When you get an illness like bronchitis or the flu, you know you'll be feeling better and back to normal within a week or so. A long-lasting condition like multiple sclerosis is different. It can affect your lifestyle in many ways.
It doesn't have to keep you from being happy, though. A positive attitude can be one of the best ways to handle the changes MS can bring. The condition shouldn't define who you are. You just have an extra challenge in your day-to-day life.
Managing your life with MS isn't just about dealing with the symptoms you have right now. It's about thinking through what could happen in future -- the possible effects on your job, family, and finances -- and preparing for them.
Even if your symptoms are mild, planning can make you feel better and be more confident in your future.
"It's not bad luck to think about what you might do if your symptoms got worse," says Rosalind Kalb, PhD, a clinical psychologist and vice president of clinical care...
Get help if you need it. If you’re struggling with the disease’s impact on your life, reach out to someone. Sometimes just talking about what’s bothering you can lighten your mental load. It will also help you understand and better deal with the many effects of MS.
A mental health care professional can listen to what’s troubling you and make a treatment plan to meet your needs. Some therapies help you regain a sense of control over your life. For people with depression, medications also can help lift your mood.
Find a support group. One of the best MS resources is other people who live with it. Support groups give you a place to learn new ways to handle your condition and a chance to share how you’re feeling with others who understand what it’s like. It always helps to know that you’re not alone.
Consider counseling. Sometimes, people have problems they’d rather handle in a one-on-one atmosphere. When you talk with a counselor or therapist, you might feel safer discussing sensitive or private feelings you have about MS and its impact on your life and relationships.
Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, learn ways to cut stress, and get enough rest.
Keep a diary. Write down how you’re feeling. Not only will this be valuable info to share with your doctor, but it will also help you learn to express yourself.
Take control. MS comes with a lot of uncertainty, so it may help to take charge of the things in your life that you can control. Also keep in mind some of your life-planning issues, such as finances, work, and adapting your home.
Be proactive about your health, get educated, and ask questions.