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.
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. What a perfect time to talk about mental health and MS! Depression and anxiety are not uncommon among those with an MS diagnosis. Accepting certain limitations that this diagnosis brings doesn’t have to mean accepting defeat. Radical acceptance, as taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) means learning to accept our reality. It means accepting a situation without judgment and releasing expectations so that we don’t get caught up in our emotional reactions to it. Lack of acceptance may sound like, “This is not fair; why is this happening to me?” or “This is not happening.” Accepting a situation does not mean agreeing with it; accepting a situation means acknowledging that it happened so you can process your emotions and move forward.
While accepting a situation may not be easy, practicing radical acceptance can become easier through self-soothing. Self-soothing is an effective way to reduce discomfort and relieve intense emotions and stress. It is a way to help tolerate the distress. You can soothe each of the five senses by doing things that are pleasant and comforting. Here are some examples of self-soothing activities:
Vision: Watch your favorite movie. Step outside and watch the birds fly by or watch the sunrise or sunset. Turn down the lights a bit or surround yourself with soothing colors.
Hearing: Listen to your favorite song or the birds singing from your window. Play guided meditation or explore autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). Call a friend who is encouraging and supportive.
Smell: Light your favorite scented candle. Use your favorite scented lotion. Take a walk to get fresh air or smell a flower. Try aromatherapy or smell something that brings back fond memories.
Taste: Eat your favorite food. Let a piece of candy melt slowly in your mouth. Drink warm tea or a warm drink.
Touch: Get a massage. Use a stress ball. Take a cold or hot shower. Get outside and feel the sun’s warmth on your skin or the cool breeze. Cuddle with your pet or loved one.
Acceptance is not linear, and some days may be better than others, and that is okay. Just know that you are not alone.