Written by on January 19th, 2012 – 2 Comments

If you’d asked me 4 years ago, how I looked after myself, I don’t think I would have had a clue what you were talking about. As my health (and by extension my life) changed with the diagnosis of MS, I had to start considering how I would deal with the stress of living with an unpredictable, life-altering disease. It was time to develop some self-care strategies.

The term “self-care” refers to activities and practices that we do in order to maintain and enhance our overall health and well-being. It’s small, mindful things you can do to be kinder and gentler to yourself. What these activities and practices will be is different for everyone because each of us has different needs, but just to give you an idea, I’m going to share with you a few of my self-care practices.

Sometimes I have difficulty falling asleep and often have trouble staying asleep. I find that when I am having a lot of symptoms, my anxiety levels can rise and it only makes sleep more difficult. Often when I am having a lot of symptoms, they’re being treated with IV steroids, which for me, also makes sleep impossible. In addition to those things, I often wake up in the middle of the night with crushing migraines. As we all know, fatigue is a major symptom of MS and if you add insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns to the equation, well, then you’re in trouble!

When I am having difficulties sleeping, I lie in bed with my iPod and listen to various meditations or instrumental mixes I’ve created to help me cope. Sometimes I listen to Garrison Keillor’s “Tales From lake Wobegon”. (A free weekly podcast you can download on iTunes.) His funny stories about the quirky small town her grew up in

reminds me of growing up with in Winnipeg and his voice is very soothing. This helps relax me and nine times out of ten, I drift off to sleep.

Another way I deal with fatigue, is that I always make sure that I have some easy meals on hand. Usually by the time dinner rolls around on days where I am exhausted, I barely have the energy to cook. On those days, I’ll pop a frozen lasagne in the oven or fire up the crock pot. The crock pot is a lifesaver-minimal effort yields a healthy, home-cooked meal. It’s saved me so many times. I can have a much-needed nap and everyone still gets fed.

On the days when I am just completely done in with exhaustion, I curl up on the living room couch and watch DVDs. I’m a consummate do-er, so I find if I have something engaging to watch, it makes just lying there, resting easier. I’ve been renting TV series that I missed when they were on TV like “Six Feet Under” or “Dead Like Me”. (Yes, I have a love for gallows humour.) Having an entire season to watch keeps me entertained and I don’t feel quite so frustrated that I’m having to give my body a time out.

Another thing I find stressful is seeing new doctors. It’s difficult to constantly be asked to make yourself vulnerable to a complete stranger, even if that person’s only goal is to trying to help you. Sometimes I am okay with this and sometimes I’m not. If I’m not, then I will usually ask my best friend whom I love and trust to come with me to the appointment. Having her there helps me feel less stressed. She quietly supports me while I speak with the doctor and we talk about how the appointment went afterwards, which helps me process what was said. Usually we stop for lunch or coffee on the way home, making it more of a “girl’s day out” than a medical event.

This is just a small handful of my self-care strategies. I’ve figured out which aspects of living day to day with MS are difficult for me and then gave some thought to what small things I could do to make it less stressful. When things get tough, it’s good to have a plan to fall back on. Self-care can be just about anything that makes you feel good-reading a book, walking your dog, exercising, meditating, having coffee with a friend, listening to music and so on. These things are just as important to our health as the medications we take. When we look after out mental, emotional and spiritual health, we feel better and f you ask me that is good medicine!

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2 Responses

  1. AndreaS says:

    thanks Lelainia for the very practical blog! you had a lot of useful suggestions! And as it’s 11pm and I have to be up in 6hours you reminded me how useful music is for insomnia! HAHAHA! Probably better then sitting on the internet! I was almost wondering if we should move this to the board and see suggestions from everyone. Just a suggestion. I bet there are lots of great ideas out there! Thanks again!

    • Lelainia says:

      WOW! Just managed to see the comments, since the website was updated. Apologies! I would have responded sooner, if I’d been able to see them.