The importance of self-care in the management of Parkinson’s disease

Self-care can help to reduce stress and improve general well-being

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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Self-care sometimes gets a reputation for being a woo-woo practice — something that’s unconventional and has little scientific data to back it up. But the body of scientific evidence showing that self-care practices can have an impact is growing.

A self-care routine has been shown to reduce stress levels and improve well-being. And since my dad has drawn a parallel between high stress levels and worsening Parkinson’s symptoms, it’s important to me that he find ways to practice self-care on a daily basis.

As the National Institute of Mental Health notes, self-care “means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. When it comes to your mental health, self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy. Even small acts of self-care in your daily life can have a big impact.”

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For me, self-care often means incorporating into my life deep stretching in the evening, such as yin yoga, a monthly massage, or even an afternoon in a hot tub. But it can look different for everyone. For some, self-care includes a healthy diet, relaxing activities like yoga and meditation, exercising, and an optimized sleep schedule. Additional activities that fall into the category of self-care might include massage therapy for those stiff and painful muscles, acupuncture, or communicating with a support group on a regular basis.

Because Dad is highly sensitive to stressors, he’s come to recognize the power of self-care activities. This is evident in his dedication to exercise classes, prayer, and afternoon naps. Without these practices, his body seems to become stiffer and his mind is more prone to reacting negatively to stress. He’s more likely to become irritable or shaky if he skips his care routine. Self-care seems to stabilize his body and his mind, making them more resilient to the inevitable changes that he experiences.

I think one common component that’s overlooked when it comes to self-care is establishing a routine. While a single self-care activity might help to briefly shift one’s mindset or the body’s stress, it seems that a regular practice yields more impactful results over the long term. This is why I try to encourage my dad to take care of himself, even if it means skipping out on an activity that he normally loves.

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Whitney Todd avatar

Whitney Todd

What a great article and very true and important advice. I work full-time and am a full-time caregiver to my husband who has Parkinson's and dementia. We have learned that it is very important for both of us to be on a schedule and always include some "me time" for ourselves. I love what you said about sometimes having to pass on an obligation to take care of yourself because that can be so hard for both my husband and I. But we have learned to communicate and be flexible so that we each take care of ourselves as well as each other. I am a better employee and caregiver when I have given myself some self-care!

Kathryn C Hauck avatar

Kathryn C Hauck

I totally agree with this post!.. Self care is our #1 priority. Taking charge of our needs such as mitigating or avoiding stressors puts the patient in driver's seat. We have to do this for ourselves as much as we are able to do so.

Joe Pierce avatar

Joe Pierce

Thanks for this!


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