Handling the Stress of Everyday Life with MS

Editor's Note: This article was originally written by community member Cathy.

Wake up. Stretch. Get your bearings and stretch again. Walk to the kitchen and put up some coffee (thank goodness for Keurig).   Walk to the bathroom and wash up for the day. The beginning of each morning is the same every day. The day begins the same and ends the same. It's what happens in between waking up and bedtime that defines who and what we are. One line from The Mary Tyler Moore Show tried to sum this up. When Mary says she's bored with her life, her crusty boss Lou Grant tells her, "We're born, we die and everything in between is just filler."

What happens in between can be stressful at times. I wake up feeling happy in the morning. This time of year - springtime - brings sounds of birds outside of my window and lawnmowers cutting lawns on our street (somehow that sound, to me, signals warmer weather is here, something I look forward to all winter long) and sights such as my peonies bursting back to life. When I begin my work day - reading the newspaper, catching up on emails and social media, networking with associates, watching the news - is when I may begin feeling some stress that creeps into my subconscious, and my happy mood of the morning soon disappears. (Not always, though, because I LOVE to correspond with friends and new acquaintances!)

Life happens. It may be job loss, financial stress, illness, self-doubt, depression, sadness, the death of someone we love, the loss of a friendship - the list is endless. Everyday occurrences affect us in some manner. When you have a chronic illness like MS, your body may respond to stress in many different ways.  For me it's always weakness, numbness, tingling and overwhelming fatigue. Those are the signals my body is telling me to slow down and take a deep breath.

I try very hard not to allow the stresses of life take hold of me. I keep them on the back burner of my mind, waiting for them to simmer for a while until they boil themselves down to a smaller, more manageable size. That way the issues that caused the stress in the first place will be easier to deal with. For example, if I am invited to a party I really don't want to attend but I know I have to, I may experience some stress. Who will be there to talk to? What do I have in my closet that I can wear? What should I bring as a gift? Silly and ridiculous thoughts, aren't they? I've learned to let the situation simmer for a while, so when it comes closer to the time of the event, I might say to myself, "I have a lot to offer guests in the way of conversation" or "Be yourself and wear what makes you feel good." The problems aren't so insurmountable, and since I waited until they simmered down to a more manageable size, I am now able to handle them in a calm and productive manner.

"Give your stress wings and let it fly away."   ~Terri Guillemets

NOTE:   I am not talking about symptoms of MS that may cause you stress, such as balance, numbness or optic neuritis.   That is a different type of stress that we deal with.   Here I am attempting to illustrate basic, everyday stress that may cause symptoms of MS to flare, and how I personally deal with them.

"Good health and good sense are two of life's greatest blessings." ~Publilius Syrus

Today it is cold and rainy outside. I am sitting in the library with my fleece jacket on because I am chilled. I have a lot of work to get done today, not to mention several errands to run. I have a lot on my mind. Am I any different than any of you? No, of course not! In this fast-paced world we live in, we all have to multitask all day long while trying to keep a good thought in our heads to keep us sane and healthy. At the end of the day I try to manage my stress when I can, and always, ALWAYS, count my blessings (which are many). Do you do the same?

_Cathy Chester is the author of the blog An Empowered Spirit.  _