For blogger Alexandra, living with depression helped prepare her for life with MS. She shares what the two have taught her.read more
“People are not troubled by things that happen to them, but by their view of what is happening to them” - Epictetus (Stoic philosopher)
We have all heard of stress – but what is it, medically? Stress is a condition in which the nervous system communicates with hormone systems that ultimately release into the blood. Hormones like cortisol and adrenaline can actually be helpful - they give you the energy you need to start your day or to face problems, including work or personal issues, psychological pressure, illness, or even to prepare for good things, such as marriage or vacations. This kind of stress is known as good stress or “eustress.” On the other hand, bad stress (distress) is a condition in which the stress is chronic, and makes it hard for people to cope with their problems.
The stress of a chronic illness, such as multiple sclerosis, sometimes becomes a big aggravator for those dealing with distress, and they often need help with facing their diagnosis, their uncertain disease course, and even their diseases’ impact on their family, social, and work life.
Many MS patients have even connected the appearance of their disease with a stressful event. Others can sometimes connect a relapse of MS with similar stressful events.
There are many studies showing that among people diagnosed with MS, stressful life events are associated with a significant increase in risk of MS exacerbation, but many others that do not support a major role of stress in the development of the disease or a new attack at all. Because of those competing conclusions, it can be difficult to study the effect of stress on MS.
But what many people don’t realize (whether living with MS or not) that a life without stress can be possible, if dealt with correctly.
Here are some things that have been shown to reduce stress:
• Realize that you can’t avoid stress, but you can learn how to cope with it.
• Find out what your stressors are, and what your sources to deal with it, are.
• Ask for help for early intervention for symptoms of anxiety and depression
• Develop health focus of control and optimism
• Choose a type of exercise you like, three to four times/week
• Eat healthy
• Sleep well
• Use social support
• Make positive thoughts
• Learn how to meditate
• Manage your time
• Make a diary for your doctor appointment, MRI, blood examination, etc
• A stress specialist can create a personal anti-stress program for you, if you are not able to do it
Stress doesn’t have to be your enemy, and putting an action plan in place for how you will deal with it can be the first step in the right direction. Remember that you have a choice in the matter. As William James, an American philosopher once wrote, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought rather than another.”