People with MS often find themselves facing emotional challenges in addition to physical ones. Resiliency is critical to managing life with a chronic illness like MS.
Knowing that you are not alone and seeking out support groups is essential. You can also talk with a mental health professional.
Often, people who are struggling with a medical condition, including multiple sclerosis (MS), can feel as though they’re alone. But, while MS is unpredictable, others are living with it, and plenty of support is available.
Finding and nurturing positive emotions is one way to foster a sense of hope, a critical factor in feeling better. Some people with MS find relief from their symptoms by practicing mindfulness, an approach to meditation that promotes staying in the moment and focusing on feelings.
A person can also seek emotional support from a close friend, family member, or a professional counselor or therapist specializing in depression or illness adjustment. Some people find that joining MS support groups or an online community of people with the same condition is helpful because they can share their experiences and learn tips from others. Other people with MS find comfort in talking to their physician or a nurse or therapist at an MS helpline. In addition, some people have found it helpful to find personal meaning in their spiritual beliefs or religious traditions.
People with MS can experience a wide range of emotions after a diagnosis. They may feel sadness, anger, frustration, fear, and disbelief. Being available to talk through these feelings, providing reassurance, and being patient can help your loved one navigate their new lifestyle.
Staying organized can also make daily tasks easier for those living with MS. Keep essentials within easy reach, install safety features in the bathroom and kitchen, and reduce clutter to minimize risk. People with MS can also benefit from organizing their work environment, such as using glare protection on computers and listening to white noise or music at work to drown out distractions.
People with MS need to learn their triggers – like overheating, stress, or a lack of sleep – and avoid them whenever possible. This can help reduce the severity of symptoms and the likelihood of a flare-up, notes the NMSS. Keeping a journal of MS symptoms is another valuable tool for those with the disease. It can track changes, prepare for disability claims, and document progress.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Everyone feels better after a good night’s sleep, but getting enough rest is especially important for people with MS. If you’re having difficulty sleeping or your MS symptoms seem to interfere with your sleep, talk to your neurologist.
Your doctor can suggest ways to improve your sleep, such as following a regular bedtime routine and using calming relaxation techniques. They can also prescribe medications or exercises to help control spasticity, a common MS symptom that causes tightness and pain that worsens at night or during sleep.
A positive attitude can also make a big difference in your quality of life while dealing with multiple sclerosis. It may be helpful to join a support group where you can meet others with MS and share ideas and feelings about how the condition affects your daily life. You might also consider mental health counseling if you’re having trouble coping with the emotional challenges that sometimes accompany a chronic illness like MS.
Exercise is essential for everyone, but it’s especially beneficial for those with MS. Research shows that physical activity can help reduce fatigue, improve balance and gait, and strengthen muscles. Talk to your doctor for recommendations on exercises you can do safely. You can also try swimming, cycling, walking, seated yoga, or adaptive sports.
Remember that hot temperatures can exacerbate MS symptoms, such as spasticity or fatigue. Stay hydrated, wear a cooling vest or fan in hot weather, and take cooldown breaks during exercise to prevent this. Cold weather can also trigger MS symptoms, such as fatigue or numbness, so dress in layers.
Stress can be a significant problem for people with MS, particularly regarding their day-to-day activities. Consider finding a counselor or therapist for one-on-one support. It’s also helpful to discuss feelings with others with MS, either in a support group or via chatroom. Some people find that talking about their MS with a telehealth therapist can be even more helpful.
People with MS often deal with a lot of stress, which can worsen symptoms. It’s essential to get help for this stress, whether it’s through a support group or a mental health professional.
Several things can be done to reduce stress, including keeping hydrated, staying in air-conditioned spaces, and using fans when it’s hot outside. Avoiding hot baths, eating cold foods, and avoiding exercise at high-heat times can also help prevent overheating, which can exacerbate MS symptoms.
Communicating with family, friends, and others about MS’s impact on one’s life is essential. The choice of who to tell and when is a personal decision, but letting people know about the illness can help them better understand the changes that might occur. Learning as much as possible about the disease and ways to manage it can also help a person feel more in control of their situation.