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Managing Your Multiple Sclerosis

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This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the Healthgrades advertising policy.

8 Self-Care Tips for Women With Multiple Sclerosis

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Evelyn Creekmore on December 21, 2021
  • overhead view of smiling african american woman wearing sunglasses relaxing on outdoor blanket with purse and headphones
    Self-Care for Women With MS
    Did you know that four times as many women as men have multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune condition that can harm the central nervous system? Estrogen and pregnancy may play a role, but the exact reasons why women are more prone than men haven’t been identified. If you have MS, it’s important to take care of yourself so you can stay healthy and continue juggling life with a chronic illness. Put yourself first. You don’t have to do it all at once. Just start taking some small steps.

  • Woman sitting on bed holding coffee cup
    1. Learn what you need.
    Many women are so busy meeting everyone else’s needs, they don’t even know what their own needs are. Check in with yourself throughout the day to see what, if anything, is missing in a given moment. Maybe you need a break, a bite to eat, or an extra set of hands. Whatever it is, try to make it happen. By checking in with yourself frequently, you can begin to notice patterns and take note of larger ways you may require support. Self-care can be challenging at first, but the more you practice it, the easier it will get. You may find yourself wishing you’d begun years ago.

  • Woman writing in journal
    2. Play by new rules.
    Many of us have a set of unwritten rules we live by. For many women, these can include: never breaking a social commitment, always attending the kids’ events, working till the work is done, squeezing in as much as we can, and being there for a friend whenever and wherever asked. These aren’t great rules, but they are great goals–if you pick and choose a few important ones. You don’t have to hit them every time to the point where you’re completely stressed out–especially because stress can make MS symptoms worse. Give yourself some flexibility and set expectations with those around you. No one can be everything to everyone, and pushing for an unreachable goal may only lead to frustration and resentment. Accept your capabilities and applaud yourself for doing your best.

  • Diverse young friends or roommates enjoying breakfast together at home
    3. Do some social spring cleaning.
    Many women hang on to outgrown relationships out of loyalty alone. Historical attachments can feel strong, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for you now. Living with MS is one way to filter out the people who don’t support you in the ways you need. If old friends continue to downplay your health needs or keep expecting you to be the person you were before your diagnosis, it might be time to phase them out of your life. You may try to have an honest conversation with them about your needs in the relationship, but if they don’t respond well or keep adding stress, it’s time to let them go. With MS, you don’t need to deal with people and situations that are negative and tense. Surround yourself with fans and people who bring you up, not down. Confronting someone about your relationship can be difficult and uncomfortable, but advocating for yourself and prioritizing your wellness is worth the temporary discomfort.

  • african-american-woman-sleeping
    4. Take solid steps to sweet, sweet sleep.
    Sleep is key for everyone, but especially for people with chronic illnesses like MS. Unfortunately, more than 50% of people living with MS also have restless legs syndrome (RLS), a “creepy crawly” feeling in the legs that makes it hard to sleep. Some people also have leg spasms or find they have to get up often in the night to go to the bathroom. Let your doctor know if you’re having sleep problems. They can be treated as part of your overall MS healthcare plan. Your doctor may even be able to add a sleep specialist to your healthcare team.

  • Woman chopping kale on kitchen counter
    5. Eat for energy and attitude.
    There isn’t a specific list of foods you should or shouldn’t eat with MS, but it can help to decrease fat in your diet and increase vitamins and fiber. Lean into a heart-healthy diet with lots of fruit and green leafy vegetables. These choices help regulate bowel movements and tend to improve energy level and outlook. Ask your doctor about talking with a registered dietitian or nutritionist who can help you plan menus and adopt strategies for sticking to them.

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  • Woman freestyling in pool
    6. Lighten up with exercise.
    Regular exercise can energize you, improve mobility, reduce pain, and boost your mood. It can also help you sleep better. Many women with MS benefit from low-impact activities like water aerobics, swimming, yoga, or Tai chi. Ask your doctor before you start a new exercise program and don’t push yourself too hard. You want to get the benefits of exercise without hurting yourself. Start as small as you need to and work your way up with your doctor’s guidance.

  • Young African American woman dining at restaurant smiling
    7. Try to keep your sense of humor.
    Are you surprised to learn that the idea that laughter is the best medicine is actually based in science? Humor is powerful, positively impacting how we think, feel, and act. Humor shifts our perspective and interrupts negative, harmful thought patterns. It can take the edge off the stress, anger, and sadness that often come with a chronic condition like MS. Spend a little time each day looking for comic relief online or in the world around you.

  • smiling woman waving at laptop in the middle of a video conference call
    8. Get extra help when you need it.
    It can be hard to ask for help, but for all of us, there are times when we really need it. Look into getting assistance with daily tasks, from grocery shopping to house cleaning. During an MS flare-up, don’t be reluctant to ask a neighbor or friend to run an errand or take the kids for an afternoon. People want to help. There are many resources available to women with MS, from support groups to one-on-one counseling to solo meditation, breathing, and mindfulness. Think about what you’d like to try and start the conversation with your doctor. If you have a caregiver, consider involving them in your self-care activities, too. It can be easier and more comfortable to try new self-care strategies with someone else who can benefit, too.

Women With MS | Self-Care Tips

About The Author

Evelyn Creekmore has more than 15 years of experience writing online educational health content, including nearly 10 years full-time at WebMD, where she was the director of brand content. She holds an MPH in Applied Public Health Informatics from Emory University Rollins School of Public Health and an MA from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
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Last Review Date: 2021 Dec 16
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.