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Multiple Sclerosis Stress Management: What Are Your Priorities?

Part of adapting to life with multiple sclerosis (MS) is adapting to the unpredictability of your symptoms and their potential impact on your everyday life. As you probably know, MS symptoms can make it more difficult for you to do all the things you want to do.

So, if you’re feeling stressed out about keeping up with stuff, and you’re worried about how to meet everyone else’s needs and expectations as well as your own, it’s time to set some priorities for yourself.

Keeping in mind that you can’t be much good to anyone else if you aren’t taking adequate care of your own needs, you need to make sure that you’re making time for yourself and setting clear limits with others about what you can and can’t do for them. Identifying your personal priorities can help you figure out how to put your time and energy to the best possible use.

To start sorting out where your priorities lie, take a look at your work and personal calendars for the past month. Put a smiley face next to each activity that was meaningful, enjoyable, or productive, and a frowning face next to each activity that was unnecessary, a waste of time, or unproductive. It’s amazing how much time people spend doing things that are actually unimportant to them.

MS and stress: Set realistic goals

If you overcommit, overplan, and overpromise, you’re setting yourself up for stress. On the flip side, if you set realistic goals you’re setting yourself up for success. So, if it now takes you a bit longer to do things, take your new pace into account when you plan your schedule each day. And if your fatigue is a killer later in the day, plan the big stuff for the mornings.

You’ll feel a lot less stressed if you can look back at the end of a day and feel good about what you’ve accomplished. In the end, you have to pick and choose the things that are most important to you and give yourself enough time to succeed at them.

Here’s something to try: For the next week, write out your planned schedule for each day, estimating how long each activity is going to take. Then, after you’re finished with a particular activity, jot down how long it actually took. This information can help you plan a lot more realistically in the future.

MS and stress: Cut yourself some slack

Sometimes people are their own worst enemies, and they beat up on themselves for not doing things well enough or fast enough. For example, are you harder on yourself than you are on everyone else? Do you beat yourself up when you don’t do everything just right? Are you always doing the “should-a, would-a, could-a” thing? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have to remember this: Chances are high that you’re going to have days when you just can’t do everything on your list, or that you won’t be able to do things exactly the way you want to. Instead, be proud of what you can do and forgiving of what you can’t.

If you’re experiencing a lot of pressure from the people around you, they need to cut you some slack as well. So talk to them about what’s going on with you.

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