It’s not uncommon for people living with MS to feel changes in mood and behaviour. In fact, studies have shown that up to 50% of people living with MS will have depression at some point in their lives. Taking time to care for yourself is vital. It may feel a bit indulgent but having regular breaks is likely to make managing everything easier. Whether you can set aside a whole day or just a few minutes, there are always benefits of focusing on something you enjoy.
Why is mindfulness and relaxation important?
Looking after your psychological wellbeing is as important as looking after your body. As with your body, your mind needs some attention from you to help keep it in top condition. Ignoring how you’re feeling, or trying to pretend everything is okay if it isn’t, are only short-term ‘fixes’ and may make things harder over the long term.
Accepting that there can be ups-and-downs in your life and that it’s okay to be sad or angry at times is a key step to keeping well. If you find that you are really struggling to maintain a healthy outlook on life, or if you are feeling particularly anxious or low, then talk to your doctor or MS nurse about what extra help is available for you.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by daily life, mindfulness can be an effective way of de-cluttering your mind and helping you focus on the most important things. There are many techniques and guides to start using mindfulness. Why not find a quiet spot and give the following exercise a go:
Sit or lie in a comfortable position in a relaxing room or garden. Relax and close your eyes. Be aware of the sounds around you – small, large, near, and far.
Focus on your breathing. Is it deep or shallow?
Focus on slowing your breathing down and taking long slow breaths in. Hold it briefly. And then out. With each breath focus more on the action of breathing and less on the surroundings.
Once you feel relaxed, focus on one thing that has been bothering you. Think about what caused it, what makes it worse and, if you can, think of anything that might improve it. Do you need to call somebody about it? If so, who?
Make a short plan of what you might do to improve it, then put it out of your thoughts and concentrate on your body – relax it. Then return your focus to your breathing.
When you’re ready, open your eyes.
Best ways to de-stress
Make a day of it
Whether it’s a round of golf, a spa treatment, a relaxing seaside escape, or a day at home in front of a good film or TV series – pick a day in advance and set it aside to indulge in a bit of rest and relaxation.
Make an hour of it
Fit in a treat more often by setting aside an hour to enjoy something that brightens your day. Whether you love a good soak in the tub, a Sudoku challenge, flying a kite, tinkering with your vintage car or savouring a favourite film, plan in time to make your day feel a bit more special.
Or just five minutes
Stop, take a deep breath and tell yourself that these next few minutes are for you and you alone. If you’re at home put the kettle on and take five minutes to switch off. Try calling a friend for a quick hello or read the newspaper. If you’re at work, take a walk outside or find a quiet spot where you can take some time out. You don’t even have to leave work, if you are strapped for time take a few seconds to concentrate your breathing as this can help you to relax.
From the community
Hannah has lived with multiple sclerosis since she was 24 years old. Since then she has experienced varying emotions, from uncertainty and anxiousness to calmness and positivity. She talks about how important talking has been to help her through periods of low mood, here.