How I keep my body and mind healthy with MS

Wed 15 May 2019

Claire Thackray

In the early days following my diagnosis of relapsing MS in 2010, I became guilty of indulging in my own misery.

Dealing with my MS diagnosis

The impact of this life-changing news left me unable to think straight and although I was symptom free, my mind quickly became a wild tangle of emotions. I was overwhelmed, paralysed by fear of what 'could' happen to my health in the future.

Within the first year following my diagnosis I fell into the darkest depths of space I never knew existed, all because there wasn't a definite answer to why I had developed MS. It got to the point where I started to believe my diagnosis was a life sentence for all my wrongdoings.

A cycle of negative thinking

On reflection it's now obvious in the earlier years I'd trapped myself in a cycle of negative thinking. But time has since proven how pointless it was to worry to the extent I did, especially when I was lucky enough to remain symptom free.

Almost ten years have passed since my first and only major relapse of optic neuritis. In hindsight, my MS so far has proven to be less of a physical burden on my body. Surprisingly, it's been the psychological angst that's been harder to manage and cope with over the years.

Slowing down and building in rest days

Whenever I feel my MS beginning to bubble away, I stop and think, 'I need to slow down'. I still long to keep up with everybody else, but it has taken years to accept I’m not a typical person.

However, the good news is I've come to realise I can live a full life without limitations. But only if I relax from time to time, build in some ‘rest days’ and not feel bad for doing so!

Eating well and exercise

Nutrition is really important to me. I ensure I eat a varied diet with plenty of fish and veggies. When I eat well, I feel well and usually most of the time, I am well and happy.

I do everything everybody else does to keep healthy too. This includes exercising. I like to jog in the rain and ride my bike through country lanes. Exercising for approximately 30 minutes, three or four times a week leaves me buzzing (in a good way!) and feeling positive about my future.

I keep sessions short so I don’t overheat and exacerbate my symptoms. It’s these two lifestyle choices I use to bat away the psychological games my MS can play on me at times.

Coping with MS by reducing stress levels

In addition, reducing stress levels, whenever possible, is key to coping with my MS. I overcame my pride and quit teaching to return to working in an office when I realised I didn't enjoy the profession enough to warrant the extra stress it was creating in my life; consequently, my health improved.

Although the return to cube life is stressful at times, my current office job gives me the work/life balance which plays a fundamental role in keeping healthy and happy.

Getting diagnosed with MS was a reset button

My MS diagnosis was the reset button to the rest of my life. Who knows what will happen to any of us in the future so I've made a pact with myself not to worry about the time ahead. I'll deal with any issues, should MS ambush me, if and when, the time comes. This is the healthiest way I can live and enjoy my life right now.

I continue to take my daily doses of Tecfidera but for me, it’s the power of having a good laugh wherever possible that’s the perfect tonic.