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Attitude 2 - Manage Stress

manageStressWe think of stress as a bad thing, but a little bit of ‘positive’ stress can go a long way, motivating you to attain your goals and meet daily challenges.

Well-managed stress supports you through challenge and change, making you more resilient and better equipped for whatever life throws at you.

Stress in the short term can enhance memory function, but stress has another face too. Poorly managed, chronic stress and persistently high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can impair memory function and impact negatively on the size, structure and function of your brain.

This means that managing the stressors in your life and – crucially – your response to them is critical if you want to optimise your health. The life choices that you make not only influence how well your brain functions now but also how resilient it will be as you progress through life with MS.

Stressors can be very individual. What stresses you, might excite someone else. Switching your perspective and finding your stress ‘sweet spot’ can help to carry you through.

Physical stressors like illness and pain can cause the release of stress hormones. You can also experience psychological stress if you perceive that the demands placed on you exceed your ability to cope.

Chronic stress contributes to damage and wasting in the hippocampus, the sea-horse shaped bit of the brain responsible for making memories.

While forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating or thinking in a logical sequence or needing longer to process information could be a consequence of MS, these could also be cognitive symptoms of stress. Other cognitive symptoms of stress include a racing mind, worrying or negative thinking. Discuss any concerns that you have with your medical team, but if stress is the culprit then managing it may not only alleviate these cognitive symptoms but also benefit your health and emotional wellbeing.

Feeling forgetful?

Forgot something? Absentmindedness is a common sign of stress.

Stress interferes with our ability to learn and remember and can affect our ability to remember to do things in the future, like taking regular medication or meeting a friend for lunch.

Stress can also affect our concentration and sleep. In turn, sleep disturbance and impaired concentration can then reduce our memory function.

Find your personal stress sweet spot

Be excited

Life would be boring and static without challenge, uncertainty and novelty – what would life be like if we didn’t go on that first date, attend that job interview, sing at karaoke, or make that speech? Stress is a natural part of living. It keeps us motivated and allows us to adapt to change and to become more resilient.

If we manage our stress and stressors well by preparing properly and seeking support when we need it, then stressful events can be an opportunity for personal growth and achievement.

We still feel the fear and often want to flee, but when we come out the other side we reap the rewards, we feel invigorated, alive, proud – we can also look back on and learn from the experience.

A small shift in perspective from fear to excitement can make a huge difference.

So next time you get that wobbly feeling in your gut, try naming it excitement rather than stress – the feelings are almost identical.

Its your choice, and remember courage grows out of fear.

Be realistic

Be sensible about what you and those around you can achieve. Recognise when good enough is better than perfect. Keep a diary to identify your own personal stress triggers and identify and avoid people who feed your stress.

Be practical

We all know what its like to frantically search for our keys in the morning – it’s just another stressor on top of a long list of stressors that you can do without when you are already running late.

Simple things like making a single place for the important objects you reach for in your life can help reduce stress. Create a place for your keys, wallet, phone, swipe card, driver’s licence etc. and be absolutely disciplined about always putting them in that place when you come home. No more mad panics in the morning.

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Hello Brain For more info on brain health visit Hello Brain


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