Monday, June 21, 2021

Balance: An Important Component of Wellness


Written in early 2016 

As a blogger partner for the upcoming World Parkinson Congress that will be held September 20-23, 2016 in Portland, OR, I have been asked to write a series of articles on subjects relevant to Parkinson’s.

Wellness is a subject that gets a great deal of attention in the PD world, and rightly so.  There are a variety of “wellness categories”.  Physical wellness with a focus on exercise and nutrition has been discussed and researched in detail by organizations such as the Davis Phinney Foundation and Brian Grant Foundation.  Cognitive wellness, a topic that is intuitively relevant with Parkinson’s, has not been widely researched but has received attention in journals.  Other intuitive categories include psychological, relational, spiritual, financial, and personal (clarity around individual preferences), all relevant to current research in which I am involved regarding PD Palliative Care.

The focus of this article is the need for balance (somewhat ironic in that lack of “postural stability” is a one of main motor symptoms of PD).  What I have in mind, specifically, is balance in “engagement”.

In discussions with support groups, this is a topic I always emphasize.  One of the biggest problems PWPs and care partners face is apathy (under-engagement).  My experience is that identifying and engaging “passions” can help overcome this problem.  In my own case, I realized a couple years after diagnosis that the best way for me to “climb out of my funk” was to devote more time to helping others (as written in by PD book, Window of Opportunity: Living with the reality of Parkinson’s and the threat of dementia).  This decision was a major turning point in fight against PD that changed my life in ways I could not have imagined!  Without going into detail, let me just say that I have been abundantly blessed with many opportunities, very nearly all of which I have engaged.

As time has gone by, my PD has inevitably progressed and my abilities have changed.  Also, my “life priorities” outside PD (something to which we all need to pay attention) have evolved.  My commitments in the PD world are hugely important to me, but I am beginning to realize that my commitments to my family and related life decisions are at least equally important.  This is not easy for me to accept. 

An analogy that comes to mind relates to my participation (with my wife and family) in the Bolder Boulder, an annual 10k fundraising event we have entered the last few years.  I noticed this past year that, after walking (I am not a runner anymore) at a brisk pace (with the help of walking poles) for six miles, after I crossed the finish line I had a very hard time slowing down.  My body wanted to, but my brain wouldn’t let me.  I have seen this in friends with advanced PD and learned that it is called festinating gait (a manner of walking in which a person’s speed increases in an unconscious effort to “catch up” with a displaced center of gravity).

Similarly, my involvement in the PD world has developed a degree of momentum, making it difficult for me to “slow down”.  My head tells me I will have to but my heart doesn’t want to listen.  As a result, I am wrestling with the potential for over-engagement in the PD world (if I am not already there) at the expense of other life plans that are taking shape.  All of which reinforces the need for balance.

Easier said than done.



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