It is almost certain that everybody who has MS is aware of the need to avoid stress. I say that because the people I have spoken with ARE well aware of this situation.
I was inspired to write this article after reading a recent post by a fellow MS sufferer where, it was clear to me that, stress was having a majorly negative impact on her life. In Sensations go Deep Pamela Sutherland was going through a bad patch in her life where many things were coming to a head and getting the better of her.
It is a scenario I am only too familiar with. Only this morning, my wife came bursting into my office demanding that I “get this bloody paper-work filed and tidy this bloody office”. OK, my office is a little untidy and my filing system is not the most advanced I have ever seen, but I know where everything is, generally.
It is the mundane problems that can often, become amplified out of all proportions to, cause stress. On a recent trip to the urology clinic which has nothing, allegedly, to do with MS I found myself greatly affected by the stress of the examination. I am not normally affected or stressed, at least not knowingly, by hospital visits and intimate examinations. But this experience proved me wrong, once again.
According to my Yoast SEO plugin, I am using the “S” word far too often and this is likely to impact on the search performance of this post. Perhaps I should substitute the word “anxiety” for the next few paragraphs to re balance the the overall direction of the topic.
What is Stress?
I’ve just used that word again! I can’t help myself, I’m feeling stressed. AND, on consideration maybe anxiety is a better word to describe what we MSers are experiencing.
This anxiety is a normal and natural reaction to our environment. Historically, in evolutionary terms at least, stress alters our body chemistry in preparation for danger. The fight or flight response to impending threats that may be around us.
It is a state where blood flow goes only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee. Brain function is minimised and this can lead to an inability to think straight, a situation that can be detrimental to our work and home lives. Prolonged periods of stress can affect our health. Check the external links.
The results of having elevated cortisol levels can be an increase in sugar and blood pressure levels, and a decrease in libido. Not that the latter point is particularly pertinent.
- pressure or tension exerted on a material object.
- a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.
- give particular emphasis or importance to (a point, statement, or idea) made in speech or writing.
- subject to pressure or tension.
Does it affect only those with MS?
Absolutely not. Stress and anxiety can affect anyone; healthy or otherwise. Clearly, for those of us with MS, Fibromyalgia, Lymes disease or, indeed, any other chronic condition stress may be even more impacting.
I did reach out to my Twitter followers for feedback and was very pleased with the response. One of the first respondents was from Fibro Jedi making me aware of his Fibromyalgia Page on the subject. He points out that some people thrive on stress and I would concur and I was about to say much the same myself.
I used to believe that I was in the camp of those who thrive on stress. I was in a reasonably responsible job as a manager, and with that came responsibility and pressure. Pressure to meet dead-lines, pressure to operate within budgetary constraints, all the usual high-stress stuff. I loved it. But, things change. I developed MS, albeit with hindsight, I suspect I’ve always had it.
Now, I find that stress must be avoided at all costs.
Allow someone else to take the strain, shoulder the responsibility.
It is purely coincidental, no it isn’t it is just that I have been reminded, that I am in the midst of preparing to embark on a journey to Mallorca for a couple of weeks of chill time. On a previous visit to this Balearic island I chanced upon a fellow MS patient.
He was travelling with his wife, as you do. He did not know which hotel or apartment he was headed for. He did not know what sights he was scheduled to see. He knew nothing of what was in front of him. His wife had taken care of ALL arrangements to shield him from any possible stress or anxiety.
I have attempted to encourage my wife to take a similar role. It works, after a fashion but I insist on interfering. It has always been my job to take care of travel arrangements, so it is all new to my wife. Because it has normally been my role, it is difficult to take a back seat and just go with the flow.
My symptoms flare. Until I calm down my heart rate goes up and I can feel it weakness setting in across my shoulders and arms 🙁 (Samantha Blair)
What do you do to mitigate your exposure to stress?
I would love to hear what you think. That, after all, is what the WordPress comment section is for. So, please feel free to leave your thoughts and disagree with me if you think I am talking nonsense. It wouldn’t be the first time.
When stressed unexpectedly. Bad phone call/message or stressed friend. I’m usually calm, learnt the hard way so know the signs now. (Samantha Blair)
Avoid conflict, No that doesn’t mean dodge the fisticuffs down the pub; it means lead a quiet, sedate life. Don’t allow yourself to be agitated by cantankerous politicians on the TV news, don’t argue with ‘er indoors, or ‘im indoors as fits your living arrangements. Chill out!
Be selfish, not normally good life advice, but it is very important if you have MS. But, I don’t have all the answers, and MS is different for each of us, so please share your thoughts, your views on this subject as it may help one of your fellow MSers come to terms with this debilitating disease. Please leave your comments or questions in the comment section below and I will endeavour to respond in a timely fashion.
Stress and Anxiety – Multiple Sclerosis Society
MS and Stress Assessment – WebMD
Stress can lead to MS Flare-Ups – Healthline
Daily glass of Red Wine is not the answer – Healthline
Stress and MS – Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis
What is Stress – Stress Management Society – A Definition