Navigating life with multiple sclerosis

Life with a chronic illness like MS involves learning how to manage the symptoms while adapting your lifestyle to accommodate them. Some daily activities can stay the same, while others may need to be changed or replaced due to physical limitations (for example, degree of fatigue or mobility).

A diagnosis of MS can seem devastating, but with the help of your health care team, you can continue to live a fulfilling life by making a few adjustments.

Here are some strategies that can go a long way towards easing the effects of MS:

  • Lower your stress level. Anxiety and tension seem to make MS symptoms worse, so stress management is often recommended. This can mean job changes, counselling, yoga, or anything that helps you relax.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating well helps you maintain good body function and provides the vitamins and nutrients we all need to help fight off infections. Eat a well-balanced meal as recommended by Canada's Food Guide. It is not yet confirmed, but a diet containing omega-3 oils may help in slowing down the progression of MS. Omega-3 oils can be found in oily fish such as tuna and salmon and in vegetable oils such as sunflower or soya oils.
  • Get physical. Exercise has a lot of benefits: it's a stress reliever, it can firm up your muscles so that you'll maintain a good range of motion, and it increases bone density to keep osteoporosis at bay. Pool exercise is highly recommended; because water helps support your weight, there's less wear and tear on your joints.
  • Keep comfortable. Summer heat is usually welcome, but people with MS can get easily overheated. Air conditioning offsets this discomfort. If air conditioning isn't available, dress lightly, take cool baths or showers, use fans, and avoid strenuous activities.
  • Ask for assistance. Although friends and family are most often willing and able to lend a hand, many people with chronic illnesses don't want to feel as though they're imposing on people. No problem: outside sources like support groups and clinics can offer respite to you and your family and friends, and they can also provide support by giving you the chance to express your feelings to people who understand.
  • Don't overdo it. You can still travel, go out for dinner, or see a show – but pace yourself, allowing for rests and plenty of time to enjoy the activities that make your life more fun.

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