Stressful situations common with MS include:
- Diagnostic uncertainties
- Unpredictability of MS
- Visibility of symptoms (particularly new and emerging ones)
- The need to adjust and readjust to changing abilities
- Financial stress
- Presence, or possibility of, cognitive impairment
- Loss of control (i.e., bladder dysfunction)
- The need to make decisions about disease-modifying treatment and adjusting to it if chosen
Common signs of stress
- Chronic irritability or resentment
- Feeling down in the dumps, demoralized
- Continual boredom
- Excessive nervousness or anxiety
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Worrying every day
- Being easily distracted
- Expecting the worst to happen much of the time
- Difficulty making everyday decisions
- Clammy hands or sweating
- Dry mouth
- Heart palpitations
- Stomach aches, knots, cramps or nausea
- Muscle spasms or tightness
- Lump in throat
- Sleeping too much/too little
- Short and shallow breathing
Relaxation isn’t just something you decide to do. You have to learn how. There’s no right or wrong way to relax. Reading, listening to music, gardening, painting, cooking, doing puzzles or engaging in something spiritual are all ways people find to relax.
Other relaxation techniques include:
- Deep breathing (belly breathing)
- Clearing your mind (focusing on a pleasant, restful image or word)
- Visualization (combination of meditation, deep breathing and clearing your mind)
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Tai chi
Here are some tips that other people living with MS have found helpful in managing stress:
- Avoid stressful situations when you can. Try to remove yourself from stressful situations and instead do something that you enjoy or makes you laugh.
- Aim for a positive work-life balance. Avoid hectic schedules and try to be organized and plan ahead.
- Share your worries. Make sure you talk to someone, such as a friend or family member, when you are finding things stressful.
- Start afresh each day. Treat each day as a new day. If your MS means plans sometimes fall by the wayside, don’t beat yourself up about it. Cut yourself some slack and start again the next day.