Multiple Sclerosis: Create a Stress Management Plan

If you have multiple sclerosis (MS), you’re bound to experience increased stress, so it’s helpful to create a plan to keep stress from bringing you to a screeching halt. The first step in your stress management plan is to remind yourself (repeatedly, if necessary) that stressing yourself out about stress is pointless. Here’s why:

  • Trying to eliminate stress is impossible. Doing so simply can’t be done because stress is inherent in everyday living. When people try to get rid of stress in their lives, they end up feeling anxious and inadequate when it doesn’t work. And even if they partially succeed, they’re often dissatisfied with the results.

  • Giving up activities that are important to you — like your job — because they’re stressful is a lose-lose strategy. You may lose some of the stress in your life, but you also lose income and a major source of satisfaction and self-esteem. And, it turns out that unemployment is pretty stressful, too.

  • Happy events are also stressful — and you certainly don’t want to rid your life of those. Getting married, having a new baby, celebrating the holidays, buying a new house, and planning a vacation are all examples of events that cause stress even though they’re pleasurable and exciting. If all of these stresses were eliminated, life would be pretty bland and boring.

When people try to control their MS by ridding their lives of stress, they may feel guilty when their symptoms act up or the disease progresses anyway. In other words, they blame themselves when their MS misbehaves. Just remember that dealing with a chronic, unpredictable disease is difficult enough without also taking blame for it.

It makes a lot more sense to follow your neurologist’s recommendations for managing your MS while also figuring out how to manage the stresses of your everyday life. Together, these strategies will help you feel and function at your best.

Like managing your MS, managing stress is an ongoing process — it isn’t something you can do once and then forget about. Check out Stress Management For Dummies by Allen Elkin (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) for a much more detailed overview of general stress management strategies.

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