A cat with a happy, peaceful face stretching on a green rug.

Pamper Yourself on the Good Days, Too

We all want to feel good, right? We want MS to stay in the background and get no where near centerstage. It’s wonderful to be able to ignore MS at times. How do we have more of those days?

There are a few things that I know will make my MS body feel good. They might be hard at first, may even hurt, but they make me feel better when I’m not feeling so good. One of the activities that I find rewarding AND beneficial is stretching.

Stretching different parts of my body

Stretching my hamstrings and my hip joints makes me feel longer and more mobile. Stretching the calves and back of my knees gives me more bounce in my step.

Rotating my ankles not only feels good, it helps me with balance and proprioception. Even just stretching my toes gives me better footing on the ground and seems to relax the body.

Stretching the thighs and calves is absolutely necessary when I want to go cycling.

Overall, I am more agile, more powerful, and more confident when the legs can fully extend and all the appropriate joints have been ‘lubricated’ before a long ride.

Functioning better and honoring my body

If I’ve been consistently active, all of these stretches and motions usually feel really good. If I’ve been inactive, I can feel just how much I NEED to do the stretches. Not just need the stretches to function better, but need the stretches to honor my body.

It’s those latter days that I ask myself - “Why don’t you do this EVERY DAY, Lisa?”

That’s a good question. Why don’t I do something as simple as stretching major muscles and putting most joints through their full range of motion everyday?

Taking care of myself when I'm not feeling great

Recently I wrote about giving myself permission to nap. Today, I’m reminding myself that taking care of myself when I feel good is just as important as taking care of myself when I’m not feeling as well.

It’s way too easy to skip things like stretching when you wake up and feel loose, mobile, and ready to get going. This is what we all want to feel like, right?

Why do I skip stretching and other self-care?

Sometimes I get so anxious just to get on with my day that I don’t take the time to give my body the attention it needs. If I’m willing to take the time to make coffee each morning, why not take the time to loosen those hips and knees?

I don’t have all the answers to my own questions, but here are some speculations.

Maybe I want to feel more "normal"

I think maybe that rushing to get going without taking the time to lengthen the body is one way to ignore that I have MS. It makes me feel more normal to get up out of bed like my husband and not keep anything between me and a shower or coffee.

Maybe deep down I don’t feel like taking care of myself, by taking the time to stretch and/or do some yoga, is part of my job. But that’s just wrong. When you live with MS, taking care of yourself definitely must become a full-time priority.

My body tells me what I need

Some people may say - “but I don’t know exactly what I should do.” Well, I can’t honestly say this because every time I do take the time, my body tells me what I need to do.

Where there is more tension, I need to spend more time gently allowing the muscles to let loose, breathe into those growing spaces inside the joints, and feel the increased circulation and sensation that comes to life after holding a pose for 60 seconds or so.

My bicycling routine

I think about this subject most when I am regularly biking. Part of my routine in getting ready to go out to cycle is taking the time to sufficiently stretch all muscle groups involved in vigorously pumping those pedals.

Some days, I definitely feel like I need to go through all the muscles 2 or 3 times, holding each pose for a full minute. Those are the days where I ask myself, “Why, Lisa, oh why don’t you do this every day?”

Some days, I don’t even feel like I need to hold a stretch for 30 minutes before moving on. Those are the dangerous days. Those are the days that I don’t “feel” like I have MS.

When I tend to neglect myself

It’s the non-MSey days that I tend to neglect myself which ultimately leads to the MSey days that I want to avoid.

So the point of this introspection? Take care of yourself every day—rain or shine, pain or not, fatigued or full of energy—you deserve it! Don’t just give yourself extra attention when things feel “bad.” Take the time you deserve on the good days, too.

For me, pampering myself is the luxury of 10-30 minutes of stretching each day. Your luxury may be something different. Whatever it is, do it regularly, do it often, do it generously.

Be kind to yourself...particularly when you are feeling good.

Be well my friends,

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