Living in Uncertainty When the Body Craves Routine

By Alene Brennan

Our bodies – more specifically our brains – are designed to crave routine. The more habits we create in our lives the less we have to think about and the easier it is for us to move throughout our day.

Yet living with a chronic illness can lead to anything but a routine, habit-filled day.

Depending upon how this “snowflake disease” presents itself in your body, each day can bring something new. One day you wake up feeling relatively “normal” and the next day without any notice or reason you can wake up completely fatigued or challenged with a new mobility issue.

So how then do we as MS warriors ease our body’s innate desire for routine while living with a disease that is completely unpredictable?

Simplify Your Environment

As an MS Warrior myself, what I have found to be most helpful is to simplify life wherever possible.

I can’t say that I did a complete “Marie Kondo” of my life or my home (Marie is the creator and author of the book about tidying up your life and eliminating anything and everything that no longer brings you joy. It’s a great book and now a Netflix series if you haven’t checked it out yet.), however, the less clutter I have in my environment, the more I am at ease throughout my day and the better I am able to adapt to unexpected changes.

Determining what is within my control and managing that well is tremendously helpful.

Personally, I have become extremely mindful of anything new I bring into the home.

Reducing the number of “things” in my home creates more open space, less clutter and I personally think more clearly and fell a lot lighter in an environment like this.

This is even the case for being mindful of the amount of groceries I bring into my kitchen each week. Obviously, I want enough food for the week, but I was finding a lot of food and money going wasted because of overbuying or impulse purchases at the grocery store. Without realizing it this was creating stress and therefore reducing my ability to adapt to any uncontrollable changes moving forward.

I was so taken aback by how good I felt when I started minimizing my purchases. There was less clutter, less waste, less stress.

I also am taking every opportunity to make better use of what I currently have in my home. I’ve been guilty of buying a new brand of a beauty product before I’m completely done with my current bottle, so I end up having multiple open bottles in my bathroom closet.

Now I love finishing out all of the bottles and having extra space on the shelves. It’s saving me a lot of money.

An unexpected benefit is that if/when there is a time when I’m not feeling well and a family member needs to step in for me, my things and my environment as a whole are a lot cleaner and better organized so it’s easier to ask for help.

Again, changes isn’t easy on a perfect day, so to be faced with a chronic illness that can be highly unpredictable we need to set ourselves up for success where we can.

Most importantly always remember to have compassion with yourself throughout the various stages of the disease as well as during times of change.

*Alene Brennan works with individuals living with MS and other autoimmune diseases to create a diet and lifestyle that will support their healing and disease management. She holds four certifications: nutrition coach, yoga instructor, personal trainer, and natural food chef. You can learn more about her work and follow her blog, recipes, and more at Check her out on Instagram and Facebook, too!

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The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is a national nonprofit organization and leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a Helpline with trained specialists; award-winning publications, including, The Motivator; MSAA’s nationally recognized website, featuring educational videos, webinars, and research updates; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; safety and mobility equipment products; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; MRI funding; My MSAA Community, a peer-to-peer online support forum; MS Conversations blog; a clinical trial search tool; podcasts; and more. For additional information, please visit or call (800) 532-7667.

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