Resolved To Do a Bit Better: How Small Changes Can Add Up With Multiple Sclerosisby Trevis Gleason Patient Advocate
When living with secondary progressive MS, it’s the little things I can do that help me feel more in control.
Winning the day, as it were, has more to do with playing the long game than the short. It’s more about the small changes I can do to make today or this week better (and ultimately, my life better) as opposed to the tide-shifting changes for which January of each year is known.
In general terms, SPMS is the time after inflammatory aspects of multiple sclerosis cause exacerbations or attacks. This doesn’t mean that people with SPMS don’t experience relapses. What it does mean is that disability usually increases slowly rather than marked by sudden episodes from which we partially recover.
For this reason, the way we live our lives with this type of disability accumulation has to shift along with the disease. That means I spend more time and mental energy on long-term, attainable changes to my lifestyle than radical resolution-style shifts.
I’ve lived with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis for nearly 18 years, but with symptoms of the disease for over 30. In the time I’ve known I had the disease, I’ve made many changes to my lifestyle as MS made many alterations to my life. Because of that, I now regularly tweak rather than seismically shift the way I live my life with multiple sclerosis.
At the start of each new year or season, however, I do take stock and see where I can better my strategy.
"My point is that the little things are oft more attainable and, when we spend the energy on two or three of them, we might just get more benefit than shooting for the stars and being left in a cold orbit of the moon when we miss."
Little things — particularly when we do a few of them in concert — can lead to long-term betterment and I find them easier to maintain than pie-in-the-sky ideals.
What exactly do I mean by ‘little things’?
Eating meat one less day per week. Walking (or at least being outside) an extra 10-20 minutes per day. Adding an extra serving of fruits of vegetables to each day. Adding one more stretch to my daily routine.
Not all of the changes have to do with physical health.
Treating myself to time to read or listen to an audio book every week, budgeting for a show or exhibition I’d like to see, or taking a class at the local community college or adult education center can be equally ‘healthful.'
Hobbies can also be something upon which I resolve to spend a little more time, energy, and money.
Digging up a little more space for gardening (flowers or healthy veg) can be a gift to myself that keeps on giving. Putting old photos into albums has the dual reward of organization as well as the joy of reliving old memories. Several hobbies can also result in thoughtful and inexpensive gifts come the next birthday or holiday season.
I am not trying to say that my life with MS is so perfect that I needn’t make major changes to it: no one’s is. My point is that the little things are oft more attainable and, when we spend the energy on two or three of them, we might just get more benefit than shooting for the stars and being left in a cold orbit of the moon when we miss.
MS has caused me to fail in far too many things these past 3-plus decades. My preference, in baseball terms, is to play small ball: get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em in. I’ve learned that it gets me more runs than swinging for the fences every time the New Year or any other occasion for a fresh start puts me in the batter’s box.
Secondary progressive MS nibbles away at my abilities. I like to think that I’m backfilling by spoonfuls rather than trying to lift a too-heavy shovel in a vain effort to gain back long-eroded abilities. It’s not the game plan for everyone with SPMS, but it works for me.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.