Making Lifestyle Adjustments as a Multiple Sclerosis Treatment
Your MS life can change in a moment. I just experienced this myself today when I discovered that my RRMS is an aggressive form that is resistant to the medications that I have tried so far. I have lost the strength in my legs, and my balance is so off-kilter that I would fail a field sobriety test entirely sober. After this, I decided to change my lifestyle starting with my diet, but also adding other changes.
Here's what you can do to change your MS life:
- Stay active. Exercise is a major component in maintaining a healthy MS life. Before my diagnosis, I was an avid runner. I loved it. I now need to find other ways to stay active. Swimming, yoga, and Tai-Chi are among the many ways to do this. Check your local MS groups or YMCA to find classes. YouTube is also a great place to find yoga exercises specifically designed for MS patients.
- Exercise your brain. If you are like me, your cognitive skills are quickly waning. It is important to keep your brain as active as you keep your body. Word puzzles or games, memory games or reading are excellent ways to keep your brain functioning for as long as possible.
- Sleep well. Proper sleep is important to health and healing. I sometimes have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep all night, so I use melatonin to help with those issues. Having a nighttime routine is also a good habit to have to avoid sleep problems.
- Get help if you suffer from depression. Depression is a common issue when living with MS. Finding a support group or even consulting with your physician about an antidepressant are some options to consider.
- De-stress. Stress is a huge factor when it comes to relapses or worsening of symptoms. Life is stressful, but doing whatever you can to avoid succumbing to it will help you live your best MS life. Surrounding yourself with positive people, meditation and exercise all help to relieve stress. Avoid situations or people that exude negative energy. I joined an online MS group and eventually left it because of the complaining and the absolute negativity on there. I have found that there is something good in every situation. Sometimes it may be difficult to find, but trust me, it’s there.
- Be cool. And not just the hip cool. Keep your body temperature down. Most, if not all of us have experienced the exacerbation of symptoms that come with heat exposure. Cooling vests and doing activities in the cooler part of the day will help tremendously.
The final tip I will give you is to take care of you, and I know that this is more difficult than it sounds.
I used to be superwoman, super-mom, super-whatever-I-put-my-mind-to until multiple sclerosis took my powers. I have a hard time asking for help, but I am learning quickly that I can not do this alone. Also, I have learned that people, especially loved ones, want to help, we have to let them.
Also, if you tend to be forgetful about appointments or plans, use your smartphone. My calendar app has been a lifesaver! Whenever I make an appointment or plans with my girls, I immediately pull up my calendar and add it. It is amazing how quickly I forget things.
Don’t be afraid to depend on apps or people. Our goal is to live our best MS life. To be as happy as we can be with the beast we carry around daily.
Taking breaks is okay. When I am doing an activity, I don’t usually notice my struggle until I am spent that I have overdone it. I pay the price later and generally over the course of several days of recovery.
While we don’t have to let MS take over our lives, we do have to respect its presence there. I hear or read the popular ‘MS-ism’ that “I have MS, but MS doesn’t have me.” Well, sometimes MS does have me, but I don’t have to let it own me.
Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, unforgiving disease. It charges into our lives like a bull in a china shop and seems to be on a mission to destroy anything in its path. Our mission, on the other hand, is to do the best we can to minimize the damage.
Changing what we put into our bodies, how we treat ourselves, finding the right disease management therapy, and keeping in constant communication with our MS team will help us live our best MS lives.