Once I realized that diet and exercise changes weren’t quite enough, I turned my focus to reducing stress. I thought changing my diet was going to be the toughest part. I was wrong.
“Stress” was my middle name, but I’d always just handled it. It was just my nature. With two young children, a husband, a full time teaching job (which is always more than “full time”), we had an online business, and I was heavily involved in pug rescue. Most days I didn’t know if I was coming or going. I rarely sat down and my amount of sleep was decreasing almost nightly. The first thing I had to let go was pug rescue. That was an incredible amount of stress lifted off my shoulders. Next was to close the online store. We were doing well with it, but it was added stress.
Once I trimmed the original “extras”, it was time to look more inward. I started acupuncture and meditation. Deepak Chopra and Oprah provide some great FREE online 21-day meditation challenges that always focus on exactly what I needed at the time. Acupuncture, to me, is better than a massage. I was finally able to relax.
Along the way I also learned that I had to walk away from people in my life who proved to be a negative force. Eliminating toxic relationships was a huge step. It wasn’t an easy one, but it was necessary, and it was something I didn’t feel I needed to apologize for. I had to protect my own health and my family’s future.
Another part of that protection plan was a move to Colorado for a less stressful life. My husband and I had decided that when we moved, I would stay at home with the kids. The move did not go according to plan, so I ended up teaching in Colorado and the numbness soon followed. An MRI verified active lesions which meant that after all I had done to that point, I had not yet reduced enough stress and there was only one thing left to do. I had to quit teaching. My husband had found a job and we were blessed to be in a position that we could make it on one income for the time being.
After 13 years of teaching, I left a job that I loved. What I found was a job that I loved even more. I was “just a mom.” After spending all of my energy on other peoples’ children and having nothing left for my own kids at the end of the day, I finally was able to focus on my kids with all of my energy. I was volunteering in their classrooms on a very regular basis and I loved it, their teachers loved it, and our kids loved it.
All of a sudden there was a feeling of peace in our home like we’d never had before. We were always a fun loving family (when we had time for it), but to not have to rush through life and to be able to live in the moment and actually enjoy it, was a new concept for us. A follow-up MRI two years after the previous one showed no active lesions, no new lesions, and the lesions I did have were smaller or had disappeared completely.
Mission accomplished. I continue my acupuncture, meditation, volunteering at school, and I remain selective of those with whom I spend my time. A positive outlook goes a long way.
Do you notice a connection between stress and MS? How do you eliminate stress from your life?
Andrea is a former elementary school teacher turned stay at home mom. She has been diagnosed for ten years and has never taken any MS medications (minus a few Copaxone injections). She writes the blog MS Changed My Life.