Defining Resiliency in MS and Ideas on Bouncing Back

Laura Kolaczkowski avatar

by Laura Kolaczkowski |

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MS resiliency

Engaging Thoughts

How well do you bounce back when MS gets you down?

An article called “Bouncing back again, and again: a qualitative study of resilience in people with multiple sclerosis” caught my attention because bouncing back is something I don’t do as well these days.

I believe resilience means to be able to roll with the punches.

Whatever MS sends my way, I can find either internal or external resources to prevent it from getting the best of me and my situation. It’s not that I don’t bounce back. It just takes a lot longer– and more effort to get there.

The researchers who did the Bouncing Back article in Disability and Rehabilitation agreed with my thoughts. They found that people with MS can rebound – but it takes work, and doesn’t happen on its own.

Through discussions with focus groups, the Bouncing Back researchers found that “Psychological adaptation, social connection, life meaning, planning and physical wellness emerged as facilitators of resilience. Resilience depletion, negative thoughts and feelings, social limitations, social stigma and physical fatigue emerged as barriers to resilience.” 

Defining resilience

There are simple definitions of resilience at sources like the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, but I wanted to know more. I found it at the American Psychological Association website. The topic of resiliency is so important that the association offers The Road to Resilience, an online guide for those who are not medical professionals.

“Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors,” the association said. “It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.”

The Bouncing Back authors note that living with MS presents resiliency challenges that are different from those in other situations because of the unpredictable nature of this chronic disease. But they also offer hope that bouncing back again and again with MS is possible with the right training, circumstances and attitude.

If you’re like me, you might be displaying some skepticism about now, but stick with me a little longer while I explain. The keys to being resilient are having support, particularly in our social networks — we shouldn’t try to go it alone — and planning ahead.

Can resiliency be improved?

Physical or psychological therapy can help with resiliency. The physical side involves trying to improve function. The psychotherapy side involves learning ways to maintain a positive attitude in the face of MS.

The study’s findings align with the American Psychological Association’s advice that it is critical for people to get help when the circumstances warrant. In addition to friends and family, support groups and educating ourselves with online sources can be worthwhile, it says.

Being realistic in setting goals, learning how to communicate needs, and maintaining a positive self-image are all tools we can develop if we don’t have them. As the Bouncing Back study notes, “People with MS develop resilience through psychological adaptation, social connection, life meaning, planning ahead and physical wellness.”

Recently I’ve been looking for, and trying to understand, research about living with multiple sclerosis, including how to achieve quality of life. Particularly the social aspects of life with a chronic disease. This is a growing area of study, and I’m glad to know others are looking into how to make our day-to-day lives with MS better. Having the knowledge and tools to bounce back when MS knocks us down is the first step in getting back up.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Catherine avatar


Hi Laura, This is an interesting article and has given me food for thought. Whenever anything bad is happening to me, I always think 'this won't last forever' and the same goes for my MS. I cannot comprehend that I will have this disease for the rest of my life but I don't know why I think that way, I just do. And yet anyone who knows me would not say I am an obvious optimist. But I am stubborn, so once I have an idea, I won't let it go. I may be living in a fantasy world but it keeps me going and bouncing back after flare-ups and relapses. And that's what matters, isn't it?

Jo Maxwell avatar

Jo Maxwell

Thanks Laura! For me, my resiliency is tied into my faith. Without being able to draw near to God, I would not be able to be as resilient as I am.


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