5 Ways To Keep A Positive Attitude With Multiple Sclerosis

A basketball sitting in the seat of a wheelchairManaging multiple sclerosis requires a proactive approach — becoming educated about the condition, sticking to your treatment plan, and communicating with your doctor if you notice changes in your symptoms. But beyond medical care, the way you approach life can also influence your condition, says Benjamin M. Greenberg, MD, MHS, deputy director of the multiple sclerosis program at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

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“Remaining positive is important in multiple sclerosis for many reasons,” Dr. Greenberg says. “There is ample data to indicate that depressed moods tend to magnify symptomatic issues. Pain, fatigue, and cognitive issues can be worsened as a person’s mood declines.”

Multiple sclerosis doesn’t have to be the sole focus of your life. People living with multiple sclerosis have families, successful careers, and a variety of hobbies. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, highlight the positive aspects of your life to help balance your overall point-of-view, Greenberg suggests. Here are eight ways to positively influence your perception of living with multiple sclerosis and improve your overall outlook:

Get Educated

Knowledge is a powerful tool for living with multiple sclerosis and maintaining a positive outlook. Stay up-to-date about new multiple sclerosis treatments, approved medications, and current research studies. Your doctor is a good source for this type of information. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is a reliable resource for updated statistics, scientific data, support groups, research studies, and more.

Take Charge of MS Flares

Knowing what to expect during flares can help relieve some of the stress of living with multiple sclerosis. Not all multiple sclerosis exacerbations require treatment. Mild flares may lead to numbness, tingling, or fatigue — common multiple sclerosis symptoms that are annoying but manageable by slowing down and waiting for them to resolve on their own. More serious flares — such as those that interfere with your ability to function at full capacity — may require treatment. Know when to contact your doctor to minimize interruptions to your daily routine.

Give Yourself a Break

“Let’s face it — multiple sclerosis is so unpredictable,” says Denise Pisciotta, right, who’s been living with multiple sclerosis for more than 20 years. “One moment you feel fine, and the next you’re so tired you can’t even get dressed,” she says. “I’ve learned that some things are just out of my control, and to laugh at myself when my body does something dumb.” It’s impossible to control every moment of your life, even if a chronic condition isn’t on the agenda, so you’re setting yourself up for failure if you have unrealistic expectations of never having a bad day. “When I get really frustrated, sometimes a good cry makes me feel better,” Pisciotta says. “If you’re really struggling, reach out to family and friends and ask for help. Sometimes just talking it out helps a lot, and problems don’t seem so overwhelming.”

Get the Real Stats About MS

Arm yourself with facts about living with multiple sclerosis. Don’t allow assumptions or dramatic portrayals of the disease on television to influence your outlook. Let these numbers put multiple sclerosis in correct perspective for you:
It’s not a rare disease: Between two million and three million people have MS worldwide.
It’s not a death sentence: Most people with multiple sclerosis have an average or near-average life expectancy.

It’s not contagious: You won’t get multiple sclerosis from being around someone who has it, and it’s not directly inherited from a parent who has multiple sclerosis.

You aren’t destined to become severely disabled: Most people with multiple sclerosis don’t lose their ability to walk. However, you may need a mobility device from time to time because of balance issues or fatigue. A cane, crutches, a scooter, or wheelchair can help keep you mobile and independent. And the future holds more promise. “Multiple sclerosis is rapidly changing for the better,” Greenberg says. “There are many new drugs coming out that don’t just prevent damage, but may actually repair damage that’s been done.”

Get the 411 on Wheelchairs

Not everyone living with multiple sclerosis will need to use a wheelchair. Without treatment, many people with multiple sclerosis will have significant difficulty walking, Greenberg says. “But since the advent of new therapies and the expansion of [existing] therapies, that number is dropping.” And should you need a wheelchair, you can still live the lifestyle you want. Pisciotta has used one since 1989. Her initial reaction was anger, but she quickly turned that around. “My thought was, ‘Okay, this sucks, but I still want to work, shop, and do all things I did before the wheelchair,'” she says, “so I changed my attitude and continued my routine,” but with some accommodations. “I had to change my living situation from an apartment on the second floor with no elevator to a condo accessible with an elevator, wider doorways, and a larger bathroom,” she says.

“Also, when going places, I have to do some planning — does the establishment have steps? Is the bathroom accessible for a wheelchair? Can I get around without playing bumper cars? The Americans With Disabilities Act has come a long way to make places accessible, but not every [business] is required to change, and the term ‘accessible’ can mean varying things.”

But with planning and a positive attitude, a wheelchair is a tool that offers you the ability to continue with the lifestyle you want to lead.