Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) can leave you with mixed emotions. While you may feel somewhat relieved with finally having an explanation for your symptoms, a diagnosis can also be overwhelming. With an onslaught of medical appointments, treatment, and potentially more time needed to rest, establishing routines can help to integrate MS into your everyday life and limit the impact it has on your precious time.
Here, we talk about the aspects of life with MS that can benefit from routine and why creating routines is important for treatment adherence. We’ll also take a look at tips and advice to help get you started.
Establishing routine can be tricky
We know that it’s not easy to build new habits during what is already a difficult time, and this is only made harder if you’re also juggling work and family life, among other lifestyle pressures. But doing this well could really help you to cope with the added responsibilities that arise during your MS journey – both now and in the future.
Although starting a new routine can be tricky and at first require a conscious effort, it will soon become an accustomed ritual you barely have to think about anymore – much like brushing your teeth!
Routines can be helpful when you’re living with MS
Creating routines can offer a number of benefits when you’re living with MS. Perhaps most importantly, they can help you to stay organised and stay on top of your medical-related responsibilities such as healthcare appointments or treatment. Taking your prescribed medication and staying on it is key for the success of an MS management plan, but it can be difficult to incorporate into your existing lifestyle – particularly when starting treatment for the first time, or changing onto a different treatment.
Whether you have to attend hospital for your treatment or self-administer at home, it can be difficult to remember when your treatment is required and carve the time needed out of your day. Getting into a regular habit of taking your medication and/or attending your appointments in a way that compliments your lifestyle will help you to avoid missed doses and appointments without disrupting your life.
Establishing routines can also help you to better manage day-to-day life with MS more generally. You might find that parts of your life such as your diet, meal schedule, sleep, exercise, and work would benefit from a new routine. For example, a more controlled balance of rest and work could help to limit fatigue and improve your performance. There’s also no harm in allowing an element of flexibility in these routines to account for a bad spell of symptoms. You shouldn’t let any setback leave you feeling guilty. Simply settle back into your routines when you’re able to.
As we’ve already spoken about, getting into the rhythm of a new routine can be hard. So we’ve compiled a small number of tips to help you on your way. Here are a few ideas that could help you when trying to build useful habits into your daily life:
Use functions on your phone, tablet, or smart speaker to set regular reminders. Whether it be your MS treatment or healthcare appointment, a reminder to go to bed or drink more water, setting these alarms will mean you never fall out of routine due to a lapse in memory.
Write your management plan on a calendar
Keep on top of all your healthcare appointments and treatment doses by writing them on a calendar or in your diary. If you check them every day, you will always be reminded of any MS-related responsibilities on any particular day.
Pair new habits with other tasks
If you self-administer your MS treatment at home, trying associating your treatment with another task. Brushing your teeth, for example, is a task you do everyday without fail. So if your treatment needs to be taken once a day, try taking it every morning at the same time you brush your teeth – this way, it should become routine that you take your medication at the same time you brush your teeth. This also applies to other behaviours you’re attempting to turn into habits, such as exercise, eating a healthy snack, or going to your daily walk.
Remember. Methods that work well for one person may not be suitable for another. It’s all about figuring out what works best for you and your current commitments and lifestyle. Don’t beat yourself up if you lose focus and fall out of your routines. It happens to everyone, especially when our minds are preoccupied with other thoughts. Just do your best to get back on track and stick with them, as they will put you in good stead for the rest of your journey with MS.
James Clear – How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science). Available at: https://jamesclear.com/new-habit. Last accessed: January 2022.