Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stress and MS

When your laptop decides it is ready for retirement (read: die) when you are in the middle of a project or just surfing the internet – stress comes into play like a hard fast bodyguard trying to keep you out of an exclusive club, throwing the entire day out of whack. And if you have MS – it just makes your day a whole lot more “interesting” to say the least.

Stress actually acts to protect you (thus the bodyguard analogy) by releasing chemicals – a hormone called cortisol - into your body that helps make your reactions faster and your mind sharper, but for a person going through MS it also can make the symptoms more pronounced (sometimes referred to as an exacerbation). Stress can make anyone feel worse, be it an upset stomach to knots in the neck; however, if you have MS you also get to experience such things as the “MS Hug” (a girdling sensation around your torso) to speech and walking problems.

While there have been a lot of studies about the effects of stress and MS there is still no conclusive evidence that stress causes exacerbations, but try telling that to a person who is experiencing both at the same time – it is not a pretty day or picture.

So how can one avoid exacerbations that are caused by stress? Unfortunately there is no hard fast way or answer. We all live with stress in our daily lives, but at times something throws you a curve ball – like a dead laptop – and you get to experience the hormone rush. As things begin to calm down, the stress is released. When a person with MS has their stressed released, the fatigue that is prevalent throughout the course of MS can be more pronounced, but the other symptoms that had been exacerbated lessen becoming less troubling and/or less severe.

Relaxation has to be learned and practiced from modified yoga to simple meditation exercises – they all can help relieve stress and keep things on an even keel. As always, speak with your physician before starting any form of meditation or exercise.

So how did I relieve my stress from my dead laptop? I bought a new one and spent three hours getting everything back up to speed and then fell into a deep hard but restless sleep. Today, I feel better, but fatigue and the residue effects will linger for a few more days. One day at a time that is the only way to handle stress and MS.

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