1. Take a warm bath
As someone with MS, I am often dissuaded from anything warm. Heat tends to slow down your neurons, and if your neurological system is impaired this can cause issues to appear. The good thing (as pointed out by my neurologist) is that any symptoms that may reappear or get worse because of the heat will probably go away after time. Several decades ago doctors used the hot bath method to help diagnose MS because they would see a worsening of symptoms after a warm bath. For me, a warm bath may make me weaker and more lethargic, but sometimes on a cold winter day those feelings will help me snuggle up on my bed. Being weak and lethargic are pretty close to relaxation for me!
2. Give yourself a mani and/or a pedi
Spa treatments are the ultimate in relaxation. Unfortunately, they can also be pretty expensive. Fortunately, you can fake an expensive treatment and still get the relaxation benefits. For especially rough times, soak your hand or feet in warm soapy water. Make sure it smells pleasant for you. If you have a favorite essential oil or even extract, add a few drops. Be gentle with yourself while you dry off. Then take time to rub nice lotion into your now clean appendages. If it helps, try some healing or muscle ache lotions. If you need to, lay down to do this. Pamper yourself and get relaxation out of it! If you want, and are the type, paint your toenails or fingernails too and feel especially pampered. If you are like me and have a tendency to be shaky thus painting as much of your fingers and toes as your nails, do the painting before the soaking and lotioning, and your polish may come right off of your skin. If not, it is no big deal. Your polish is pretty anyway, right?
3. Call your girlfriend
This is more than just the name of a podcast that I love. Sometimes when you feel overwhelmed, the best way to get back to earth is to talk to someone who may be able to hear or see the stress in you. Take time out to not think about all the things you have to do or all the pressure that you feel. Share a giggle or a guffaw and reset. If you need a reason to call, you can tell this joke: What is orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot! Then: What is loud and sounds like apple? (Say it loudly) Apple! That should start your conversation on the right foot!
4. Give yourself permission to relax
This probably should have been my first suggestion, because without this, none of the others will work. You have to know and agree that it is okay to ignore the things that cause you stress. There is no reason that this time which should be about friendship and love should cause you tension. It is okay and even great to only do what you are capable of, and to only expect that of yourself. Remember that this time is your holiday time too, and you deserve to enjoy it as much as anyone!
5. Dress in layers
This may seem foolish, but I got the idea from the pet store. They have these jackets for dogs and cats that hug them tightly so they stress less about storms. People can and should often do the same. Wrap yourself in comfortable, warm clothes to simulate that loving, hug feeling. Others that deal with MS may be too familiar with the MS Hug, A tight sensation around the abdomen and chest. We definitely want to avoid that feeling, so make sure that whatever clothing you wrap yourself in is comfortable. Likewise, if it is warm where you are you don’t want to dehydrate yourself. Just make sure that you are surrounded with love and comfort even if you have to give it to yourself!
You are breathing every second of every day, but you are probably not thinking about what this automatic action is doing for you. If you think about breathing, you can probably break down the science of moving oxygen into your lungs and moving carbon dioxide out. Concentrating on your breath can also help you clear your mind and focus your body. There are several apps available on smart phones and the web to help you meditate. Every app that I have listened to brings up focusing on your breath as a primary way to get into the meditative state. Breathe in and breathe out. As you breathe in, feel the air flow into your lungs and notice how your chest expands. As you breathe out, feel your body relax and see your chest and stomach sink in. Use time that you can not do much else anyway to focus on breathing. When you are on the commode or sitting in a car, you can train your mind to use the time to help relax.
Stretching is one of the first things any kind of athletic trainer will encourage. Before exercise you must stretch to lessen a chance of injury. For a person with a chronic illness that may affect your abilities, stretching is one way to wake your body up and give it the love it deserves. It usually isn’t easy for us to sit on the floor and contort our aching bodies into positions that maximize our stretching. That is okay, because that doesn’t have to be what stretching is. First, you can stretch any where at any time and for any length of time. I like to stretch first thing when I wake up. I don’t even move from my bed. I can move my arms above my head as I lay awake, and point my toes at the end of the bed. Make myself as tall as I can – from a prone position of course! I wiggle my fingers and toes and just work on getting my blood to start flowing. You see, again this isn’t taking extra time because I cannot jump immediately from my bed in the mornings anyway!
8. Think of Someone Else
When I start to get overwhelmed by things in my life, it does wonders to get away from whatever is overwhelming me. Unfortunately it is not always possible to physically leave a situation that may be troublesome. It is however possible to take a few minutes to go on a mind vacation. A mind vacation may be a few moments devoted to a different place that you love, but what has been most effective for getting me out of a slump has been volunteering for those less fortunate than myself. Since we are talking about a few minutes, use that time to jot a note of praise to a co-worker or a care-giver. Even just taking a few minutes to remember someone close to us who may be going through a hard time or to think of a story we may have read about how someone in a similar position as us has triumphed is often enough to shake off our personal blahs! Cost is zero, but effect may be priceless.
9. Use the Internet
I would usually not suggest the internet as a haven from stress, but if you use it correctly it certainly can be! Let yourself fall down a rabbit-hole due to something you love. Start broadly by maybe looking up pictures that make you feel good. Cute baby animals always get me in the feels! Try to find more information about your subject by following the various links that you come across. The key to an adventure like this though is to make sure that you click off something as soon as it makes you anything less than happy, and don’t get started if you are on a time crunch because time seems to stop when the internet becomes involved!
I’ve heard that it takes more energy to frown than it does to smile. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that smiles seem to be contagious. If you smile at someone chances are good that they will smile back. It is even impossible to smile at yourself in a mirror without seeing a smile in return! Something I try to keep in mind if that I am not the only person experiencing this frazzling time. I would love it if everyone I passed smiled at me, but I can definitely be that person for them. A stranger on the street doesn’t have to know my life story if they can share a smile with me. If I can cheer them, then I have done a small thing to help cheer myself! So even if your heart down’t feel it, make your face show it and maybe your heart will catch that fire too!