In my last blog I talked about the ‘What ifs’ and it was great to hear positive feedback both here on the Uninterrupted blog, and on twitter as well. I mentioned that I might talk about the things that I do for myself that are in my control to help manage my MS. Although I am a ‘list’ person, I’ll refrain from doing two blogs of lists and just get straight in to it!
Once I overcame the initial shock of my diagnosis, I wanted to ‘get even’ with this new addition to my life- MS, and the ‘control freak’ in me was well and truly activated! I started doing a lot of research into the things that have been scientifically proven, but also the wonderful and wackier approaches that some may just dismiss. I am a very open person, and I take the approach that I can’t discount something until I’ve actually tried it myself first and assessed its success. When I say ‘assessed its’ success’ that doesn’t necessarily just mean the results of my next MRI. I also think it’s important to measure that success with my everyday being, my day-to-day, my life.
Initially I was told by many all about the paleo diet, “it does this and it does that” so I gave it a go, also going gluten free. I’ll be honest- I love my desserts, and I love my food. Such a drastic change to my diet was having a really negative impact on my day-to-day, and I felt that such a modification was letting MS take over my life, through robbing me of my enjoyment of food! For me it’s become a more ‘everything in moderation’ approach, an approach that I believe you can adopt in many situations, and for me, diet is definitely one of those.
Another area of my life where I’ve adopted this approach is with exercise. When I was first diagnosed I signed up to a gym, and went full steam ahead, feeling I needed to go every single day to help myself the most I could. Swimming, cardio, weights, yoga, tai-chi- ANYTHING! I soon found out, unsurprisingly through exhaustion, that exercise was certainly something I needed to apply the ‘everything in moderation’ approach to. Now I feel I have the right balance, and whenever I increase my weights, or increase my treadmill speed, it feels like a big raspberry in the face of MS! As my neurologist told me, “General fitness for anybody is important so, not only will it help you strengthen your muscles and core, improve my balance, and compliment your immune system, but it’s just good for anybody's overall health. I feel that every time I go to gym I am doing something in my control to help myself, (and just quietly, it also removes the guilt that my love of desserts sometimes inspires!). With that said, I do keep my eye on my sugar, salt, and saturated fat content, but I think that’s also beneficial for anyone’s general health. One thing that my MS has taught me is that there are enough conditions out there that are preventable, sometimes through diet and lifestyle, so I may as well try and minimise those as much as possible.
Meditation has also been a great influence in making positive change in my life, and touches on my blog last week about living in the ‘NOW’. I try and meditate every night to help me go to sleep, through guided meditation and a range of free apps that are available online (a few of my favourites are linked below). I’ve found them really helpful in getting a restful sleep and calming my mind. Nighttime, especially when I’m trying to get to sleep, is my prime-time for worrying, so I’ve found 10-15 minutes of meditation really helps with those worries and ‘what ifs’. Focusing on my breathing, or letting out a big sigh when I need to, has helped me both at night, and also during the day if I can feel my stress levels increasing.
I’m also really enjoying the ‘brain training’ apps that are out there. I find them really challenging, and it’s encouraging when you can see the improvements that are happening as each session, week, month, and year that goes by using them. I tried quite a few different ones, but find ‘Lumosity’ (link below) to be the most engaging. I still use the free version, and you basically get three different types of brain training exercise a day. We’ve worked it into our daily routine and my partner and I now compete against each other for ‘First Place’ rankings. Brain Training is something I hope to explore further in a future post, perhaps with some insights from professionals in the field.
So yes, I'm a control freak, and that was initially a challenge with my MS, but I now feel I can use that to my advantage. So much is out of my control, but there's also a lot that is firmly in my control, and for now I'm happy focusing on those things. What ways do you feel you have control over your MS, given that it’s such an unpredictable disease? Does anyone else find meditation, exercise, or brain training tools beneficial? Feel free to share any resources and tips that work for you.
I’m also aware that I haven’t really talked about what it means to be a gay male with MS, something that was the initial reason behind my blogging contributions. While I realise some may ask “What does it matter?”, I look forward to sharing with you in my next blog why it does in fact matter, and what my experiences have been so far. Looking forward to more sharing next time.
http://smilingmind.com.au/ Is more skewed towards ‘young people’ but also has meditations for adults.
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/sleep-easily-meditation-by/id458059886?mt=8 This one has some free content and is one of my favourites. You can also upgrade for additional content.
http://www.glennharrold.com/ Some great free introductions to his meditation, but I’ve also paid for a few of the guided meditations that I use often.