by Diane Holmes on Tuesday, June 25, 2019
The onset of symptoms, the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, and daily life with a chronic illness is destabilizing for the individual and those who care about them. With the availability of disease modifying drugs, the diagnosis may not be as daunting as it once was. But, those who live with MS learn life management is important to a healthy life. To do so, requires resilience, defined by Mayo Clinic as, “ inner strength that helps you rebound from a setback or challenge”.
Building resilience includes focusing on strength and health, attending to physical, cognitive, and emotional health. Thanks to medical advances, there is a wide range of medications to prevent disease progression, treat exacerbations, and manage symptoms. But, that is just the beginning. Being physically healthy includes:
- Healthy Diet. There is no “MS diet”. Specialists suggest eating the same low-fat, high-fiber diet recommended for other health conditions. Some research has found Vitamins A, B, and D, and Omega oils helpful for people with MS. However, these vitamins can cause complications, so consult your medical provider.
- Regular Exercise. People with MS benefit from regular exercise. It builds cardiovascular health, strength and flexibility, reduces fatigue, and can alleviate bladder and bowel problems. A physical therapist can recommend an exercise routine that best meets individual needs. People who have limited mobility often benefit from water exercise, which makes it possible to do things they could not do on land.
Research shows that 65% of people who have MS experience changes cognitive functioning, such as the speed of thinking, memory, and attention. People with “cognitive reserves” from intellectual challenges, education, interesting work, and leisure activities can slow cognitive decline from disease and aging. Activities that challenge the brain, such as reading, board and card games, word puzzles, creative expression, and game shows can build and maintain good cognitive health.
Relationships and regular social interaction benefit cognitive health, as well as providing support and acceptance throughout life. For people who need care from others, relationships provide opportunities to be a listening ear for someone else, contributing to a sense of self-worth. Social interactions are often part of leisure activities that can provide new experiences and fun.
People with MS experience depression at higher rates than the general population. Counseling and, when needed, medications can help improve mental health. Being emotionally healthy makes it possible to find meaning in our struggles and, according to Dr. Viktor Frankl, “turn their predicaments into human achievement”.
Building resilience is a “package deal” requiring attention to our diverse human needs. But, when approached with patience, determination, and a dash of humor, people affected by MS can live a life of quality and fulfillment.
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- Mayo Clinic.org Build Skills to Endure Hardship
- Kraft, G.H., Catanzaro, R.N., Living with Multiple Sclerosis: A Wellness Approach; 1996
- Hopkins-Holmes, D.C.; Building Emotional Resilience In The Face of Multiple Sclerosis; Graduate Research Paper, 2006