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Stress/Anxiety & MS

Stress/Anxiety & MS

Now, I don’t know about everyone else… but prior to my diagnosis, I didn’t feel nearly as ‘overwhelmed’ as I do now. Life in general is stressful, of course… family, friends, work… it all can lead to stress at some point. So what’s the big difference with how ‘normal people’ are stressed out… and when an MS patient is stressed out/has anxiety? Well, I’m going to share my 2 cents on that.

Stress and chronic illness

So, let me just say that I don’t deal with heavy stress/anxiety 24/7, but at times it can feel like I do. Now, what a big difference in being stressed having a chronic illness, like MS… And being stressed out while being ‘healthy’, so to say.

MS triggers

When I was first diagnosed, I was told that there are certain ‘triggers’ for MS that can make your MS flare-up and/or make your symptoms worse. Those three triggers I was told were: extreme heat, extreme cold, and extreme stress… When I first heard this, I was like “Great… I live in Central Texas and I’m a mother of two boys…” Now I said that in a joking matter, because I didn’t fully understand just how much stress could affect my symptoms, etc. Click here for a list of triggers. They are different from what I stated, but wanted to share.

Dealing with two triggers at once

What I’ve noticed is that when I deal with ‘extreme heat’ it also causes ‘extreme stress’ for me, so I’m dealing with two of the ‘triggers’ at once. I know there are things out there to help with stress/anxiety and I have been prescribed medication to take if needed, but I’m already on SO MUCH medicine, why would I want to take MORE?

So, back to what I was saying… I’m thinking to myself, okay I need to avoid those extremes, obviously… but I didn’t know how much more ‘sensitive’ I would be to those factors as well. It seems that now a days, I become stressed easily, compared to like 10 years ago… I get that it comes with life, but it’s hard to explain. I feel like I have NO CONTROL over my stress/anxiety at times, and when I get like that, it’s hard to think clearly to calm myself down.

Putting my health first

I have learned to not let myself get as riled up as easily as I used to. Also, if there is drama going on around me, or with friends… I will be there to listen, but I don’t involve myself into the situation, because I just can’t deal. I feel bad when people call/text me for help, or advice, and I don’t respond to them. I’m not TRYING to be rude, it’s just that, I probably can’t ‘deal’ with that kind of stress/anxiety at the moment. I’m not trying to distance myself from people, or not supportive, but I’ve got to think about my health first and foremost. If that makes me selfish, then oh well.

One example is grocery shopping

Now, what do I mean by saying, “I become stressed/anxious a lot easier than I used to.” Let me give you an example… I don’t like grocery shopping, let me just get that out there… I despise it. But, it was something that I obviously HAVE to do. Before I was diagnosed, it was just this annoying task that I had to do, that also put a dent in my bank account, but I dealt with it with no problem. Now though? Now, I really have to prepare myself to make those trips. The grocery store isn’t even far from me either. But I try and plan on going when I know it’s not going to be too busy, when it’s not too hot, and where I know I can get in and out with (hopefully) no issues. Why do you ask? Because when I put myself in stressful situations, I notice that my symptoms get slightly worse. It’s not noticeable to others most of the time, but it’s noticeable to me. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE online shopping now too? I get it shipped to me and I don’t have to ‘deal’ with outside factors… if that makes me lazy, oh well.

Dealing with conflict

Now when it comes to just stressful situations, like an altercation with a friend/family member, or something like that, I wouldn’t bite my tongue at all, that’s just not who I am. HOWEVER, so that I don’t get stressed out and have an anxiety attack, that would lead to me having a migraine, vision issues or spasticity (because that’s usually the three things that get worse first), I usually just become silent. No, I’m not trying to be ‘rude’ by going silent, and I’m paying attention to what’s going on, I just have found that not responding to the situation immediately, has helped in my stress/anxiety levels.

Some people have said, “Oh, got nothing to say? You just going to ignore me?” No, that’s not it at all. For one, anyone that KNOWS me knows that I have a temper and I’m not afraid to speak my mind, but I’m trying to refrain from making everything else worse symptoms-wise, and the situation as well.

