Helping your body fight stress

There are two important steps you can take to fight the negative effects of stress: building up your body's defenses and using relaxation techniques.

Your body is naturally equipped to deal with a certain amount of stress. Your body's defenses play an important part in how stress affects you. If your reserves are low, stress can have a bigger impact. Building up your defenses is a "long-term" plan for reducing stress. It will also improve your overall health and give you more energy. To help prepare your body to deal with stress:

  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Most people need 7-8 hours per night, and some people with MS may need more. Get extra sleep before family gatherings or important events.
  • Eat a balanced, nutritious diet. Good nutrition can improve your ability to handle stress.
  • Try to avoid using caffeine, cigarettes, or alcohol as a way of dealing with stress. They can make your condition worse.

It's easy to relax when you're not feeling stressed. It takes a special effort to learn how to relax in a stressful situation. There is no "right way" to relax that works for everyone. Most people use a combination of methods, and find that different situations call for different ways of relaxing. You may need to try several techniques before finding the one that works best for you. Here are a few things that many people with MS find helpful:

  • yoga
  • tai chi
  • walking
  • swimming
  • meditation and deep breathing exercises
  • taking part in a favorite hobby, such as gardening, reading, or listening to music

Check with your healthcare professional before starting a new physical relaxation program like yoga or tai chi. Depending on your location, there may be special versions of these exercises designed especially for people with MS. These exercises can help beat stress, and they may also improve some of your symptoms.

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