Nurse Catherine Asks...
Now that we’re about a month into the new year, how are your resolutions going? It’s a good time to take a step back, reflect on the past year, and plan for the rest of this one. Use this new year as a fresh start. You can set goals to take care of yourself and help manage MS. What are your goals? How do you plan on sticking to those resolutions?
Is it time for an annual MS checkup?
February 11, 2019
About the same time each year, it seems every conversation revolves around New Year’s resolutions. Did you know that another word for RESOLUTION is PERSEVERANCE?
The new year brings the opportunity to start out with a clean slate. I especially like do-overs. I have discovered that when I focus on specific goals, my perseverance can lead to hope and anticipation.
Before relapsing MS entered my life, I was a young mother of three children, 5 years old and under. Time was a luxury. It was a struggle to carve out time for myself to exercise, but I always enjoyed working out and how it made me feel. However, soon after my diagnosis of relapsing multiple sclerosis, I became very frustrated with my lack of ability to be active. That’s when I decided I was going to look at exercise as a goal to reach.
In my defense, it was very scary to get back into exercising. After experiencing some pseudo-symptoms, I became fearful. Would any overexertion cause a flare-up? Or would my fatigue grow more intense? I became very sensitive to my body temperature rising. I didn’t trust my body to do what I yearned for it to do.
I took baby steps in the beginning. When I brought up my fears to my healthcare provider about working out, she told me that if I am really tired for 1-2 hours afterward, that’s okay. However, if I find myself exhausted for 1-2 days afterward, not okay! It gave me the spark I needed to get back on track to reach some of my goals.
I recently heard someone say that if you have goals but don’t write them down with an end date, they are just wish lists. I look to my brother who is a triathlete. I have always admired his ability to overcome pain, tackle his busy schedule, brave bad weather, etc. What would make him endure all those long hours of training? For him to ensure he crosses the finish line, he must have had several goals set in place, gradually working his way up to accomplish each one.
My goals, since living with relapsing MS, have changed a bit from the past. Yes, I still focus on my fitness levels, but I also have incorporated goals that nurture all aspects of my life; my body, spirit, and soul.
Some of the goals I have set for myself have been:
- learning to say no
- getting a more restful night’s sleep
- scheduling more time to spend with family or friends
- walking a certain number of steps per day
- keeping my mind sharp by memorizing Scripture passages
Regarding my relapsing MS treatment, I like to take time to reevaluate the medication I currently take. Has it helped me reach my treatment goals? Do I feel as if it is effectively treating my relapsing MS?
This metaphor I came up with, inspired by my brother and his triathlons, has helped me focus on success in my own relapsing MS race:
- Keep my head above water. Breathe. It's going to be okay. As I swim forward, I keep a sharp eye on my goals on the shoreline.
- Steer around and avoid any potholes as I bike through the rough terrain. Pay attention to anything that triggers a symptom and work around it. Go to my Plan B to get to the next step if it helps.
- Run with endurance. Slow down if need be. It's okay to conserve energy to make it to the finish line successfully.
- Don't forget to look around. Notice how many people are cheering me on. I have a lot of support surrounding me. Not only family and friends, but also my healthcare team, along with the MS One to One nurses.
Those who enter a race that are not both mentally and physically prepared set themselves up for failure. I am guilty of being one of those people in the past, but I have learned to start out the year with a clean slate. When I took the time to set specific goals to keep the end goal in mind, I was more likely to succeed. Putting in the effort has never been a waste of time, and has only made me more resilient in all aspects of my life.
Is it time for an annual MS checkup?
February 11, 2019
When I’m thinking about your New Year’s resolutions, I try to remember that relapsing MS goals are important too. So I resolve to take care of myself and get any checkups I may need. I also take this time to reflect on the previous year’s wins and losses and make new goals for the upcoming year.
I like to visit my neurologist at least one time per year to get a thorough checkup, which makes the new year the perfect time to book that appointment. And even if I feel like my relapsing MS has stayed the same, my neurologist still recommends an MRI.
But it’s not just a neurologist appointment, I also like to pay a visit to my other healthcare providers once per year. I’ve found when you have a diagnosis of something like relapsing MS, it is easy to get tunnel vision and lose track of the fact that you are a very complex being and there are a lot of parts and systems that can break down. If one part of you isn’t working the way it should, it can lead to other parts not working properly, so I think it is very important to get an overall “system check” on an annual basis.
Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for the successes that you’ve had (no matter how small) this past year and add them to the list of goals to continue for the next year. Think over the challenges that you encountered and see if there are things that you can change in the coming year to minimize or eliminate them. Should you take a look at your diet? Talk with your healthcare team about switching medications? Start planning for a change in your employment status?
The new year is a great time to plan for the future. Remember to not take on too many goals at one time though. Once you begin to accomplish your goals and see how good it makes you feel, it will become easier and easier to take on the next challenge. You may find that accomplishing a goal such as eating better just naturally leads to success of another goal—that is quite a two-for-one deal! And remember, it’s never too late to make or change a goal.
Nurse Catherine Sums It Up
Looking back at the past year can help us determine what we want to keep doing and what we want to change in the coming year. Resolutions and goals don’t have to be extravagant or daunting. What’s important is that you’re setting goals at all. Even having a conversation with your doctor about your current medication and goals is an accomplishment that can set you on the right path for a successful year. And remember, you can set goals and make changes any time of year. Take it one step at a time, and you’ll be reaching bigger goals in no time! Share your New Year’s resolutions in the comments section below!