Reacting to stress

While I was looking up information about MS and Stress, I found this MS Stress Test from WebMD, answered the questions, and I wanted to share some of the feedback I received, Living with a chronic illness, especially one with unpredictable symptoms, can be a source of stress. And for many people with MS, stress makes symptoms worse. That, in turn, can make navigating life’s normal ups and downs more challenging — and more stressful. Keep in mind that the symptoms of stress and MS can be very similar, too. So what you’re feeling might be a reaction to stress – and not your illness getting worse.”

Research has even been conducted in regards to stress & MS. You can read more about one study here. There are of course multiple studies done on the topic, but I didn’t want to list them all in this article.

There is also a simplified explanation for stress & anxiety on MultupleSclerosis.net, along with treatments that are available… Read more here: Treatment of anxiety, mood swings, and other emotional problems.

Another thing that I have found that helps me is exercise. I’m not talking about hardcore workouts either. It could just be a simple walk, when able, and other small things. Anyways, I could probably go on and on about this subject, but I’m going to stop here for now, and will most likely revisit the topic in the future.

xoxo

Ashley Ringstaff

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Carol
    11 months ago

    I have lots of anxiety and depression, but doctors don’t take me seriously so I don’t have any medications to help me deal with these.

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    11 months ago

    I’m so sorry to hear that. Don’t ever give up on finding the right health care team for you.

    We are the consumer for the physicians. We must be happy with the service we receive for the money we pay. And lord knows we pay a lot.

    xoxo
    Ashley Ringstaff

  • legggs
    11 months ago

    Dealing with conflict ,
    That’s me all the way

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    11 months ago

    People have told me that it appears that I don’t care when I don’t argue something that was said that isn’t true, or when I just excuse myself from drama, but I just honestly can’t take it.

    I’ve tried to explain it, and most of my TRUE friends understand, but then there are others that will never understand, because they don’t want to understand.

    Wishing you the best,
    Ashley Ringstaff

  • Lauren
    3 years ago

    This exactly how I feel everyday. My anxiety gets out of control and the only thing that helps is medical cannabis which is not legal in my state. I don’t do it any more for the reason of being illegal. I’m making it my mission in life

  • Lauren
    3 years ago

    To make this legal. Cannabis is such a beautiful medicine and it helps nearly all my ms symptoms. Sorry I kept hitting post comment by accident lol. Wonderful article

  • Lauren
    3 years ago

    This exactly how I feel everyday. My anxiety gets out of control and the only thing that helps is medical cannabis which is not legal in my state. I don’t do it any more for the reason of being illegal. I’m maki

  • Kathy Reagan Young
    3 years ago

    Thanks so much for the article Ashley. I can really relate. I prided myself on the stress levels that I could endure – PMS (pre-Multiple Sclerosis)! Doesn’t take much now and my vision gets wonky, the fatigue and spasticity kick in. And it can be mental/emotional stress OR physical stress. When my heart rate raises AT ALL – I lose sight in one eye. It always comes back (knocking on wood now), but it’s an example of stress coming in various shapes and sizes! I’ve learned to speak to this disease as it deserves – I say “FUMS” everyday!!! http://www.FUMSnow.com.

  • Kentucky
    3 years ago

    I was diagnosed in 1998, but was extremely blessed that I was able to continue working for many years, with the exception of having to take leaves of absence during flares, which were few and far between in the beginning. I took early retirement, 3 yrs ago, and am now 66, but experience extreme anxiety over every-day, common chores, or the idea of having to deal with them, before my feet ever hit the floor in the morning. Thank goodness for my medication, as there are times I am in tears until it does kick in, but the tears come from anger as much as the horrible feeling I get from being anxious. I was an RN for 30 years. I had faced the most stressful situations you can imagine, and did it well. I was proud of my work. Now, just the thought of having to get up, get dressed, start my coffee, feed and water the cat, etc, etc, etc causes ridiculous anxiety and makes me angry in the realization that I, of all people, should not be having this problem.

    Of course, I can understand it. Of course, I can rationalize and explain it to myself, until my medication kicks in. But it still makes me mad. Thanks for letting me vent.

