5 Hacks For Battling Stress With MS
Updated: May 23, 2019
When you're diagnosed with a chronic illness that stresses out the nerves in your body and your doctors tell you to do anything BUT stress, what do you do? You'd probably start stressing, right? One of the interesting things I'm continuously learning, (and humbly reminded,) is that stress is one of a few common factors for MS exacerbation, or flare-ups. Not only are we intolerant to heat from outside forces, but we are susceptible to inflammation and exacerbation when our own body temperatures get too high.
Most of you don't know, but I am the kind of person who worries about anything and anyone meaningful in my life. Whether it's my health, my job, my car, my bills, my family and friends. I tend to swaddle all of my stress and worries on my shoulders and in my gut. I don't know how y'all deal with your stress, but for the longest time I've carried my stress in my stomach until it makes me violently ill. I'm NOT kidding. Recently, I was faced with a difficult situation to confront someone to do the right thing, and it torn my insides to shreds the night before. I couldn't get proper sleep and I could feel my body getting hot at the same time. I was certain that I wasn't going to get sick, and that if I just took some Pepto it would all be ok.
I was very wrong and my stomach reprimanded me for it. I was vomiting up everything I put in my stomach until I was forced to nurse with Promethezine suppositories. I took a 2 hour nap with the fan on high. I just wanted the feeling to go away. SO. I got my shit together, I cleaned myself up and handled my business. When I finished meeting with the person, my stomach pains faded away and my body temperature returned back to normal. Gotta love Multiple Sclerosis.
Just like that time, there are times when I get myself so worked up that I forget my body isn't as healthy as I think it is, and make myself sick. I am constantly trying to be mindful and practice healthy stress coping mechanisms to keep any symptoms at bay. I wrote them down and posted them on my phone, so I could see them everyday and now I'm going to share them with you!
This is a no-brainer for stress, but when I'm feeling stressed or feel the onset of stress happening I like to meditate. Although I can't always sit criss-cross-applesauce and zone out in every setting that I'm in, I try to make everything a form of meditation. Driving in my car is probably the most common public place I meditate, only modified for safety. I will turn my mundane tasks like grocery shopping, doing the laundry or walking to my next venture into a pleasant meditating session. For me, it takes patience and focusing on something entirely different, like the way someone has tied their shoe laces or the number of times I come across something yellow. Of course, the thought of what is stressing me out may still arise in my thoughts, but the idea of meditation is to notice the thought(s), identify it as just a thought, and gently bring your attention back to what you are meditating on. Breathing exercises are just as important, if not, go hand-in-hand with meditating. When I am alone or have enough spiritual room, I do breathing exercises to bring my heart-rate down and make sure my body temperature doesn't get too crazy. I typically like to inhale as much as I can in 5 seconds, hold my breath for 5 seconds, and then fully exhale in 5. By bringing my undivided attention to something outside of me and my situation, I am helping to relax (mind, body and nerves), think a bit more clearly and still stay cool in the process.
Add Some Background Music!
Everything is better with background music, right? At least, I think it is. Typically, when I'm stressed or feeling wigged out, I like to put on my Moxi skates and listen to songs that portray the opposite of what I'm feeling. My usual go-to's are:
Jungle (Although, I just recently found out all of their songs are sad, lol)
Disco (KC & The Sunshine Band, Donna Summer, Sister Sledge...)
Next to roller skating, music is said to be a mood manipulator; it has the power to make you feel things, good or worse. Have you ever listened to a sad song when you're already sad? It makes you sadder. But when you listen to a happy song, (obv depending on what kind of person you are,) it can change your mood. I like to use those magical powers for good and allow it to help me calm down my racing heart and blood pressure! On the flip side, I also like to listen to things a little more peaceful and therapeutic, like lo-fi sounds or chill instrumentals I find on Spotify. The slow and steady tempos guide me to control my breathing and can help me be mindful of how my body is feeling in the current moment, and how I can further relax. Doing this and roller skating simultaneously is my secret key to ultimate relaxation.
Toke About It!
Naturally, having MS means my immune system is weak. Meaning, it's very easy for me to catch colds, infections and other health related issues. Stress, on top of that, also takes a toll on your body mentally, physically and emotionally. One of my favorite ways to deal with stress is using cannabis. There have been many studies that proved medicinal marijuana was a helpful agent to the symptoms of MS, and needless to say, I've had a green thumb ever since (and prior to, if we're be completely honest). Both THC and CBD are major components of cannabis although it's hard to tell which of the two is "better" for stress and reactions like anxiety. I typically like to have a spliff or two to relax, or if I'm in public I usually have a portable vaporizer I carry with me. If there is a physical sign of stress, I like to apply a CBD oil topically which usually alleviates pain within 15 minutes! In the event that the stress is bad enough to make me sick, I like to take whatever medicine I can, and THEN enjoy another toke. Cannabis is said to be an anti-emetic, which in some cases it is, but there are times when you're way too sick and cannabis won't help you. You should definitely seek proper medication or a physician's advice before going forward. However, medicinal cannabis has been helpful in keeping my emotions level and any pain from potentially getting out of control. It's a great muscle relaxer after roller skating in Dallas for hours and it's also a social device if you ever feel in the mood to spark one up with the homies and talk about your feelings. Granted the affects are different for everyone, this is just what works for me.
Obv? Roller skating is so therapeutic, by itself. When you're gliding on that smooth pavement, wind flowing through your hair, landing those tricks you've been working so hard on... it's magical! I never knew I needed roller skating as much as I do now as an adult. I've decided that for me, it's an escape that doesn't have to be temporary. I can put my wheels on and forget about the things in life that make me frustrated and anxious, I can apply my meditating techniques when I'm cruising the neighborhood and feel free in that moment. All my thoughts, opinions, and responsibilities temporarily disabled. It's just me and the pavement. This mindset really allows me to clear my head and cool off - mentally and physically. Since I've started skating, not only have I given myself a free-time hobby, but a creative outlet that allows me to get some exercise, breath, and be in the present moment. I can have moments to myself that are just mine, and provide the spiritual room to breath, take in my surroundings and just be. Forget about the world for a while. It's like my own little hiatus. If that doesn't sound like a good stress-reliever for the occasional athlete, then I don't know what to tell ya!
Catch Those Z's
I am not the one to vouch for taking naps, let alone go to bed early in any way. But when I'm stressed out, anxious, feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, I like to take a nap. When you sleep, your body begins to heal itself the best way it can. Being stressed takes so much energy from me that I sometimes find myself physically tired, even if I haven't done anything physical. The result of stress, for me, looks like high anxiety, crankiness, irritability and low appetite. I try to take thorough naps when I'm stressed to keep from raising my body temperature any more than it needs to be, to make sure that my nerves don't suffer and that I don't pop off at the mouth on someone I truly care about. We often underestimate sleep, but it is actually quite essential to our overall well-being. At this point in my stress-reducing list, I would recommend getting at least 8 hours of sleep, that goes without saying, BUT (hear me out on this,) start taking more naps! I promise, even that 15 minute nap in the car will make a difference in your day-to-day maneuvers and attitudes.
I hope these inspire you to find things that alleviate your stress! Have a wonderful and stress-free week!