Managing your mental health during the pandemic when you have Parkinson's

Lockdown restrictions continue to ease,  but it's natural to still feel worried, anxious or low. Here, Andrew Paget and Jennifer Foley share their tips and ideas for looking after your mental wellbeing as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact our lives. 

You can also try Mind – the mental health charity, and their advice on coronavirus and your wellbeing.

Keep in touch with people any way you can

It’s important to stay connected with family, friends and essential services as much as you can. 

1

Try to schedule contact with others into your daily routine, so you speak to at least one person each day. You can speak to people on the phone, or use text messages and voice notes. 

2

Hold video chats with friends so you can see people as well as hearing their voices. You can do this with several people at the same time using free technology, such as WhatsApp, Skype, Google Hangouts and Zoom

3

Don’t be afraid to ask family, friends, or neighbours to give you a call. If you can’t speak to someone you know, the Parkinson’s UK helpline (0808 800 0303) can offer emotional support.

4

Online forums can help keep you connected with other people. You can join the Parkinson’s UK forum and start chatting to people who know what you're going through. You might also like to join our Facebook community group, which is a place to talk to people while spending less time together. This community group is as much for friends and family as it is for those of you who live with Parkinson's.

5

Find out if your Parkinson's UK local group has set up a WhatsApp group and ask to be added. It can be a good way of keeping in touch with friends when you can’t attend meetings. 

Think about your normal daily routine and stick to it as much as possible. This can help you keep busy and distract you from thinking too much about other things.

Plan a routine

Think about your normal daily routine and stick to it as much as possible. For example, try to get up and dressed, eat and exercise at the same time each day. Keeping to a routine maintains a sense of normality. It can also help you keep busy and distract you from thinking too much about other things.

1

A daily planner can be helpful. Break the day up into morning, afternoon and evening and try to schedule at least one activity in each part of the day. Remember to schedule in your usual times for medication, getting up and going to bed. You can also include mealtimes, and time to contact or speak to other people. 

2

Try to vary your activities during the week. Aim to have a mix of something essential (a task you can't put off), something goal-orientated (like exercise or doing an online course) and something pleasurable (such as reading or self-care). You might also want to include time each week to try something new.  

Be aware of where you're getting your information from and how much you're checking news

We can now get continuous news and information from lots of different places. You might find some content worrying, overwhelming or in some cases misleading, so it is important to be mindful of this.

1

If the news is making you feel anxious, consider limiting what you watch, read or listen to for a while. Or agree only to check in with the news once a day, for example. 

2

Only read information from trusted sources as misleading information can add to an already stressful and anxious time. Government websites have the most up-to-date information and advice for you:

3

You may also find the NHS website helpful. 

4

If you have any questions about your Parkinson’s, speak to a trusted source like your Parkinson's nurse. Or you can contact the Parkinson’s UK helpline (0808 800 0303 or email [email protected]).

Stay active

Keeping active is important for mental and physical wellbeing. Concentrating on activities can also be a helpful distraction.

1

Spend time on hobbies or learn a new skill and choose a range of activities to keep you stimulated in different ways. You could try:

  • listening to an audio book or a podcast
  • doing a crossword, word search or sudoku puzzle
  • watching box sets or have a movie night
  • doing something creative such as photography (in the garden or around the house), writing a blog, or an arts and crafts project
  • taking part in some online research
2

Exercise is an important part of looking after your physical and mental health and can help to manage your Parkinson’s symptoms. Try to get out as it can help you mentally and physically. When you do leave the house, keep a distance of around 2 metres (6 feet) between you and other people. There are lots of ways you can stay active and exercise at home too.

By sharing your concerns with friends and family, you may feel reassured that you're not alone.

Look after your mental health

It's really important to look after your mental health as well as your physical health at the moment.

1

Talk to people about how you're feeling. It's natural to feel worried at this time. By sharing your concerns with friends and family, you may feel reassured that you are not alone. The NHS also has a directory of charity helplines that can help you specifically with your mental health.

2

Relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness, can help you manage your mood. Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment and not being judgmental about what's happening or how you are feeling. Read more about mindfulness and take part in a 15-minute session.

3

If you're worried about your mood, you can complete an online self-assessment of your mood and get guidance on how to manage symptoms that you identify.  

4

If you feel very anxious or think you are depressed, you should contact your GP or Parkinson’s nurse by phone. They may be able to arrange counselling sessions that you can do over the phone or online. They may also suggest medication to help you. 

5

If you're worried about a friend or family member, the NHS has some helpful advice on how you can support them.  

Be kind to yourself

Many aspects of this crisis are out of our control. But try and focus on your capacity to treat yourself with the same kindness you would show a loved one. This behaviour can promote self-care which helps us to look after ourselves better.