Multiple sclerosis has been compared to an iceberg because 90 percent of the disease activity may be hiding under the surface and not visible to the naked eye. This is especially true with cognition and fatigue. If your energy levels are low or your memory becomes foggy, doing even simple daily chores and activities can be more challenging.
The key is to work smarter, not harder to make every day more manageable. Whether it is at your job or around your living space, maintaining your independence while living with MS has to do with managing your symptoms, having a plan and staying on track. If your memory becomes foggy or your fatigue is too much to bear, then you’ll start to feel overwhelmed. Once you feel overwhelmed, you get trapped in a cycle that is very hard to break. Avoid getting stuck in a negative cycle by following these tips for streamlining your daily activities so you can stay on a positive track without feeling overwhelmed.
Here are five tips to keep you on track without feeling overwhelmed:
- Acknowledge when you are feeling overwhelmed. This is hard, especially the sense of pride that comes with being counted on for completing tasks. When you start to find that things are no longer coming easy to you, then you have to admit it so that you can address the issue.
- Organization is the key. If you are not completing tasks because you are having memory issues, then organize you living or work space so that everything has a place. Designate locations for everything from your mail to your wallet and keys. This will save you time, energy and frustration from searching for lost items.
- Make a list and check it twice. Make to-do lists of everything that you have to do and cross it off as you complete tasks. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and ensure that you are completing everything you set out to do. Also, if you are having a hard time recalling whether or not you completed a task, refer to the list.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself. Complete urgent and most important tasks first and then the others when you are capable. You may not have energy to clean the entire house but could clean a couple of rooms at a time. Always allow yourself to rest when needed and give yourself permission to leave the list unfinished. Be flexible and accept your limits. Allow yourself time to recuperate when you have participated in a draining activity.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The three hardest words are: I need help. Whether you live with someone who can help or need assistance from outside of the house, you’ll find that once you ask, someone will be happy to help you. Because the symptoms of MS are not always visible, asking for help allows you to have a conversation about what you are going through with friends and loved ones.
Getting on track and staying on track is a key to maintaining your independence with MS. Managing your symptoms with complementary strategies – such as keeping a list – will ensure you stay on task. Acknowledging these deficits, staying organized and setting proper expectations will also help you accomplish everyday tasks without wearing yourself out.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Do not wait until all else fails. You don’t want to end up overwhelmed or stressed when someone could have helped you avoid it. Following these strategies will keep you on task and streamline your daily activities to help you feel a sense of accomplishment despite the challenges of MS.
**This was written for MS Focus Magazine and originally posted at the following link: http://msfocusmagazine.org/Exclusive-Content/Article?itemid=325. Please visit MS Focus Magazine for this and other great articles about living with MS.**