“A hug is a universal medicine,
it is how we handshake from the heart.”
I propose that Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month closes with a hug.
Hug family, friends, dogs, friend’s dogs.
Consider the benefits. Studies show that hugs lower blood pressure, increase levels of hormones that trigger happy states of being and reduce the affects of stress.
In the average embrace, both huggers lean toward each other:
When the average embrace ends (determined, typically silently, by both participants), both return to upright and part:
Happy hormones for all. Except for those of us with a movement disorder; the research clearly did not include in their trials people living with PD. When someone raises both arms and leans toward me for an embrace, my state of being turns to fear. I’m not entirely steady (physically, that is) and the pressure of even a light touch can throw me off balance. If I’m already in the off-balance mode, the hug can turn to a tumble when it ends as my fellow hugger releases her arms, straightens and steps away. I need more time to regain an upright stance, so when she walks, I’m still in a forward lean.
Most of the time, I manage my activities well despite the PD. Admittedly, I attend my pity parties on occasion, but I don’t overstay my welcome. Patience, work-arounds, and lots of yoga help counter the losses of this, as Michael J Fox put it, this gift that keeps on taking. No web site, neurologist or PD pamphlet prepped me, however, that I’d lose out on hugs.
I’ve always been a hugger. Whether I was arm-in-arm with my sister or squeezing into a photo op with friends, I never shied away from a hug’s connection. It surprised me — more than that, it made me angry — to find my body tensing when running into an old friend or avoiding a dinner guest hinging toward me to say good-bye. Afraid of a hug?
It’s time for a work-around. I’m not missing out on any more happy hormones.
As Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month ends, I propose we close with this four-step guide on hugging a person living with PD, ensuring that both huggers reap the benefits:
When one hugger lives with PD (left), take a step closer to him. Arms are at your sides. Smile. Breathe.
Allow the person to place their hands on your arms or shoulders first. Place yours next with natural pressure but without pulling the person toward you or shifting your weight toward him or her. Smile. Breathe.
Step 3. Rather than leaning toward the person, allow the PD hugger (left) to lean in.
When the hug ends (again determined by both participants, with verbal communication as needed) the PD hugger returns to upright and both huggers ensure stability before they part. Smile. Breathe.
O O O O
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Have you hugged a person with PD today?