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Tips to Help Manage Anxiety

Living with Parkinson’s can be stressful, triggering a cascade of worries. Anxiety is common among people with Parkinson’s and can take many forms: general anxiety, panic attacks, social phobia or attacks brought on by isolated instances, to name a few.

Our most recent educational book, Mood: A Mind Guide to Parkinson's Disease, explains what mood changes people with Parkinson’s can expect, why they might experience these changes and how to treat and cope with them. Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we’d like to share our best tips on ways you can start manage anxiety right now.

Elaine Book, a clinic social worker at the Pacific Parkinson's Research Centre, a Center of Excellence, helps people with PD manage anxiety.

Elaine’s tips:

  1. Plan ahead. Consider the worst-case scenario for anxiety triggers and problem solve in advance. For example, if traveling causes anxiety, weeks before your trip refill your prescriptions and call the airline to ask for boarding assistance.
  2. Create an affirmation. Think of a short, clear positive statement that focuses on your strengths. Saying a phrase like "I can handle this" in anticipation of an anxiety provoking experience can help.
  3. Give it a number. Use a 1-10 scale (1 being a minor hassle and 10 being a catastrophe) to assign a number to whatever is making you feel anxious. This can help put the issue in perspective.
  4. Ask for help. It’s a sign of strength. Sourcing out what you need to will help you live well with PD.
  5. Identify triggers. Then take action to manage them. For example, if crowds make you anxious, avoid them. If running late increases your anxiety, leave early.

Tips from Mood: A Mind Guide to Parkinson's Disease:

  1. Exercise regularly. From walking to yoga to yard work, just 10 minutes of exercise can calm your mind, reduce negative emotions and help release muscle tension.
  2. Nurture your spirit. Meditation can help reduce excessive worry. Download a free meditation app or try a YouTube meditation video.
  3. Think positively. Notice when a negative loop takes hold in your mind, then practice replacing it with an optimistic thought.
  4. Get support. Anxiety often diminishes when you share your worries with someone who has experienced similar struggles.
  5. Do your groceries online. Remove anxiety triggers associated with grocery shopping. Sign up for a grocery delivery service (like Instacart or Peapod).
  6. Talk to your doctor. Adjusting medication doses and timing may help.
  7. Take a few deep breaths. Long, slow deep breaths can help refocus your mind.

Tips to help reduce fatigue caused by anxiety:

  1. Say no. Avoid over-scheduling your days and focus on freeing up time to do the things that give you energy, like a hobby.
  2. Know your limits. Slowing down and taking your time will help you avoid over-exertion.
  3. Plan your days. Allow adequate time to recharge and rest in your daily routine. Plan high-energy activities for times when you know you will be rested and your medications are working well.
  4. Delegate. Hire help for tasks you find particularly stressful or tiring, like mowing the lawn.
  5. Eat healthy. A healthy, well-balanced diet can help boost energy and combat fatigue.

For more tips on managing anxiety or to order our free educational book, Mood: A Mind Guide to Parkinson's Disease, call our Helpline at 1-800-4PD-INFO (1-800-473-4636).