Many of us are so busy taking care of the one’s we love that we forget to stop and take a minute for ourselves. Self-care is more than just keeping up with your regular doctors’ visits. It’s about putting in the time and effort to maintain your mental, emotional, and physical health.
It can be as simple as checking in with yourself regularly, noticing how you feel and responding by taking small actions. If you’re tired, take a break. If you feel stressed, do some meditation. Remove things from your life that make you unhappy and make more time for the things that do make you happy. Eat well, exercise and get a good night’s sleep.
Taking this time for yourself is not selfish, these are just basic human needs that most of us simply aren’t giving enough of our time and attention to.
Getting a good night’s sleep
If your MS symptoms interfere with a good night’s sleep you could find yourself feeling depressed, irritable and struggling to concentrate.
While there is no hard and fast rule to getting to sleep faster, there are things you can do to create the right conditions for sleep – both in our minds and in our environment. This is called ‘Sleep Hygiene’ and it’s all about creating good sleep habits for a long-term solution to sleep difficulties.
Try these tips for better sleep:
- Only try to sleep when you actually feel tired or sleepy.
- Keep a regular daily routine when possible by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day. Even on weekends.
- Wind down before bed with mindfulness or a hot bath.
- If you haven’t been able to get to sleep after about 20 minutes or more, get up and sit in a quiet, dark room somewhere, not doing anything, until you feel sleepy again.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine for at least four-six hours before bedtime.
- Avoid napping during the day if you can. But if you do need a nap make sure it’s for less than an hour and before 3pm.
- Regular exercise can help with good sleep but try not to do strenuous exercise in the four hours before bedtime.
- A healthy, balanced diet will help you to sleep well. A warm glass of milk before bed is a natural sleep inducer.
Practicing mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness is a great tool to help you relieve stress at any time, day or night. It has also been shown to have many benefits for people with MS. It can help reduce pain, improve cognition, reduce fatigue and even help to improve balance.
Before you start, it’s important to set an intention and ask yourself, what is it that you want to improve? It could be better focus and clarity at work, healthier relationships, managing stress better or adopting a healthier lifestyle.
Then, practice makes it perfect. To actually feel the benefits of mindfulness, you have to make it a regular practice. Starting small, with just five minutes, can give you a great place to begin. Think of it as a time you get totally for you in your day. A moment to not feel stress, just to relax.
So, what’s really going on here? Mindfulness is about being completely present in the moment, fully aware of yourself and your surroundings. It’s helpful to think of the meditation part as highly specific training for being more present at all times of your life.
Try this simple mindfulness practice:
- Sit in a comfortable position, ideally in a quiet space.
- Breathe deeply for a few breaths, in and out through your nose.
- Allow your breath to settle into its natural rhythm and focus on only the sensations of breathing; if thoughts arise, notice them, but then direct your focus back to your breath.
- Set a timer. Start with just 1 minute and gradually increase the duration.
Sources: National MS Society USA, MS Focus Magazine; Simpson et al, Mindfulness based interventions in multiple sclerosis, BMC Neurology 2014; Sleep Health Foundation, Facts About Sleep, fact sheet; Centre for Clinical Interventions, Sleep Hygiene, fact sheet.
Article Source: MS Society SA & NT. Read more here.