Why Self-Care is Important When Living with MS
Last updated: December 2023
My infant son looked up at me from his crib, smiling and cooing after a satisfying nap. I picked him up, changed his diaper and carried him to the living room where we sat on his favorite toy blanket. He loved its vibrant colors and the funny sounds it made when swatting a few of its movable parts. Looking back now, those days were magical ones.
This memory makes me smile, but it also reminds me of how relieved I was to sit down. My tired, weak legs needed a break from standing. Whenever my baby sat down, I sat, and whenever he slept, I slept. Do you see a pattern here?
Managing illness and motherhood
When you live with MS, managing illness and keeping up with the responsibilities of motherhood can be difficult. When I learned I was pregnant I knew the most important job would be taking care of myself. If I wasn’t physically and mentally healthy, I wouldn’t be able to properly care for my family. I wanted to be an incredible mom but didn’t realize an unpredictable disease was going to put me to the test.
Learning as I went
In the early 1990’s, information on MS and pregnancy, and MS and motherhood weren’t readily available. The internet was in its infancy, so I couldn’t google questions. I had to learn as I went along.
Self-care with MS is paramount
What I learned early on is that self-care is paramount to living a healthy life as a wife and mother and as a patient. Putting yourself first isn’t a selfish act, it’s a necessary one. Here are some important ways to help you put yourself first:
Remember that you’re worthy of self-care. It doesn’t matter what others say, putting your needs first means you know your health is a priority. Doing this creates positive feelings about yourself, boosts self-esteem and confidence and lets others know that your life matters as much as theirs.
Salvador Dali is quoted as saying, “Have no fear of perfection - you’ll never reach it.” As a young mother, and as someone living with MS, I learned that all I could do was my best. If things weren’t perfect, that was okay. The world would still go on and tomorrow would be another day.
Unmade beds, a half-cleaned house, piles of dirty laundry - these chores can be postponed until you have more energy. What can’t be postponed is seeing your doctor(s), eating right, getting some exercise, and taking medications/supplements on time.
All of these are necessary for proper self-care.
Stress causes a laundry list of ailments, from anxiety and depression to insomnia and heart disease. Learning how to keep stress at bay is an important piece of any self-care plan. Don’t overload yourself with work, take breaks and ask for help. Set boundaries, learn to say no and remove anything you consider to be toxic behavior (i.e. acquaintances, the news.) Practice meditation, take walks, spend time with people who make you laugh and with your pets. These are all powerful weapons in the war against stress.
MS does not define who you are
You are more than your MS, and taking care of yourself isn’t limited to going to the doctor and taking medications. Take time to live your life outside of that bubble. Sip a cup of tea while listening to the rain, see a movie, read a good book, enjoy a bubble bath, find a new hobby, spend time with loved ones, volunteer for a charity. Give yourself new reasons to get up in the morning with a sense of purpose and self-confidence.
It doesn’t take long to turn new practices into habits. Remember, making your self-care plan a priority is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself. Start today!
What does advocacy mean to you as someone living with multiple sclerosis? Please select all that apply: