliness is best in all matters.” Hesiod
3. It is the end of a long year, likely one of the strangest, most challenging years ever. It is okay to take time off because work will still be there after the holidays.
“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living.” Dale Carnegie
4. Keep sleep ever-present, naps are useful if you need one, but nothing helps more than a full night of sleep (however long that may be).
“The best eraser in the world is a good night’s sleep.” Orlando Aloysius Battista
5. It the time of COVID-19, reaffirm your family ties, caring/love of others. Nothing matters more than those you love, mostly if you are apart from them during the holiday season.
“I think togetherness is a very important ingredient to family life.” Barbara Bush
6. Do not forget to exercise because Parkinson’s is not on holiday like you are, it will\ not take a break.
“Stay in shape. And remember, daily exercise is a must. Plan for it, and do it. The rewards will be well worth it.” Jack LaLanne
7. Remind yourself of all the things you are grateful for and tell others.
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” Melody Beattie
8. Eat well if you have time and opportunity, but do it wisely, brain-healthy if possible.
“Food is an important part of a balanced diet.” Fran Lebowitz
9. Every 20 minutes or so, get up and stretch because you will get tight sitting all day watching football and chatting with your family, friends, and loved ones (I am spending my time talking with Susan and my family, and yes, watching too much football, it seems).
“It’s hard to stay flexible if you don’t stretch. I think if you train the right way you’ll be flexible. There are people that don’t appreciate the value of stretching. I think it’s very important.” Darren Shahlavi
10. Make a wellness checklist (see below), a running log of how you feel/are doing. Please keep it going as long as you need. You could start the year with a wellness checklist in place of new year’s resolutions.
“No matter how expert you may be, well-designed checklists can improve outcomes.” Steven Levitt
Wellness Checklist in the Presence of Parkinson’s: Creating a wellness checklist is not hard to do; you could make it or think of it as a timeline to your daily health. In other words, as you go from day-to-day, how do you feel? How do you want to feel physically and emotionally? Is your current strategy for therapy for your Parkinson’s working? Are you exercising, sleeping, eating well, being mindful, and trying to stay positive? Use a wellness checklist to help take care of yourself.
Dr. Mark Wiley describes a plan entitled “How to Set SMART Wellness Goals” (click here to read article), where SMART stands for the following (and you begin to address the following 5 questions):
Specific (what is your goal?)
Measurable (how much?)
Achievable or Attainable (how are you going to do it?)
Relevant or Realistic (can it be done in that time-period?)
Time-Bound or Time-based (how long until you reach that goal?)
This is a goal-setting wellness plan. Read through these 5 points, think about your current state-of-health in the presence of Parkinson’s. Would keeping an exercise journal help you maintain you exercise routine/strategy? Would mapping your daily response to your Parkinson’s therapy give you insight into its effectiveness? How do you feel during on-off periods? Does your therapy make you sleepy? Does your therapy change your ability to drive a car? Are there periods of absolute clarity? Do you still feel too stiff? Simple questions to track as you set a goal to understand your therapy and your realistic future goals.
Importantly, make a wellness plan that fits you, your thinking, your desire, and your goals. Make your wellness plan focused on you and make it reasonable. As they say, if you can imagine it, then you can achieve it. Place your wellness plan in the context of your disorder. Do not overdo the planning, but think of it as a ‘working blueprint’ for your immediate future. Take advantage of this situation, and track your progress. Is your exercise plan working and manageable, too much stress in your life? Can you improve your health to nudge your Parkinson’s a little, make your disorder feel you fighting back, resisting its slow persistent pull on you?
Dr. Wiley includes an example of a generic wellness plan, which incorporates the SMART strategy: “I want to feel better and experience less pain because it makes me feel good. When I feel good, I enjoy my life. Therefore, I want to lose 20 pounds and decrease my pain by 50 percent. To do this, I need the support of my family, a dietician and a personal trainer who is available on Wednesdays and Sundays. I will use a weight scale and a pain index to chart my progress over the next six months, with mini-goals set at the end of each month. I believe I can attain my goal because the time frame is realistic, I have a support system, I know what I need to do, and I believe in myself and am dedicated to changing my own life for the better.” Included below are other on-line sites that give information about how to write/prepare a wellness plan.
How to Set SMART Wellness Goals (click here)
SMART Goals for Lifestyle Change (click here)
Setting Wellness Goals for 2020 and Beyond (click here)
Setting goals for wellness (click here)
Create Your Own Personal Wellness Checklist (click here)
“Happiness is a choice, not a result. Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy. No person will make you happy unless you decide to be happy. Your happiness will not come to you. It can only come from you.” Ralph Marston