    This page/group helps me so much, just knowing we are not alone. Wishing you all well.
    Cindie

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi, Cindie! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Please know that you are not alone, and we’re so glad that you feel community here. We’re here for you, to share information, kinship, and just to listen, anytime you need us. Warmly, Donna (MultipleSclerosis.net team)

  • MSFighter
    3 years ago

    I am the same way in that stressful situations or anxiety cause my vision to act up and my spasticity to go crazy. It doesn’t have to be a “bad” anxiety either! Perfect example: My husband and I are huge UFC fans. My favorite is Connor McGregor. Well not too long ago he had a rematch with another fighter and my husband and I went to a local bar/restaurant to watch it. We were having a great time, it was a great fight but intense. One minute I thought McGregor wad going to lose but then he got a second wind. Then I thought the other fighter was going to lose, it was back & forth all 5 rounds!!!! Like I said, intense. (By the way, my boy won!) After the fight was done, everyone got up to leave. As I stood up and began to move toward the door, following everyone else trying the leave, I looked like the tin man from Wizard Of Oz. I was so anxious about the fight that my symptoms just take over.

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    3 years ago

    Oh man! I can totally relate to that!!!!
    Crazy!
    But there is always a difference between good stress and bad stress, in my opinion.

    Xoxo

  • Amy B Mel
    3 years ago

    Spot on Ashley! Thank you!

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thank you!

  • warrior MSGF
    3 years ago

    THANK YOU this could not come at a better time for me. I have a similar problem when I try to stay quite when I know there will be trigger or avoid situations. But stress kills me. It causes all sorts of problem for me and makes me want to give up. You put that perfectly.

    I need to learn how to make things balance and not worry about people who crap on me for staying silent or not behaving the way they want me to. I only have so much energy and have to determine where to spend it and at the same time stand up for myself. Why does God force us to balance. I don’t know how to be nice and polite when I am having a relapse and because you can’t see it people don’t believe it is happening.

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    3 years ago

    Well just know that you aren’t alone at all! Glad I could help! Xoxo

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi, 1vfi92l,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, we’re glad that this article was helpful! Stress is one of the most difficult things to avoid, and to deal with, it seems to permeate every aspect of modern life. I thought you might be interested in reading How Do You Manage MS Stress?.

    Balance is important in all aspects of life, but balance is subjective and we each define balance for ourselves. It’s also so important to know that there is value in saying no sometimes.

    We’re glad you’re here and we’re always here to share information and support. -All Best, Donna (MultipleSclerosis.net team)

  • Lisa M
    3 years ago

    I found so many things you said to be spot on for me. Before MS, stress was just not that same as it is now. I have noticed lately that Im avoiding a family member who I indeed NEED to have a ‘sit down’ with but I told my husband just last night, I think Im afraid that if it goes sideways, and it very well could…that it will just amp up my already over the top stress and make me even worse then I have been for the last few months.

    I lost my best friend in June to Cancer and I also deal with my Mom who has Alzheimer’s and is in a nursing home, the stress has been overwhelming and I have been in a terrible flare with my MS symptoms. There isn’t any medication that will help with that, I get it, I will work through it.

    I just have a problem being quiet, or walking away from things that I feel need to be handled, I have always, well always WAS one, not to confront or start a beef, but to deal with things, to improve, to settle. I have said more then once lately, Im not sure if my MS is just worse because of all my stress or is it progression?

    I work hard to stay calm and do a pretty good job, most the time, MS has forced me to learn to be more patient and Im trying to show my husband that even he too can learn more patience, lol……

    Its become a balancing act it seems,to not let things, people, stress me out to where it affects me physically but then again,I don’t want to turn into someone who has to avoid all things stress because that’s life! I continue to pick n choose where and when I will deal.

    Good article Ashley, makes me feel less stressed ;- )

    Lisa

  • Ashley Ringstaff moderator author
    3 years ago

    It’s always easier said than done! When I tell myself that I’m going to stay quiet and not react to certain things, I do the exact opposite.

    Other times I can stay quiet, but it always depends on the situation.

    Xoxo

  • Jeff G.
    3 years ago

    Oops, meant to address that comment to Ashley (thank you too Lisa :)), but not sure how to edit my comment.

  • Jeff G.
    3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing Lisa, I too have found that stress and anxiety have a major impact on my MS and how I am feeling. Luckily, I found meditation about a year ago and it has been life changing for me. I am now (mostly) able to catch those dangerous thoughts before they do too much damage and am much better at dealing with stressful situations. I use an app from Headspace to do my meditation and I love the lessons that are given before each meditation. I reached out to them to let them know how much it has helped me and they ended up doing a quick video on me! If you are interested, you can check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWAxB9CjwOM

    I hope others can find similar help in dealing with stress and anxiety.

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