Our Needs as Loved-One and Caregivers

By: Suzanne Marriott

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

I remember when my therapist reminded me that my husband was often in survival. She was referring to the most basic of human needs as defined by Abraham Maslow in his Hierarchy of Needs. 

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MS and Mental Health

Whether you live with a chronic illness or not, there are many reasons why people struggle with mental health.  Facing the complexities of life and other stressful factors, the line between feeling down and having depression can often become blurry. Even if you’re not clinically depressed, it is normal to feel low occasionally, but this doesn’t make it any easier. Especially when living with Multiple Sclerosis, this condition may complicate things even further.

Multiple Sclerosis affects everyone differently. Although symptoms vary from person to person, it’s common to experience difficulty walking, weakness, numbness, and tingling. Without a doubt, these physical symptoms are challenging. However, emotional challenges and mental health struggles can be just as, if not more, debilitating.

Fortunately, mental health awareness has come a long way in recent decades which has resulted in more research about the role mental health plays in our well-being and how to address it. Maintaining your mental health while living with MS can be managed through coping strategies. Here are a few ways to improve your mental health and emotional well-being:

  • Don’t overexert yourself. Be kind to yourself and have grace. Listen to your body and do what your body can handle.
  • Consider therapy. Engaging in therapy can be an effective way to recognize your emotions and feelings and evaluate them to better help you.
  • Focus on life outside of MS. It’s essential to remember that MS does not define you. You are so much more than your diagnosis! Focus on your goals, projects, and fun plans. Take a step back from the demands of MS and nurture your mental health.
  • Prioritize movement and exercise. Exercise has abundant benefits for the mind, body, and soul. A few activities can include chair yoga, walking, bicycling, or swimming.  Find a hobby that you enjoy and that you can physically and emotionally partake in.
  • Locate a local support group for MS patients.

Multiple Sclerosis is a challenging diagnosis that can pose mental health impacts on individuals. It’s essential to recognize when you’re feeling down or just not yourself. Make self-care a vital part of your daily routine. There may be times when self-care techniques are not enough. In this case, it’s essential to seek professional help and speak with your doctor. Do not be afraid to ask for help if you are having a difficult time. It is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength to know when you need help.

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Empowering Your Mental Health

The importance of mental health is often understated and MS being a highly unpredictable disease can come with its own challenges. There is a stigma associated with mental health which is why many find it difficult to talk about the rollercoaster of emotions they might be experiencing, especially if one is going through MS. Building a support system is crucial to one’s mental health as they are the ones who will stick by your side through thick and thin. Building support takes time, patience, and effort. Here are some ways to take control of your mental health:

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Growing Pains

By: Diana Cruz

Being diagnosed with a medical condition, especially at a young age, can take on an unfathomable toll. Physical, mental, and emotional aspects of yourself that haven’t even fully developed are now forcibly taking on the additional role of simultaneously fighting, healing, and growing. As someone who was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder as a child, and displayed symptoms even earlier on in life, it was difficult for me to understand what was going on with my body. The non-stop infections, the continuous weakness that increased with weekly blood tests and frequent operations, and the never-ending dizziness at an age where I was supposed to be the most energetic left me feeling inexplicably different than the kids around me.  

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Keto Cookie Dough Bombs

If you are looking for a low-carb, keto-friendly recipe, look no further. These quick and easy bombs are delightful! They’re simple to make with cream cheese, peanut butter, vanilla, sugar substitute, and chocolate chips. Mix everything together and store in the freezer.

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Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be

Acceptance is easier said than done sometimes. It can be difficult to fully acknowledge the difficulties that we are facing, especially when they are out of our control. Whether it be a new diagnosis, a relapse, or the progression of multiple sclerosis, change can be hard. Denial, fear, anger, and sadness are normal emotions that can arise during this time. For those struggling to manage these intense emotions, know that you are not alone.

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Intentional Motivation

By Stacie Prada

It’s hard to stay motivated to do everything I think I should do to be healthy and live well with Multiple Sclerosis.  It seems like the hope of living with fewer MS symptoms and potentially less disease progression should be enough motivation, but temptation, fatigue, and a bit of resentment that I even have to deal with MS demotivate me.

Demotivation can also come from unlikely sources.  A few years ago, I saw a physical therapist for hip pain. I described the fitness routines that I’d done for years. It included a daily minimum stretching and activity quota, and I was proud of myself for always doing it.  I was very flexible and fairly strong. My habits supported my fitness level.

Accurately, the physical therapist told me I had plateaued with my exercises. I needed more strength training to address the hip pain and improve my fitness level.  I did the prescribed exercises until the pain subsided, but it was tough doing everything they suggested. I was discouraged that I wasn’t doing it all. Not only did I stop doing the prescribed exercises, but I also stopped doing my minimum daily fitness regimen. 

I took good information, and I mentally warped it into nonsense.  Because my previous minimum daily routines weren’t enough, I concluded they weren’t worth doing. I justified that I was still active and exercising, I just wasn’t doing it daily. 

Put in writing, it’s obviously flawed and unhelpful logic. In my mind, it made sense.  In reality, I squandered good habits that were helping me.  After a few years without daily stretching, my flexibility and strength diminished. Things that used to be easy are painful. I recently reintroduced my daily minimum regimen as mandatory, and I’m seeing improvement. My flexibility and strength are increasing, and my movements are less painful. 

Reflecting on this experience inspires me to be more intentional about what motivates me and what discourages me. 

The motivation that comes from excitement works better than fear.  I have more success working toward goals than trying to avoid potential consequences. I want to feel like I’m being rewarded, not punished.

My resentful and fearful thought process is that I have to exercise so that I maintain my mobility as best as possible because I have a sucky disease that mostly targets my spine and affects my legs and arms. If I don’t keep moving, I won’t be able to keep moving.

My enthusiastic thought process is that I get to exercise and live in a body that can do things I enjoy. The better I treat my body, the better I’ll feel, the more I’ll be able to do, and the better odds I’ll have aging with MS. If I keep moving, I’m more likely to be able to keep moving.

Both approaches are true, and both work. When my resentful mindset kicks in, I hope to notice it and not give up.  I want to remember how much my body has done for me and continues to do for me and set a goal that excites me.  It doesn’t have to be a big goal, it just needs to be meaningful and encouraging. When motivation comes from an enthusiastic mindset,

I’m eager to do what’s good for me, and I’m happier overall. It’s a win-win!

*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 just shy of 38 years old.  Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/ 

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