With each new year, I think about what’s ahead, what I can control, and what will make the next 12 months fulfilling for me. Instead of pushing myself to do more or be better, my approach this year for health management is to track what helps me manage my health with methods that are easy to use and visually informative.
Knowing what my body needs is an ever-changing puzzle, and tracking provides clues for what could be the cause or remedy for things contributing to health challenges. Add aging and menopause to living with Multiple Sclerosis, and knowing how to best manage my changing body is not easy.
The holiday season for me is one of convergence. A convergence of work demands, holiday tasks, gatherings, gifts and merriment. It feels like everything needs to get done, and there’s not enough time in the day or energy in my body to do everything. It affects my routines, eating habits, cash flow and health. Yet I love it and look forward to it every year.
Decorations brighten the landscape, workplaces and homes. Stress abounds, but so does good cheer. Frenzy and serenity coexist.
When Multiple Sclerosis fatigue rears up, my first noticeable sign is when I stop telling stories that come to mind. I edit myself more, and I contribute to conversations less. A decision point noticeably inserts itself into the thought process.
Do I have the energy to share this story? Am I able and willing to commit to staying in the conversation? When I’m experiencing fatigue, the answer is no. Things I find funny, interesting or relevant become thoughts too big to share.
For me, autumn elicits memories of a new school year, football games, raking leaves, carving pumpkins, and pressing apples for cider. Prepare for winter with home tasks and wardrobe shifts. Move sweaters, boots and winter wear from boxes or the back of the closet to the front for easier access. Suggestions for weatherizing homes and belongings are prevalent and specific, but they are less so for personal health and well-being.
Often, I experience recurring and seasonal symptoms before I realize I have a method that helps me cope. I’d love to be able to avoid the suffering it causes if at all possible. I decided to create and follow a seasonal list of tasks to proactively address my health needs. It has an emphasis on issues that Multiple Sclerosis challenges or creates for me each year.
Just do it. I am full of cliches. I admit I lean to the dork side at times.
Time is of the essence. So grab your life by the horns and go. Time management is a key to MS. Sew it into the core fabric of your life. Nourish it like a sensitive plant. No last minute Lucy here.
Build in extra time. I hate rushing. Now is not the time. Be the turtle. Take your time and don’t rush. I drop more stuff, if I rush. If I wait for an intention tremors to pass, I can do it. Find your own rhythm.
For example, I often get up two to three hours before mass (church). Makeup, hair, clothes, medicine and breakfast. My “Barbie arm” and a leg often are stiff. I never know how easy or hard dressing for church Might be. “Get errr done” as they say.
Time is fixed and passes at its own pace. Goals can grow, contract, adjust and evolve.
Often advice for time management includes instructions to make lists, dedicate time for tasks, be organized, get up early, multitask, do more, and just generally be different than you’ve been. While some are good suggestions, the attempt to fit an individual’s unique experience into a fixed and uncontrollable passage of time can miss the mark. It can be overwhelming and unrealistic when not considering a person’s specific life circumstances, obligations and health. When already feeling like there isn’t enough time, the advice to do more can feel offensive.
Time management seems to inherently approach the future from a perspective of scarcity. It is true there is only so much time in the day, the week, the year, and a lifetime. Each moment passes whether we’ve spent it intentionally or not. Even so, I’d rather approach the future with a feeling of abundance. There is limited time, I have limited energy and abilities, and I also have the opportunity to fill that time in ways that fulfill my needs and goals. I can do this by being clear about my immediate and long-term needs as well as my goals in each moment and for my life.
Time management advice recognizes that it can be a project to fit everything in, but it often forgets it can be effort to fill the time. I’ve had both in my life, and at times they’ve paradoxically co-existed. There were fast-paced workdays where dedicated, productive accomplishments never seemed to put a dent in the backlog, and there were evenings with long stretches of solitude where loneliness was at the ready to dominate my head space. The daily schedule of surge and stagnation with such severe contrast was exhausting. That experience is telling for how different needs and goals dictate different choices and solutions.
It’s too bad our neurological wiring doesn’t include on/off dimmer switches like some of the electrical lights in my home. The central nervous system and myelin degradation caused by multiple sclerosis are often compared to electrical wires with the outer coating frayed or damaged. It seems only fitting that we should be able to extend the metaphor and enjoy the ability to increase or decrease the current through our nerves. The fantasy of being able to turn off or dim misfiring electrical signals to my arms and legs when spasticity is acting up is enticing.