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6 ways to help you find better days

By Gay Falkowski

“Let’s Find Better Days” — this year’s theme for National Multiple Sclerosis Education and Awareness Month in March — focuses on the progress we can make working together as a community for the benefit of everyone affected by MS. Are you ready to move forward? Here are six actions you can take to find better days — for you and the estimated 2.3 million people worldwide diagnosed with MS. Also included are resources to help you implement each step. You’re not in the journey alone!

1) Purify. A good first step is to eliminate toxins in your life. These toxins can be things or people that negatively affect your well-being, such as:
  • Alcohol, cigarettes, and junk food
  • People who are nonsupportive and critical
  • Your own negative beliefs and self-talk 
Identifying and eliminating toxins isn’t always easy. You may benefit from the guidance and support of a social worker or psychologist, especially one familiar with MS. Ask members of your healthcare team for a recommendation. You can also search at www.locater.apa.org to find professionals through the American Psychological Association. Remember to ask if they’re knowledgeable about MS or the challenges of living with a chronic illness.

2) Learn. Don’t let nagging questions bring you down. For example, do you often wonder if what you’re experiencing is “normal” for someone who has MS? Are you often anxious about how MS will affect you in the future? While these are good questions for your healthcare team, you may want to know more about MS before your next doctor’s visit. 

Visit https://msfocus.org/Get-Educated/Overview.aspx to access articles on all aspects of living with MS, as well as order books and fact sheets from the Lending Library. At https://www.msfocusradio.org you can listen to MS Focus Radio, a station that provides around the clock motivational and educational content to empower everyone affected by MS.

3) Adapt. MS can create limitations, both cognitively and physically – but by learning new ways of doing things, you can minimize the effect MS has on your productivity and quality of life. Review your situation at work. Can you make changes, such as altering your work hours or using assistive technology? What would make your job easier? At home, think about how you might rearrange things to better function in your space.

Before you ask for accommodations at work, learn about your rights in the workplace at the Job Accommodation Network www.JAN.com. For home adaptations, an occupational therapist can recommend changes for your particular needs. OTs are professionals who help clients restore or improve their ability to perform daily tasks of life. Get a referral from your healthcare team or ask your insurance company for a list of OTs in your plan’s network.

4) Connect. A 75-year study from Harvard indicates the happiest people are those who’ve developed close relationships with friends, family, and community. Perhaps some of your friends stopped calling after your diagnosis. Others may not understand how MS has affected your life. A great way to connect with new friends is by joining a support group. Another way to meet people is to volunteer in your community for a cause that’s important to you. People who volunteer tend to be kind and caring – great qualities for a friend.

The MS Focus Independent Support Group Network has groups throughout the U.S. To see if there’s one near you go to https://msfocus.org/Get-Help/Support-Groups.aspx. If not, consider starting one. Support group leaders receive personalized attention, ongoing support for their meetings, and many types of unique assistance – including materials for meetings and resources for member recruitment. For more information email supportgroups@msfocus.org or call 888-673-6287.

5) Participate. In the search for a cure, new treatments, and ways to improve life with MS, researchers need as much information as possible from people who have MS. You can help by participating in clinical trials and ongoing studies.
 
Check out the opportunities at www.clinicaltrials.gov. You can also enroll in the NARCOMS registry for people with MS. NARCOMS’ focus is creating and maintaining a database of individuals’ experience with MS and making that information available to researchers who can use it to help you and others. For more information or to register go to www.narcoms.org.

6) Talk. If you’ve chosen to disclose your MS diagnosis and are comfortable talking with others about it, NMSEAM is the perfect time to join – or start – conversations that raise awareness. Share articles about MS on your social media, engaging followers who ask questions or make comments on your posts. Encourage your friends and family members to come with you to local fundraising events or educational seminars about MS. Let those who are curious about MS know it’s okay to ask questions and that you’re happy to share your MS experience.

If you haven’t already done so, join MS Focus: the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation Facebook page. As a group member, you’ll have access to many shareable articles and posts about MS. You can look for events and educational seminars in your area at https://msfocus.org/Events/Events-Calendar.aspx.