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Emotional Well-Being

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Emotional well-being is perhaps the most important component of overall wellness. In addition to affecting how we perceive ourselves and the world around us, emotions influence:
  • how we feel physically
  • our motivation to attend to our health
  • how we eat
  • our amount of exercise
  • how we relate to other people and to the larger world
  • how intensely and joyfully we engage in our chosen roles.
Like other aspects of wellness, emotional well-being can be nurtured and enhanced, even in the face of changes and challenges.
In this article

Focus on the positive

The field of positive psychology emphasizes personal growth and well-being, based on the core belief that all people desire and look for happiness in their lives. Although we may define happiness in very different ways — focusing on our own unique goals and criteria for success and well-being — we all want to thrive, find contentment, solve the problems we confront in our lives and maintain a strong sense of hope. Positive psychology offers strategies for achieving greater happiness and well-being.
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Resilience: Addressing the Challenges of MS

Many people living with chronic diseases, including MS, have learned that practicing behaviors that promote resilience is the secret to not just coping with the disease, but thriving with it. Hear discussions from clinicians and researchers at the forefront of resilience theory, as well as from individuals who have learned to become more resilient when facing MS as well as the ongoing challenges of everyday life. A copy of the DVD and companion book in English and Spanish can be requested by calling an MS Navigator at 1-800-344-4867.  The DVD comes with Spanish subtitles and language track. 

Stay centered

The diagnosis of a chronic illness can threaten a person’s sense of self. “Who am I now…that I have this diagnosis…that I can no longer do some of the things I used to do…that my role has changed?” are common questions. Staying connected to one’s feelings, priorities and values can help calm the emotional turmoil that sometimes occurs in the face of life’s challenges. Find personal meaning  through spiritual practice and/or religious beliefs so you can become and stay centered and in touch with your inner self.

Manage stress

Stress is part of everyday life. The diagnosis of MS — with its complex array of unpredictable symptoms and uncertain future, can sometimes make the stress of daily life feel overwhelming. Many people with MS say they experience more and/or worse symptoms during stressful times; when the stress abates, their symptoms seem less troubling or less severe.

Learning to eliminate unnecessary stressors — and manage the ones that are here to stay — is essential for staying on an even keel emotionally.

A range of strategies are available to help manage stress. You may need to try several different techniques before you find what works for you. Make and healthy, positive plans that reduce stressful feelings and support your overall health and well-being — for example meditation, relaxation exercises, individual or team sports, journaling, hobbies, time with family and friends — while avoiding or reducing behaviors that are harmful, such as smoking, eating or drinking to excess, or using other substances.

Practice solution-focused problem-solving

Life’s challenges and problems can mount too quickly or feel too big to handle.  People who approach these challenges as opportunities for creative problem solving are known to cope more successfully: they are more resilient (you can be too!). With each success, feelings of competence, pride and self-confidence grow stronger and contribute to emotional well-being.

Pay attention to your mood

Depression, anxiety and other mood changes are more common in people with MS than in the general population—in part as a reaction to the challenges of a chronic illness, but also because of changes in the brain and in the immune system that are part of the MS disease process. Depression is a serious yet treatable symptom of MS; it needs the careful assessment and treatment that other MS symptoms do. When emotional distress is such that one has lost pleasure in doing the things he or she once enjoyed, it is important to seek professional help.

Build and nurture relationships

Meaningful relationships can provide connection, intimacy, support and opportunities for shared goals and shared problem-solving. Positive relationships reduce feelings of isolation and promote a sense of stability in everyday life.

Recognize family needs

MS affects daily life, roles and responsibilities and shared goals and dreams.
  • Feelings of grief and loss are common among family members.
  • Anxiety is a fairly universal response to the unknown, and anger and frustration can build when answers and solutions seem out of reach.
  • Depression is common in caregivers — family members who provide hands-on care for a loved one. 
  • Children who have a parent with MS may have questions they do not know how to ask as well as feelings they cannot put into words. Keep S’myelin, a Society magazine for children ages 6-12, provides age-appropriate information about MS as well as guidance for parents on how to talk about the disease and the feelings that kids may be experiencing.
Spouses and partners, parents, and other family members can benefit from the same tips and strategies as their loved ones with MS. Family members should report mood changes to their healthcare provider in the same way that the person with MS reports mood changes and other MS symptoms.

Additional resources

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