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Five ways to embrace the change of seasons with MS

By Matt Cavallo

"To everything - turn, turn, turn, there is a season - turn, turn, turn, and a time to every purpose under heaven”, sang the Bryds in their chart topping 1965 hit Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season).

For those of us living with MS, there is a season to capitalize on change and that time is now. As the calendar turns from summer to fall, those of us with MS welcome the cooler temperatures. The heat and humidity of summer have passed and hopefully, so have the pseudo-exacerbations (brief flare-ups) associated with the summer heat. Embracing change means being prepared for it, as well. The following are strategies to help you make the most of the change of seasons:

Get outside – Now that the heat has subsided, it is time for us to emerge from our summerlong cocoon. Low-impact exercises like walking or bike riding become easier when you don’t have to fight the blistering sun. If you are having trouble with mobility, sit outside and enjoy the fresh air. Research shows that being outside and breathing fresh air increases energy in 90 percent of people. Even if MS has you down and unable to move like you used to, just getting outside and breathing fresh air can help you feel revitalized.

Resist eating temptations – Fall and Winter have a ton of festive eating opportunities. Every store I go into now has the smell of delicious pumpkin spice. Deserts and candies are strategically placed on every aisle. Binge eating opportunities like sugary Halloween candy, Thanksgiving dinner and all the holiday parties, provide lots of yummy food and treats but also provide many opportunities for us to overeat. With all this temptation how do you keep your diet in check? Here are three things to consider:
  • Eat three meals a day. Remember that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you choose to skip breakfast, you run the risk of overeating later on in the day.
  • If you are hungry in between meals, enjoy a healthy snack like fruits or vegetables. Remember most of the sweet treats of the season are loaded with sugar and carbohydrates, both of which are known to cause inflammation. Inflammation is the enemy of MS, so making healthy snack choices will help your overall energy level
  • Drink plenty of water. Did you know that your mind can confuse dehydration for hunger? Often times if you feel hungry and have a glass of water, you will not feel hungry anymore. Staying properly hydrated can help you manage your calorie intake.

Winterize – The change in seasons brings a change in weather. Rain and snow in fall and winter can lead to an increased risk of falls. It is a good idea to do some fall housekeeping. Change your air filters to reduce allergens that you breathe around your living space. Safeguard your entrance and exits with mats to absorb moisture and reduce fall risk. Make sure your shoes have good treads to provide more grip on slippery floors and sidewalks. Stock up on the supplies you need to weather any storm that hits, so that you don’t have to run out during a storm.

Don’t be SAD – In a previous article, I wrote how Season Affective Disorder (SAD) presents that same kind of symptoms that are common in MS. Symptoms like fatigue, sleep disorders and mood swings are common with SAD. Also, check your vitamin D levels and look into light therapy.

Managing stress – It can’t be overstated that stress is the enemy. However, fall and winter months can increase stress from increased holiday parties, financial expenses and family obligations, especially if you aren’t feeling your best because of MS. Be careful not to overextend yourself with commitments. Manage your calendar to make the events you can and skip the ones you can’t. Communicate to your friends and family any difficulties your MS may pose to make scheduled events. Most importantly take time for yourself to relax and embrace the seasons as they turn.

The turning of seasons forces change upon us that can bring a unique set of challenges for those of us living with MS. Getting outside, resisting the eating temptations, winterizing your dwelling and wardrobe and managing stress can help you capitalize on the change of seasons. Don’t be SAD that the season is changing. Embrace the cooler temperatures and get out there and make the most of it.