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How Can I Cope With Anxiety and Stress?

Article written by Karl Robb.

It is not uncommon for the stresses of daily life — feeling overwhelmed, under prepared and over stimulated — to bring about anxiety and unrest. These psychological issues can be very important to your health, and even exacerbate the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. That is why it is so important to take a good look at what may be causing stress in your life and learn how to deal with the situations that give rise to anxiety.

Karl Robb shares his personal story

A few years ago, I faced a dark period in my life. My mother was dying of cancer and the stress I was experiencing seemed too overwhelming to control. My medicines were not working nearly as well and my positive attitude was waning. It all began to take a toll on my body.

One Sunday afternoon I was watching television when out of nowhere these thoughts started racing through my head. It was as if 200 channels were playing at once. The flashing images were dizzying and upsetting. My pulse raced and my heart pounded. I was terrified, thinking I was having a heart attack.

I tried my best to slow my mind with deep breathing, calming thoughts, soft music and meditation. Only after about 40 minutes of focusing on my breath and visualizing calming images was I able to return to a more serene state of mind.

Afterward I realized that the buildup of stress over the previous weeks — from work, my mom's death, and my own attitude — led to the panic attack. Since this episode, I have learned how to better manage stress and to reduce the triggers that make me anxious. That was the first and only panic attack I have ever had.

Reducing stressors in life is not always easy. You might need to take a closer look at your life to find what needs to change. Sometimes just reducing the negative influences in your life can make a big difference. Here is what I do to reduce stress and overcome anxiety — and what you can try, too.

Turn off the news.  Overexposure to events that are beyond your control can create tension and worry.

Eliminate violent and mindless TV and stressful video games. Use that time to engage in a hobby or something you enjoy.

Minimize exposure to negative people. Instead, connect with people who uplift you.

Learn some relaxation techniques. Meditation, yoga and deep breathing can help restore a sense of calm. Seek a yoga class tailored to Parkinson’s patients.

Seek solace in music. Try classical, soft rock, nature sounds or alternative. Set up a comfortable listening area where you can fully enjoy the moment.

Stay passionate. If Parkinson's takes something you love away or care about, find a hobby to replace it. If you can no longer paint, pick up a camera and take pictures or learn to sing.

Stay open-minded and resilient. This will help you handle adversity.

Exercise away the anxiety. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about setting up an exercise regimen that meets your health needs.

Socialize.  Nothing can empower you like a feeling of camaraderie. Get involved with a community organization, a support group, or a charity that you believe in.

Learn to laugh. Keeping a sense of humor is a sure way to beat anxiety. Watch a funny video and read something that makes you laugh every day.

Remember, anxiety and depression often go together. But the symptoms of anxiety can include: feelings of panic, fear and restlessness, sleep disturbance, poor concentration, palpitations, shortness of breath, irritability, and dizziness.

If you feel that you are totally overwhelmed by your feelings, consult with your physician. He or she can refer you to a mental health professional. There is no shame in seeking help, when you need it. Everyone deals with his or her anxiety differently.  

Ultimately, finding balance in your mind and body will help you cope with the daily stresses of life. This may mean limiting your exposure to environmental stressors or using complementary therapies. Such approaches are wonderful ways to lower anxiety, lower blood pressure, and improve your all-around health.

Finally, remember, that your outlook and attitude are vital to everything you do, and keeping a positive attitude can be contagious. I promise you, staying positive makes living with Parkinson's disease easier and more enjoyable. If you are able to incorporate the above tips into your life over time, you may find that anxiety will be a thing of the past.

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