MS and Anxiety: Be Kind to Yourself and Ask for Help
I am in a state of anxious exhaustion. Anxiety has been a lifelong companion that has presented itself in various ways since childhood. In hindsight, I can recognize triggers and reactions. During times of anxiety, I’ve felt as if I was losing my mind.
Over the years, I’ve learned healthy coping mechanisms. I exercised and reduced my caffeine intake, strategies that helped to prevent attacks. I avoided situations that were likely to elicit anxiety. Now with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, I experience idiopathic attacks. Additionally, positive experiences can bring on the same level of anxiety.
It is sometimes difficult for me to assimilate excitability. My brain cannot manage the influx, and when faced with a thrilling situation, I easily become overwhelmed. I force myself to step away from the stressor. I literally unplug, closing my computer, shutting off my phone, and putting myself in a self-imposed timeout. I clear my mind and gently reintroduce the day.
Living with multiple sclerosis can also create anxiety. Medical costs, quality care, pain, familial impact, loss of employment and friends, disability, and depression can contribute to the overall feeling of disquiet. The unknown is unsettling. One is unable to foresee what the future holds. It can become unnerving when wanting to plan a family or career.
Be kind to yourself. Anxiety is not a flaw, it’s a physical reaction to a perceived threat. It is essential to learn techniques to help mitigate its impact. I have found an array of tools to be helpful. I practice daily prayer and meditation. When I feel my anxiety peak, I choose a suitable mantra. I find a quiet space and clear my head. When I become distracted, I repeat my mantra.
We cannot always make time to meditate on cue. I encourage you to find a peaceful, happy place — real or imagined. Go there in your mind, and coach yourself to peace through guided imagery. Practicing breathing techniques and cognitive tools can lessen the severity of your anxiety.
Seek guidance from a professional. Both cognitive behavioral therapy and medication can be useful. Medication has allowed me to obtain homeostasis, and from there, I was receptive to valuable techniques. Line up helpful tools and use them as needed.
Living with MS can create or exacerbate anxiety. Remember that this, too, shall pass. This moment is transient — you are not.
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.
I heartily agree, with one exception: the recognition that I am in fact transient is a huge thing, and not a bad one. Accepting this was difficult at first, but ultimately I find it paradoxically comforting.
I think my recent diagnosis might have been devastating without this sort of quasi-Buddhist-ish outlook.
Your mileage might vary, of course. I'm not a particularly religious person, but philosophically, considering that type of thinking has made a massive positive difference in my life.