Health & Wellness

Resolutions for Wellness

By Anna Berry

The New Year is here. As exciting and lovely as the holidays can be, multiple sclerosis, and its resulting symptoms, can make them stressful and fatiguing. That might mean that the holidays leave you feeling more run-down than you would otherwise, leaving you ill-prepared to start the new year afresh. While many things are outside of our control when living with MS, there are strategies that can be employed to maximize every day, and to make sure that 2018 is the best year possible. That starts with a focused effort on your personal wellness. And there is no easier way to keep that focus front and center than with some New Year’s resolutions.
The definition of wellness is “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” In other words, we are in complete control of our wellness  (despite our health) and can make choices towards increased wellness. While health is a state of a body, wellness is a state of being.  There are many models of wellness that include many tenets, or principles. The most common tenets address the physical, social, occupational, intellectual, and emotional aspects.
Physical Wellness
 When we maintain a healthy body through good nutrition, regular exercise, and avoidance of harmful habits we are working to achieve physical wellness. There are several misconceptions about physical activity and MS, so let’s get some of those rumors out of the way. Research in the arena of MS has come very far in the past few years and we now know that our old thoughts about MS were incorrect. Some myths worth getting rid of include:
1. People with MS should not exercise.
2. People with MS cannot get stronger.
3. People with MS cannot improve their endurance.
4. Exercise will cause a relapse.
It is possible to exercise, get stronger, and improve endurance. We also know that everyone can benefit from exercise. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released physical activity guidelines for all Americans ages six and older. The recommendations for adults are:
1. Some physical activity is better than none. Inactive adults should gradually increase their level of activity. People gain health benefits from as little as 60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.
2. For major health benefits, do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week.
3. For even more health benefits, do 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 150 minutes of vigorous- intensity activity each week. The more active you are, the more you will benefit.
Suggested resolutions for physical wellness:
1. Get more and better sleep (you can monitor sleep length and quality with an app).
2. Check in yearly with your primary care physician, neurologist, physical therapist, etc.
3. If you have decreased balance, or difficulty ambulating, see a physical therapist.
4. If you have difficulty with activities of daily living (eating, dressing, driving) see an occupational therapist.
5. Find a way to get more exercise (watch a video at home, find a buddy, use an arm bike, take frequent rest breaks, take breaks to move during periods of immobility such as reading, working, driving, etc.).
Social Wellness
When we perform social roles effectively, comfortably, and without harming others, we are practicing good social wellness. To be socially well, you should have the ability to enjoy being with family and friends, and relationships with others should be positive and rewarding.
Suggested resolutions for social wellness:
1. Join an MS Focus support group.
2. Create a book club with others with MS.
3. Meet a new neighbor.
4. Join a wellness program or a gym and workout with other people (social and physical).
Occupational Wellness
When we enjoy a chosen career or contribute to society through volunteer activities, we are practicing occupational wellness. When a person is involved in activities that are consistent with their personal values, interests, and beliefs, they are usually happier and, therefore, more well. These activities do not necessarily need to be paying jobs; they can be volunteer activities.
Suggested resolutions for occupational wellness:
1. If you do not have a job or a volunteer activity that allows you to contribute to society in a way that fulfills you, see a vocational counselor.
2. Volunteer at your favorite hospital.
3. Volunteer/organize an MS event.
4. Find a cause about which you are passionate and volunteer for it.
Intellectual Wellness
When we are open to new concepts, ideas, and the ability to stretch and challenge our minds with intellectual and creative pursuits, we are practicing intellectual wellness. As we all age, it is natural to become less intellectually well because of brain atrophy and changes in our lifestyles. It is important to be aware of this and know that there are many things we can do to reverse this.
Suggested resolutions for intellectual wellness:
1. Join a book club (social and intellectual).
2. Play memory games or problem-solving games.
3. Read or listen to a book for fun.
4. If you notice cognitive changes, see a speech therapist.
Emotional Wellness
When we are aware and accepting of feelings and emotions, we are practicing emotional wellness. It is better to be aware of and accept our feelings than to deny them, and it is better to be optimistic in our approach to life than pessimistic. Emotional wellness contributes to the ability to balance work, family, friends, health, and other obligations.
Suggested resolutions for emotional wellness:
1. Schedule time for yourself.
2. Recognize your strengths.
3. If you find that you do not have balance, seek guidance from a mental healthcare provider.
4.   Know that it is very common and very treatable to experience depression when you have MS, so please seek help.
We now have a comprehensive list of things we can all do to be better in each category of wellness. One last thing to keep in mind is that to make these positive lifestyle modifications, we need to be willing and able. Adaptability is defined as the ability to make appropriate adjustments in thinking and behavior in the face of uncertain situations – to “go with the flow,” if you will. The ability to employ this trait may lead to an increase in overall wellness and prepare you to maintain positive changes.
Suggested resolutions to be more adaptable:
            1. Focus on opportunities rather than problems or loses.
            2. Accept change as a part of life rather than fight against change.
            3. Move on from disappointments rather than dwell on them.
            4. Ask for help when needed rather than reject it.
            5. Be open to new methods versus having a strict definition of the “right way” or the “only way”.
And finally, I leave you with the most important resolution of all:
“Be More Awesome than Last Year.”
Here is to 2018 being the best yet! Remember, you are in control of your wellness, not MS or any diagnosis.