March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, and MSAA has dedicated this year’s campaign to Improving Mental Health and Wellness. As part of the 2021 campaign, MSAA surveyed My MSAA Community members about their experiences with sleep, staying connected, diet and exercise, and self-care. Throughout the month, we will be posting results of the survey along with insights and tips from leading MS neurologists on each topic.
Our final topic from this series is: The Importance of Self-Care. To provide helpful context in the questionnaire, MSAA listed self-care examples as a hobby/activity one enjoys; finding time to relax/unwind, socializing, meditation/mindfulness, etc.
Of those who responded to the survey, nearly 25% felt they lacked sufficient time to care for themselves physically or emotionally during the past six months. Significant factors contributing to the barriers that interfered with self-care included feeling overwhelmed or unmotivated (74%), being unsure of what to do/how to start (48%), and financial restrictions (26%). Additionally, nearly 60% of respondents stated these feelings moderately to severely impacted their overall quality of life.
Understanding the vital role self-care plays in one’s mental and physical health, MSAA asked MS expert Mitzi Joi Williams, MD to share her insights on this critically important wellness topic. According to Dr. Williams, “Self-care is a concept that is being brought to the forefront of our society in recent times. We often spend so much time pursuing our goals and caring for others that we don’t take time to care for ourselves. The interruption of our regular routines by the global pandemic has provided us with extra time to pause and evaluate needed changes to our hectic lifestyles.”
“A good first step to increasing one’s self-care is to Make Yourself A Priority. The old adage is true - if you don’t care for yourself, you can’t care well for anyone else. Allowing yourself time to recharge and renew will improve your strength and stamina to fulfill your other responsibilities. As the world continues to open up, consider not returning to the extreme hustle and bustle, but continuing to carve out times for yourself.”
“I also recommend that people Be Creative! Although many of us are still limited in the types of activities we can pursue due to the pandemic, we can look for new or creative ways to find enjoyment. Instead of going to the spa or to that live concert, consider a walk outside, reading a new book, or picking up a new hobby. Additional self-care routines which were mentioned by survey respondents include talking, meditation, and exercise.”
“Finally, it’s so important to work on Overcoming Your Personal Barriers. The mind and body are connected. If we can’t care for ourselves because we feel overwhelmed or being unsure of what to do, reach out to your medical team for suggestions. Partnering with mental health providers to discuss your needs and helpful strategies to find the needed time and activities you enjoy should help you achieve greater self-care. Also, please consider connecting with others in the MS community and your support structure to help you in this endeavor. It will be well worth the effort!”
MSAA would like to thank Drs. Mitzi Joi Williams and Annette Okai for participating in our new “Insights from MS Experts” series as part of the MS Awareness Month campaign and sharing their knowledge and helpful strategies on ways to improve mental health and wellness. We invite you to explore additional information on this topic by visiting our MS Awareness Month hub page via the following link:
Thank you and take care!
- John, MSAA