8 Ways to Reduce Stress with MS

Lisa Emrich | Feb 18th 2014 Nov 12th 2016

1 of 10
1 of 10

Stress is a daily fact of life. It is our response to stressors, which can be healthy or harmful. When living with MS, we may experience physical stress, emotional stress, social stress, economic stress, and cognitive distress. Identifying the source of stress is the first step in altering the physical reaction you may experience in response to stressors. Here are some strategies to help you break the stress cycle.

2 of 10

Exercise

Regular exercise reduces the effect of stress hormones and helps you to maintain cardiovascular and physical strength. Consult a health care professional for advice on how to get started. If exercising 30 minutes per day seems overwhelming, start small. Try marching in place or cycling on a stationary bike for one to two minutes/day and gradually increase that amount each week.

3 of 10

Use stress management techniques

Breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, and meditation are excellent stress reducers. Try relaxing your jaw and inhale deeply through your nose; then allow your breath to escape quickly through your nose. Repeat for one minute, gradually slowing your exhale and remembering to keep your jaw relaxed. Also, try yoga, which can help reduce muscle tension, increase flexibility and prepare the body for meditation.

4 of 10

Get some rest

Develop regular sleep habits. Nothing seems to take its toll on the body and mind more than irregular and unpredictable sleep. If you have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about using a CPAP machine to help you get the oxygen and continuous rest you need during the night. Take regular breaks during the day to combat mental and physical fatigue. Stop and rest BEFORE you feel it necessary to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

5 of 10

Change your thinking

Negative thinking patterns can exacerbate stressful situations. If you find yourself unable to control your gut response to stressors, it’s a sign that the primitive part of your brain has taken over. Work with an experienced counselor to learn how to tap into higher thought processes when faced with stressful triggers. Doing so will also help you bolster your attitude and respond in a more positive and effective manner.

6 of 10

Change focus

Do something you find enjoyable. Take time out to read a book, listen to soothing music, write in a journal (or blog), play with your pet or pursue a hobby. Take a walk and really notice what you see, hear and smell. Clear the clutter from your living and work spaces. A calm, orderly environment helps to encourage a calm, more relaxed mind. Donating excess belongings can help you organize and create more physical space, as well as help others.

7 of 10

Reach out

Call a friend. Staying connected with others helps to lift your spirits and reduce stress. Ask for help. Let others know what you need. Build a support network, in-person and/or online. The MS community online is an excellent place to talk with others who understand what you are going through and the challenges you face. Others living with MS can also provide tips on dealing with certain situations. Contact your local MS society for programs in your area.

8 of 10

Develop gratitude

Take time to appreciate something good in your life each day. Focusing on the positive in any situation, no matter how small, is a habit which must be cultivated and practiced regularly. Recognizing small successes is a powerful tool in reducing stress. Like the Johnny Mercer song says, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative and latch on to the affirmative. Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.”

9 of 10

Laugh

Laughter can lower blood pressure and increase the flow of oxygen to the brain. It can reduce stress hormones, as does exercise, and give a mini work-out to abdominal, respiratory, facial, and back muscles. Laughter can also improve alertness, creativity and memory according to Sondra Kornblatt, author of A Better Brain at Any Age: The Holistic Way to Improve Your Memory, Reduce Stress, and Sharpen Your Wits (Conari Press, 2009).

10 of 10

Combine strategies

No one strategy will be singularly effective in helping you to reduce stress. Try several techniques to find ones which work for you. Repeat strategies to help increase their effectiveness. Also, check out the National MS Society’s downloadable booklet, Taming Stress in Multiple Sclerosis (pdf), which includes several excellent physical and visualization exercises you can use to help reduce stress.

NEXT: Top 10 Common Myths about MS -- Busted!
More on this topic

Top 10 Common Myths about MS

Lisa Emrich

What to Tell Your Doctor About Your MS

Lisa Emrich

6 Steps to Take If You Suspect MS

Chris Regal

6 Ways to Improve Sleep with MS

Jacqueline Ho

Unusual Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

The HealthCentral Editorial Team

Reducing Falls With MS

Lisa Emrich

7 Stages of Grief After an MS Diagnosis

Eileen Bailey

How Drinking Coffee Could Reduce MS Risk

Lisa Emrich

Who is Your MS Hero?

Lisa Emrich

What Does Intimacy Mean to You with MS?

Lisa Emrich

Is There Such a Thing as a Diet for MS?

Lisa Emrich

Laughing or Crying For No Reason? It may be your MS

Merely Me

Parenting with MS

Amy Gurowitz

Top 50 Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

Lisa Emrich

Invisible MS Symptoms

Lisa Emrich

Guided Imagery May Reduce Depression and Fatigue in MS

Lisa Emrich

6 Real Life Issues that Affect Your Life with MS

Lisa Emrich

Five Hidden Symptoms of MS

Lisa Emrich

10 Lessons I've Learned Since Being Diagnosed with MS

Lisa Emrich

Traveling Abroad with Multiple Sclerosis

Amy Gurowitz

Which Type of Exercise is Better for People with MS?

Lisa Emrich

What Causes MS to Relapse?

Lisa Emrich

How to Combat MS Fatigue

Lisa Emrich

Healthy Relationships Despite MS

Lisa Emrich

What is the MS Hug?

Lisa Emrich

What Is Spinal MS?

Lisa Emrich

What is the Hoffmann Reflex?

Lisa Emrich

MS Signs vs. Symptoms: The Babinski Sign

Lisa Emrich

MS Signs vs. Symptoms: What is L'Hermitte's Sign?

Lisa Emrich

The MS Personality: Fact or Fiction?

Merely Me

The Neurological Exam: What do they do?

Merely Me

How to Manage MS Fatigue

Jacqueline Ho

7 Stretches and Exercises to Improve Balance with MS

Jacqueline Ho

12 Tips for Cooking with MS

Chris Regal

Seven Common Relapsing-Remitting MS Symptoms

Jacqueline Ho