MS – Balance in Body and in Life

Everyone needs to look after their general health, both body and mind, but this can be more important when you have been diagnosed with a long-term condition like multiple sclerosis. This week Teresa McShane looks at the changes she has made to achieve a balance in body and in life.

When I was 18 years’ old, I was offered a job with The Herald Tribune newspaper in Paris.  Without a second thought, I left these shores for a life of adventure and excitement. It was wonderful. I had several friends who were already living ‘the high life’ in the French capital and was determined I was not going to miss out on that experience.

We had great fun. Our meagre wages felt like riches to us – we were young and independent and the world was our oyster. 

We quickly got used to the delicious wine and food and late-night socialising not to mention the obligatory popping of champagne corks over the rooftop of our apartment on any given Saturday night.

At that time, my health didn’t mean much to me and the only balancing act I did was when I danced on the tables in a bar on the Champs Élysées or cycled home along the cobblestone streets in the small hours.

Three years later, I was in the UK having nodes stuck to my head and a series of patterns flashed on a screen in front of me.  This was not the latest urban disco craze but a neurology department in a central London hospital and a diagnosis of MS ensued.

So somehow, out of nowhere, and definitely before I was ready, my body took a rain check and demanded self-care.  I was in my early twenties and I was in no mood to listen.

There were no medications on offer back then so it was just me and fish oil capsules v’s the world. 

Eventually, I did go on a medication and dealt with all the grim side-effects.  I endured this for 10 years whilst having two children and holding down a full-time job. My body was still crying out for some attention and I wasn’t listening.  

Until one day, I could take no more and my body pretty much shut down.  I left my office at 11.15 am and I never returned.  It was time to look after me.

Speaking to other friends with MS, especially those diagnosed at a young age, pushing the boundaries of our own health in some sort of denial is not unusual. If I keep going as I am, living the life I am currently living, then I can just pretend I don’t have MS and all will be well…?

Wrong!  This just isn’t viable in the long term.

Looking after yourself when you have an MS diagnosis requires a shift in so many areas of your life.  But the rewards are worth it.

Diet

Eating a healthy diet is good practice for everyone, but even more important for someone with a long term illness.  It is not something that was ever mentioned to me in my consultant’s office but is one of the things that you actually have control over so well worth looking into.

Exercise

In the past, a diagnosis of MS came with the advice that one shouldn’t exercise.  This has now been shown to be incorrect and many people with MS reap huge benefits from regular gentle exercise.  The evidence-based ‘Getting The Balance Right’ and ‘Step It Up’ Programmes that have been run up and down the country over the past few years have opened many people’s eyes to the positive benefits of exercise. 

Rest and Meditation

It’s so important to listen to your body.  Knowing when the stop is a vital part of your self-care.  Putting your feet up when you need to or closing your eyes for ten minutes at lunchtime can really help you get through the day.  For deep relaxation, some Mindful Meditation can really reenergise you.  There are plenty of apps online offering meditations lasting from 5 minutes to hour-long sessions. 

Fun

Make sure that you have joy in your life.  Friends and family are so important in your life balance. Socialising or group get-togethers are a wonderful way to keep spirits up.  They also provide support to people who may be feeling down or have an issue they need to share. 

Better Health and a More Fulfilling Life

All of these changes in your life are not meant to make you miserable!  Balance in your body and mind might take a while to implement but the benefits far outweigh any negatives and ultimately leads to better health and a better more fulfilling life as a whole.

If you have any tips or suggestions on how to achieve a balance in body and in life, we would be delighted to hear them.

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