Making small changes to your lifestyle can help you live well after a diagnosis of MS. It can make it easier to cope with symptoms or relapses.
We all need to look after our physical and mental health. But this is even more important when you’re living with a long-term condition like MS. A diagnosis of MS could be the prompt to look at aspects of your life such as:
You might feel there are some areas where you’re doing OK. But in others you could decide there might be some value to making some changes.
Any changes don't have to be dramatic or made instantly. If you currently don’t exercise much, it’s not about signing up for a marathon. It might be walking up the stairs at work instead of using the lift. Or getting out for short walk every day. It’s best to be realistic about what fits into your lifestyle. That way it’s more likely the changes will stick and become part of your life.
A few small changes can all add up and have a big impact. It’s not about depriving yourself either. Living well with MS still means doing things that you enjoy. Like having the occasional treat and a good time with family and friends.
Learning to live with MS can take a while. But you might be ready to start thinking about your lifestyle and whether you want to make any changes.
- How well balanced is your diet?
- Do you exercise enough or has MS affected what exercise you can do?
- Are you feeling stressed?
- Do you smoke?
- How much alcohol do you drink?
- Do you take recreational drugs?
- Are any symptoms causing difficulties?
It’s also worth considering the following.
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What are the positive things in your life?
- Is your work-life balance where you'd like it to be?
- What are your priorities in life?
If you come to the decision you’d like to explore making some changes, these are some things to think about next.
- What would you like to happen?
- How could you achieve this?
- Where could you most easily make a start?
- Is there something urgent or important that needs doing first?
- Who could support or advise you?
The advice for people with MS is the same as for everyone when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthily, exercise sensibly, stay hydrated, drink sensibly to reduce the risks from alcohol and don't smoke.
Maintaining your health and wellbeing by doing as much as you can, or want to do, will help keep your body and mind and body as active and strong as possible. It will also allow you to continue to do the things you enjoy, and the things you need to do, such as work or studying. Going to work has benefits besides being paid. Being in education is more than gaining skills and knowledge. You can socialise, meet new people, feel valued and pursue your goals in life. All are incentives to continue working or studying after a diagnosis of MS.
We have lots of research-based information on all kinds of lifestyle issues on this site, including:
Remember the changes don’t have to be big. It might be choosing a piece of fruit or a handful of unsalted nuts, rather than crisps or chocolate. Swapping out a can of coke for a glass of water. Having two or three alcohol-free days per week. Or switching off the TV and reading a chapter of your book to help you unwind before bed.
Ultimately, it’s up to you how you want to manage your MS. This might be making small or large lifestyle changes. Or it could be committing to keeping up physiotherapy exercises or taking medication as prescribed.
Although professional support from your MS team is important, there's lots that you can do for yourself. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is just one aspect of managing your MS well. Hearing other people’s experiences and sharing tips for living with MS can be helpful too.
Take control. You don't have to be a superhero who deals with everything perfectly or a victim of MS. You're a person who just happens to have MS. Many people with MS say "I have MS but MS doesn't have me". This can be a good mantra to live by.