Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, and it can cause a range of symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness, numbness, and difficulty with coordination and balance.
But beyond these physical symptoms of the disease, people living with MS also have to deal with the emotional toll it takes on their mental health.
While there isn’t yet a cure for MS, there are several things that people living with the disease can do to manage their symptoms and support their overall health.
Educate Yourself About MS
One of the most important things you can do when living with MS is to educate yourself about the disease. This means understanding what MS is, how it affects your body, and what the available treatment options are.
By doing so, you can work with your healthcare team to make informed decisions about your care and ensure that you’re doing everything you can to manage your symptoms.
Build a Support System
Living with a chronic illness like MS can be isolating, so it’s important to have a support system that can help you cope with the challenges. Your support system can include friends, family members, healthcare providers, and MS support groups.
Having people who understand what you’re going through can be a source of comfort and encouragement, and they can provide you with emotional support when you need it the most. If you’re not already part of an MS support group, consider joining one in your area. Support groups can offer a safe space where you can share your experiences and learn from others who are also living with MS.
Mindfulness is simply the practice of being present in this moment. It’s about observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment, finding a way to acknowledge, accept, and even appreciate the way things are, rather than constantly ruminating on how things were in the past or worrying how things might be in the future.
Take a deep breath. See if you can observe the sensations in your body without suffering from them or trying to change them. Notice the thoughts and emotions that arise, but don’t get caught up in them. By practicing mindfulness, you can develop a greater sense of self-awareness and learn to manage stress more effectively.
Be Physically Active
Exercise is essential for people with MS as it helps to improve strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. Regular exercise can also alleviate symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
Exercise can be anything from walking, swimming, or yoga to more intense activities such as weight training and aerobics. However, it is important to consult with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise program, especially if you have mobility issues.
Follow a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet can help to reduce inflammation, improve gut health, and promote overall wellness. A balanced diet should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.
Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive alcohol consumption, as these can trigger inflammation and exacerbate MS symptoms.
Some people with MS may have difficulty swallowing or chewing, so it may be helpful to consult with a dietitian to develop a meal plan that meets your unique needs.
Therapy and Mental Health Treatment
Living with MS can be emotionally challenging, and it’s just as important to prioritize your mental health alongside your physical health.
Therapy can be a valuable tool for managing stress, anxiety, and depression that may accompany the disease. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you identify negative thought patterns and learn coping skills to manage or change them.
Additionally, medications may be prescribed by a healthcare professional to manage symptoms such as depression or anxiety.
Stay Connected with Your Healthcare Team
Regular check-ins with your healthcare team are crucial when living with MS. Your doctor can monitor your symptoms, adjust medications as needed, and provide guidance on managing the disease.
Be sure to attend all scheduled appointments and communicate openly with your healthcare provider about any concerns or changes in symptoms.