**Stress and MS
-Stress and chronic illness often go hand in hand
-There are many situations about MS that are stressful, including:
-diagnostic uncertainties (before the definite MS diagnosis)
-the unpredictability of MS
-the invisibility of some symptoms (which can cause people with MS to feel misunderstood by others)
-the visibility of some symptoms, particularly newly emerging ones (to which others may react before theperson has had time to adjust). The biggest changes here are the physical challenges presented by MS.
-the need to adjust and readjust to changing abilities
-financial stress and concerns about employment
-the presence — or possibility — of cognitive impairment
-loss of control (e.g., coming and going of unpredictable symptoms)
-the need to make decisions about disease-modifying treatment and adjusting to the treatment if it is chosen.
** Can stress make MS symptoms feel worse?
-Many people with MS say “yes.”
-They experience more symptoms during stressful times.
-When the stress abates, their symptoms seem less troubling or less severe.
-This could be understood by looking at the stress and coping process.
-During times of stress, more energy is required to think, problem-solve, and handle daily life.
-For example, one’s ability to be patient with family members often wanes after a tough day.
-At stressful or demanding times, symptoms may be experienced more strongly because the energy to deal with them and get on with life has been drained.
-Stress may add to the feeling of overwhelming fatigue, which is already one of the most burdensome symptoms of MS.
-We all have finite limits on our ability to cope.
-At demanding times, our supply may temporarily run dry.
-Any difficulty, including MS symptoms, is more challenging at these moments.
Stress can’t be — and shouldn’t be — totally avoided. The challenge is to learn to reduce its intensity and use it to work for, not against, us.
**The Relaxation Response
-The relaxation response is the rest and digest part of the nervous system.
-It basically undoes the work of the stress response after a stressful situation.
-The relaxation response happens when we feel safe, nurtured or taken care of.
-It can block effects from your body’s response to stress.
-This is good for your mental and physical health.
**Effective Relaxation Techniques
-The most effective relaxation technique is one that works for you!
-Different relaxation techniques will help different people at different times.
-What works for you this week, may not work next week.
-But it might work again next month.
-Our needs vary and so it’s important to have a toolbox of relaxation techniques to help you on a regular basis.