We all know what the word “priority” means. When living with MS, our priorities are focused on managing symptoms. Making time for activities that bring joy, fulfillment and improve our quality of life are neglected and moved aside. When this happens, life becomes imbalanced. Of course, taking care of your health is a priority. But incorporating other activities of interest will improve your health and well-being.
The first step is to discern your priorities. Priorities are different for everyone. Family, work, friends, fitness, money, faith and leisure are some common examples. A priority is something we feel is very important to us; something we value stronger than other activities.
For example, it can be as basic as keeping a simple daily routine, taking a shower or making your bed. On another level, it may mean going to the health club three times a week, spending more time with family and friends, or playing an instrument as a hobby. What are your priorities? What motivates you? What drives your day, creating more joy and energy?
When thinking of your priorities, it's important to consider how well they align with your partner or family priorities. Can you perform them together? Can you make time in your day that doesn’t interfere with family/work responsibilities that is just your time?
We can probably determine our priorities, yet fitting them into our days may not be that easy. Also, activities that were once of interest now may be challenging to do, and letting go of some interests may seem easier than pursuing them. Don’t give up. Consider the following strategies to assist you in incorporating your priorities into your days, fostering a more joy-filled, balanced life.
Manage your time by following a schedule. Write your daily plan down, limiting your time spent on each activity, and plug in time for your priorities. It's important to consider what your priorities are, what activities are less important and can wait for another day, and what activities can be delegated to others. The most important activities should be performed when you have the most energy. Are there any activities that you are performing that no longer serve you? Sometimes we do things in our daily life that are really because of habit. Be willing to change, let go and simplify your routine.
Organization is essential, and if it is not your strong suite, be open to assistance. Remember, performing fewer things well, is more satisfying than performing many things not so well.
Adaptive equipment are tools that make activities easier to perform and increase independence. For instance, enlarged handles on utensils make holding a fork easier and eating less daunting if hands are weak or your coordination is challenged. Using a walking device saves energy and assists balance so going to the theater, for example, becomes more of a pleasure versus a trial. Adaptive tools improve your ability to perform activities, making you more independent and less dependent on others.
Develop resources. The National MS Society and Can Do MS are excellent resources to deepen your knowledge and educate you on resources for every topic related to MS. Almost everywhere communities offer services that “do the work for you,” like grocery delivery and transportation services. Can a neighbor high school student assist with home management tasks for a small fee? Or how about a college student in the medical field, wanting experience and volunteer hours? Letting go of some of these daily activities can free you up to perform more important ones.
If the suggestions above make sense, yet you have more questions or could benefit from more assistance, consider seeing an occupational therapist or another rehabilitation specialist. Talk to your doctor who will guide you in the process.
Living with MS is about finding solutions. Use your creativity to remove obstacles. Empowering yourself with resources, and accepting people’s assistance and services will make your life easier. This allows you to freedom to do more of the activities that you want to do. Try something new like volunteering. Remind yourself that having fun is essential to your health and wellness! You are in control when you're having fun. Stay in control. The quality of your life depends on it.