How to Manage Stress With Multiple Sclerosis

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on July 22, 2021

When you have a long-term illness like multiple sclerosis, you may have moments when you get stressed out. There are many ways to keep those feelings under control, including relaxation methods and exercise.

To help manage your emotions, it helps to learn the warning signs that you are under too much stress.

Your body sends out physical, emotional, and behavioral warning signs of stress:

Some of the emotional signals you may notice are that you:

  • Get angry
  • Find it hard to concentrate
  • Feel worried
  • Become sad
  • Have frequent mood swings

Physical warning signs include:

  • Stooped posture
  • Sweaty palms
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain or loss

You'll know you're starting to show behavioral warning signs when you:

  • Overreact
  • Act on impulse
  • Use alcohol or drugs
  • Withdraw from your relationships

Part of your strategy to cut stress is to keep a positive attitude and accept that there are some events that you can't control. Also try to follow these tips:

Assert your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, combative, or passive.

  • Learn relaxation techniques.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat well-balanced meals.
  • Get enough sleep and rest.
  • Don't rely on alcohol or drugs to end stress.

A number of methods can calm things down. Exercises include breathing, muscle and mind relaxation, and relaxation to music.

Whichever you try, first make sure you have a:

  • Quiet location that's free of distractions
  • Comfortable body position (sit or recline on a chair or sofa)
  • Good state of mind (try to block out worries and distracting thoughts)

Then try one of these techniques:

Two-minute relaxation. Switch your thoughts to yourself and your breathing. Take a few deep breaths, then breathe out slowly. Mentally scan your body. Notice areas that feel tense or cramped and then loosen them up.

Let go of as much tension as you can. Rotate your head in a smooth, circular motion once or twice. (Stop if you feel pain.) Roll your shoulders forward and backward several times. Let all your muscles completely relax. Recall a pleasant thought for a few seconds. Take another deep breath and then breathe out slowly.

Mind relaxation. Close your eyes. Breathe normally through your nose. As you breathe out, silently say to yourself the word "one," a short word such as "peaceful," or a short phrase such as "I feel quiet." Continue for 10 minutes. If your mind wanders, gently remind yourself to think about your breathing and your chosen word or phrase. Let your breathing become slow and steady.

Deep-breathing relaxation. Imagine a spot just below your navel. Breathe into that spot and fill your belly with air. Let the air fill you from the belly up, then let it out, like deflating a balloon. With every long, slow breath out, you should feel more relaxed.