For people with MS, energy is truly a precious resource. We know that someone affected by this disease will tire much more easily in all areas – physically, mentally, and emotionally. We have witnessed encouraging results when we ask our patients to view energy as a vital and limited resource, which requires you to work smarter, not harder. You will learn to be an excellent advocate for yourself.
Especially for patients who are high-achievers, the temptation is to push themselves harder once they notice how MS is slowing them down. We try to teach them that maxing out their bodies and minds will only backfire. The key to sustained energy and productivity is to actually slow down and be more strategic about how you spend your limited energy stores. That may mean pacing yourself, resting more, eating regularly and making time for the activities that emotionally restore you– such as a favorite hobby, lunch with a friend or time with grandchildren. We work with you to schedule your days so you are shouldering the heaviest cognitive load in the morning, when you brain is rested and your executive functioning is best.
Besides energy management, we find ways to compensate for the mental functions blunted by MS. This might mean new tools to help you plan, initiate new tasks, and follow through. It could mean creating micro-steps to break down overwhelming tasks, pacing yourself to avoid exhaustion, employing strategies to decrease distractions, learning to monotask and trying out other tips to “do life” with less effort.
We also find practical approaches to help you stick to your MS treatment team’s guidelines. Are you forgetting to take your medication because you keep waking up at 4:00 a.m. and are so exhausted? Are you overdoing household chores, then feeling frustrated when you are too tired for an appointment or event? How can we remedy that? As MS affects executive functioning, which in turn rules self-awareness, you may not be as attuned as you once were or just notice too late what the core problem is and what you really need to do to feel better. Patients learn to ask themselves: “Am I getting too tired to start another project right now? What are my first signs of fatigue? Where should I reschedule this task in my planner so I have a better chance of successfully completing it?” We can’t make your brain scan look different, but we can make your daily life look so much better.