Living with Multiple Sclerosis can be quite the roller coaster ride. While there are issues I have on a consistent basis, there are many symptoms that show up based on outside factors like stress and temperature change. One seemingly bizarre factor for me is the time of day. Even on the days when I feel pretty good, I still tend to struggle in the afternoon. Almost without fail, I hit an afternoon slide on a daily basis. I’ll struggle with a variety of my symptoms and need to rest if I have any hope of salvaging the day. Sometimes I can turn it around, and sometimes I can’t, either way, having the right mindset about rest can be crucial for me.
For me, usually around 2 PM most days, my symptoms start to act up. Extreme fatigue, spasms, weakness, pain, and cognitive issues (which is why I tend to do all of my writing in the morning!) tend to be the big ones. While an uptick of these symptoms is rough at any time, when it happens on what was otherwise a decent day, it can be easy to get down on myself. Plans get derailed and I have to lay down. It’s extremely frustrating. Having MS can lead to a lot of not-so-great days, so having one that feels decent get suddenly interrupted can feel like a real slap in the face. It’s important when this happens for me to remember that it can be temporary though, that there’s a chance it’s simply my afternoon slide and that’s all.
So why does this happen to me so often in the afternoon? Good question, and one I’m not so sure I have the answer to. Like most things when it comes to MS, it’s likely a combination of factors. One interesting thing I discovered while looking for answers, is that our body temperatures usually increase slightly by the afternoon. I’ve mentioned in the past that it doesn’t take much of a temperature change to have a noticeable effect on my symptoms. So maybe that’s one potential cause. I’ve also found that, even for a big guy, my cognitive issues make me forget to eat lunch or breakfast on an all-too-often basis. I also tend to think my afternoon slide happens because I typically do feel much better in the morning and so I tend to be more active at that time. That morning activity then makes me end up paying a smaller version of the “MS Tax” in the afternoon. It could be all of those things, but, again, like so many aspects of MS, I may never actually find out.
I can recover!
While this happens often, it doesn’t happen every single day (a nice reminder that everyone can still have some good days!). When it does happen, there are some things that I can do to help turn my day around. Most importantly, I need to rest. I’m definitely guilty of trying to gut it out and push through the afternoon, but that tends to make things worse. If I have any chance of salvaging my day, I need to rest, to lay down. Preferably in a cool room, and maybe even with a snack. It’s hard to give in and say I’m going to go lay down in the middle of the day, especially if my morning was going well. Mentally, it’s a struggle for me, because I want to be up and productive. My experience has taught me, however, that I need to listen to my body. Most of the time, giving in and resting some will help (though there are certainly days when a short rest turns into an entire day and night of laying down; we’ll always have some days that will start good and become a wash, and that’s OK). I try really hard to remember that I’m not being lazy, I’m trying to actively help my body by giving it some time to recover. That can be a difficult, but important, mindset to accept. A little bit of rest, even a full-on nap, can be extremely helpful.
So yeah, afternoons and I don’t always get along. They don’t have to be a catastrophe though, as long as I have the right mindset. As always, I’m very interested in what others have to say. Do you notice more problems in the afternoon? Do you do anything that helps? Hit up the comments and let me know!