Stress and MS Are Bad Companions, So Take It Easy This Holiday Season
Columnist Ed Tobias' life has been like a country song lately, so he's playing it cool
My condo was hit by Hurricane Ian in October. Less than a month later, it was hit again by Tropical Storm Nicole. I have a dog whose bark is shattering and a cat who likes to bite. The car dealer can’t find the title for the minivan I’m leasing, and about a week ago, someone scratched the side of it while it was parked — a hit-and-run. Oh, and Christmas is right around the corner. Do you think I’m stressed?
Stress isn’t good for a healthy person, and it can be horrible for someone with multiple sclerosis (MS). A review article published last month in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin reports a strong association between stress and MS relapses.
On the other hand, when we moved from Maryland to Florida a couple of years ago, I had a ton of stress without a noticeable increase in symptoms. The same is true, at least so far, for this current round of stress.
Be prepared for stress
While the scientific jury is still debating exactly how and when stress affects people with MS, it’s best to have a strategy for dealing with it, particularly this time of year. MS News Today columnist Beth Ullah is already planning on how to cope with the rigors of Christmas. Every year, her plan is a bit different. This year, she writes, she and her husband are skipping restaurant meals, which add stress from weather, indoor temperature variations, and transportation concerns. She’s also pledged not to worry about things she can’t control.
Like Beth, former columnist Jessie Ace also suggests not worrying about things you can’t control. Exercise and a healthy diet are also high on her list. I’m not big on diet — I like all of the wrong foods — but I’m a believer in the power of exercise. Swimming and using the exercise machines at the gym are big stress relievers for me.
A small study last year reported that using strategies such as active coping and seeking emotional support can help improve the quality of life of people with MS. Mindfulness, another method, is already popular. It uses a combination of activities like yoga, meditation, music, stretching, and group support to reduce stress.
Music is definitely a stress reducer for me. Yoga, when I’ve tried it, has helped a bit.
This year may be more stressful than last
A survey by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) last month reported that 31% of those polled expected to feel more stressed this holiday season than last, an increase of 9%. Things causing this anticipated stress include worries about affording holiday gifts (50%) and meals (39%) and finding holiday gifts (37%).
“This is a busy time of year for many people, and it’s common to put a lot of expectations on ourselves during the holidays,” President Rebecca W. Brendel of the APA said. She added that it’s OK to opt out of some or all holiday events if they bring more stress or distress than joy.
I think all of us with MS should feel comfortable opting out of activities, but we often don’t — including me. How about you?
You’ve invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.
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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.