For those dealing with Multiple Sclerosis, every day presents challenges. Some are new challenges; others are recurring. Making the best of a bad situation is a mantra for many MS patients. We have some suggestions to offer on how to make life a little better.
Yes, we are past those New Year’s resolutions (which are most likely broken by now). Still, every day is an opportunity to make small changes to improve daily life – or, more accurately, mitigate health challenges you may face daily. Our blog features ten attainable ideas for making life a little better.
Some Guidelines on Making Changes
We don’t expect MS patients to take on all ten ideas. But, as you think about our suggestions, here are ways to set yourself up for success:
- Set specific goals. Research also shows that 90% of those who set specific goals achieve high performance.
- Set goals that you genuinely want to pursue. Committing to change will help you become more accountable for the results.
- Focus on small, achievable goals. Take a daunting goal, such as being healthier, and break it into small bites. Set realistic targets that will put you in the direction of your plan over time.
- Rely on your support system. Take advantage of the feedback and accountability from those supporting you on your MS journey. Rather than procrastinating or losing motivation, as we all do, you’ll benefit from the encouragement of those who surround you.
10 Ideas for You to Make Life a Little Better
Understanding how hard it is to make a change, especially when dealing with MS, here are some goals and healthier habits to consider:
#1. Establish and follow a daily routine.
No matter the disruptions, try to maintain a daily routine. Following the same schedule of what you do in the morning and when you go to bed saves physical and mental energy. In addition, a routine frames your day with a sense of control and minimizes stress.
# 2. Maintain a regular sleep schedule.
One of the daily routines that are paramount to your health is sleep. Commit to a regular sleep schedule and follow specific protocols that train your brain when it’s time to sleep. Using tracking devices, such as an Apple Watch, can help provide reminders every night at the same time of when you should start winding down, turn off your electronics, and prepare for bed. Read our blog “Sleep and MS: The Importance of Managing Your Sleep” here.
#3. Establish a schedule of regular, light physical activities.
Of course, make sure your exercise plan is appropriate for you. Set attainable goals such as stretching for at least 10 minutes daily, strength or resistance training at least twice a week, lifting light weights, or using bands. If you have access to a pool and are comfortable in the water, consider going to the pool twice a week. Water exercises and swimming can help improve flexibility and range of motion. Regardless of what you choose to do, exercise can help preserve your physical and mental health.
Ongoing fatigue is a reality for MS patients. Seventy-five to ninety percent of MS patients describe their fatigue as overwhelming, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Listen to your body, and if you feel tired, take the time out to rest. Saying “no” to overscheduled activities and taking breaks – i.e., resting – can help you have more energy during the remainder of the day.
#5. Modify your diet.
In small steps, modify your diet to make it more nutritious. More nutritious diets translate into lower fat, higher fiber, and more balanced meals. So diet is a big part of being healthier.
Don’t set a generic (and ambitious) goal to eat healthier. Instead, why not make one change in your diet each month? The cumulative effect can be impactful. For example, perhaps in April, find a way of introducing vegetables to your breakfast. Add spinach to your eggs or broil-sliced zucchini as a side dish. In May, cut out a high-fat culprit you know isn’t good for you, such as weekday desserts (and continue with your morning vegetables). Then, continue new monthly changes throughout the year.
#6. Find out about your Vitamin D level.
At your next visit with your doctor, talk to them about checking your blood levels of Vitamin D and discuss if Vitamin D supplementation might be a good idea for you. And don’t forget, the best way to get Vitamin D is from the sun. So get outside when you can (and don’t forget your sunscreen protection). Spring is almost here, but even winter light can help. Please learn more about the connection between Vitamin D and MS in our blog here.
# 7. Find support from other MS patients.
Tapping into the shared experience of what it’s like dealing with MS can be life-affirming. Explore available resources, whether a Facebook group or an online community such as Bezzy MS. Click here for a list of online Multiple Sclerosis support groups.
#8. Pursue a hobby.
Low-energy activities such as gardening or cooking can help maintain exercise and mobility at home. Plus, you’ll benefit from the outcome and the accompanying sense of accomplishment.
#9. Maintain mentally stimulating activities and social interaction.
Reading, creative writing, crosswords, watching game shows, and talking to others can improve cognitive processes.
Research supports the connection between social support and improved quality of life for MS patients. For example, those recently diagnosed with MS linked more social support with a higher quality of life, better mental health and cognitive function, and less fatigue than those without social support.
#10. Monitor your symptoms and progress from home.
BeCare Link was founded five years ago to help those with neurologic disorders take a more active role in tracking their condition and empowering them with the data to help improve their care. Our BeCare MS Link mobile phone app was developed to support the 2.5 million people in the world with MS.
Through a series of questionnaires and gamified activities, BeCare MS Link makes it easy for you to monitor your neurologic and cognitive progress from home. (Watch short videos of the 13 activities that produce verified neurologic assessments here). After using it the first time, you only need 20 to 25 minutes a month or whenever you detect an oncoming flare to keep tabs on how you’re doing.
Have some other suggestions about what has helped you improve your life? Let us know in the comments.