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Webinar Recording: Helplessness and Hope in Parkinson’s


Webinar Recording: Helplessness and Hope in Parkinson’s

In this webinar, Judy Long, a palliative care chaplain with UCSF’s Parkinson’s Disease Supportive Care Clinic and UCSF’s Symptom Management Service, talked about difficult emotions like grief and helplessness and how best to work with them. She shared several practices that I hope you find useful along your path.

You can watch the video below.

Some of the topics Judy touched on include:

  • The three components of resilience
  • How to manage difficult emotions in each moment
  • How to reframe and embrace helplessness
  • How to deal with the daily losses of living with Parkinson’s
  • How to embody constructive engagement
  • How to cultivate compassion-based practices to serve the self and others

Show Notes


  • Notice the physical sensation of the support of the chair beneath you or the floor beneath your feet
  • Sustain your attention there for a few moments and breathe
  • On the in-breath, notice the sensation of the air entering your nostrils
  • On the out-breath, notice the sensation of the support of the chair (or floor). Breathe
  • Direct your attention to the heart area
  • Place your hand over your heart if that feels right to you
  • On the in-breath, notice the expansion of your chest
  • On the out-breath notice the relaxing
  • Imagine that you are breathing directly into and out from your heart

Managing Difficult Emotions

  • Connection = relationships = emotions
  • Humans are unique in being able to notice emotions even while we’re feeling them 
  • Emotions have a shelf life if we don’t hold on to them
  • Emotions come in waves.  The shape of the waves differ according to our individual tendencies and the situation itself, but they still come in waves. They arise and then they recede
  • When emotions are at their strongest, emotions are said to be refractory, and our perception is gated, so we only notice what’s congruent with that emotion. It’s like wearing emotional blinders 
  • Emotions don’t last forever, even if we want them to
  • When we have a strong emotion, we are often flooded with adrenaline and cortisol 
  • The earlier you notice the start of strong emotion, the sooner you can interrupt the cycle of being flooded, so it can dissipate more readily
  • It’s helpful to understand that you may need to allow some time for the emotion and the associated adrenalin rush to dissipate
  • Noticing and silently naming an emotion in a curious/neutral voice provides cognitive perspective, so you can choose skillful actions
  • When you experience a positive emotion, see if you can memorize how it feels emotionally and how it feels in your body.  You can use that memory as a reference point you can return to in the future

Soften. Soothe. Allow.

  • Notice when you are experiencing a strong emotion
  • Silently name the emotion in a curious, interested voice: ‘Oh this is sadness.’
  • Briefly scan your body, head to toe, to see if you can notice any tightness associated with the emotion
  • If there are many places that feel tight, choose the one that’s the strongest. If you don’t feel any particular tightness, choose a place that makes sense to you
  • Direct your attention to that part of your body, imagining your shoulders or belly, for example
  • While you sustain your attention in that location, silently repeat the word “soften” three times. 
  • After the next out-breath, place your hand on that part of your body and silently repeat the word “soothe” three times. 
  • After the next out-breath, silently repeat the word “allow” three times, knowing that you can allow that emotion to remain as long as it needs to and that it will eventually go away when it’s ready.

Helplessness Protocol – R.E.N.E.W.

This is a way to respond to helplessness to help you re-engage skillfully.

RECOGNIZE that you are feeling helpless. Notice your reaction when you feel this way. What do you do when you feel this feeling?  Overly activated? Resigned/defeated? Somewhere in between? 

EMBRACE and notice where you are on this barometer of relative helplessness rather than ignoring it and hoping it will go away.

NURTURE yourself by doing something to feed yourself when you’re feeling that way. Have some ‘go-to’ things in mind that work for you, such as recalling your intention, looking out the window at nature, walking around outside, drinking a cup of tea. 

EMBODY the experience by getting ready to engage in a way that is skillful. Ground yourself with a deep in breath followed by dropping into your body and noticing the support of the chair or floor

WEAVE a new story about how you intend to re-engage in a way you think will be helpful. This can be a great place to practice creating a positive intention for a specific situation. 

Practicing the R.E.N.E.W. Protocol

  1. Notice when you feel helpless and identify where you are on the spectrum
  2. Embrace the experience, the feeling
  3. Nurture yourself.
  4. Ground yourself in some way 
  5. Weave a new story

First, try it out in your imagination by remembering a time in the past when you felt helpless and then practice it when you experience moderate helplessness. 


Center for Mindful Self-Compassion
Compassion Institute 
Resilience in the Face of Suffering
The mindfulness-based emotional balance workbook: An eight-week program for improved emotion regulation and resilience
The Wellness Journal
Healing through the dark emotions: The wisdom of grief, fear, and despair
Ten Thousand Joys & Ten Thousand Sorrows: A Couple’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s
The upside of stress: Why stress is good for you, and how to get good at it
Chronic sorrow: A living loss

This webinar is sponsored* by Kyowa Kirin.

*While the generous support of our sponsors makes our educational programs available,
their donations do not influence Davis Phinney Foundation content, perspective, or speaker selection.


You can find our entire library of upcoming and past webinars here.

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