How to Have a Healthier Outlook Living with MS
In the year 2000, Andrea Hanson was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at the age of 22. At this point in her life, something started a rebellious spark in her. “People started telling me what would happen to me and what I couldn't do anymore, and I remember thinking it was ridiculous” recalled Hanson. Still, she didn’t let other people’s thoughts and opinions slow her down. Since MS is an autoimmune disease that leads to nerve damage, thus causing problems with mobility, Hanson jumped at the chance to start running, do martial arts, and begin a demanding career in finance. Her reaction to her diagnosis was anything but normal. “A lot of people go into fearful mode. MS is an unpredictable and variable disease, and it's unknown at the outset if you'll wind up in a wheelchair or have a fairly manageable course,” said Lauren Strober, clinical neuropsychologist and senior research scientist at the Kessler Foundation.
MS’s damage to the nerves may also cause blurry vision, while the damage to the brain tissue may lead to difficulty concentrating, memory loss, and depression. “More than 50 percent of people with MS will have a depressive episode sometime in their life after an MS diagnosis. It's more likely if you were more susceptible to depression before your MS diagnosis” said John DeLuca, neuropsychologist and senior vice president for research and training at the Kessler Foundation.
The various challenges of MS can be overwhelming and stress associated with such challenges can trigger MS relapses. “The first four years were really tough. I was under a lot of stress from my job, my lifestyle and my inability to deal with my emotions. I had a lot of relapses” said Hanson. She did not want to give up her “you can do it” attitude, although she knew that she had to make a few changes in her life and learn to control her emotional and mental approach to MS.
Today, Hanson is a life coach in New Castle, Colorado. She has written books on the mindset associated with MS and she travels around the United States participating in workshops. “Most people with MS keep their old mindset. They want to take action and gather information, and they make all of these plans. But it trips them up because there are so many conflicting opinions out there. You don't know whom to believe. It can turn quickly into a lack of control” she said. Hanson has helped a number of individuals develop a positive mindset by using various standards. “Being positive is not about being happy all the time. It doesn't always look like a smile. It can look like you're empowered, determined, strong and putting your beliefs in something that works at the moment” she said.
Read on for some of Hanson's lifestyle tips and habits for a healthy outlook.