Relapse Recovery Toolkit
5 Step MS Relapse Recovery Plan
I recently wrote about rebooting after an MS relapse. After I do a reboot, I need to go about recovering and rebuilding. Today I’d like to share my relapse recovery plan with you. Including tips for managing energy levels, meal planning and self care.
Plan your day
When you have Multiple Sclerosis (MS), like many other chronic illnesses, you are working with a limited energy reserve. Many of you have probably heard of spoon theory which explains this concept very well.
The very first lesson I learnt from the wonderful MS nurses at the MS Society was to budget my energy (spoons). This is where planning ahead is vital. I can allocate time for activities and plan time for rests and breaks…ann important thing to do.
I’m all about apps, and at the moment I’m using an app called Doo. It creates an illustrated ‘to do’ card, each day your cards are put in a stack which you can then complete one by one. I like this approach as you can just focus on one thing at a time, so you don’t get too overwhelmed. You can reorder your stack and snooze activities for another day. If I have a card I can’t get to because I’m not feeling well, I can snooze it for when I’m feeling better.
Meal Planning is another important part of coping with my relapses because I can get too tired to even think about what to eat sometimes. Especially when I have a bad case of Brain Fog.
Sitting down and making a meal plan can sometimes end up using up all your spoons. This may sound unappealing. The problem is you need a nutritional diet to maintain your energy levels, so it’s worthwhile spending the time on it. I use some shortcuts such as ready-made meal plans which are available in magazines or Pinterest.
My nutritionist recommended Australian Healthy Food Guide to help me with meal planning. This publication provides quick, low-cost recipes created by nutritionists. Recipes are made for four people, so I end up with plenty of leftovers for the week which significantly cuts down my need for cooking overall.
I also use a meal delivery service for when I’m too fatigued to cook. I use a nutritionist based program called Hit 100 and readers in Australia can use their NDIS funding for this service (if their plan allows).
I also keep pre-portioned servings of proteins such as marinated meats, as well as frozen veggies for steaming so I could cook up something quick and easy.
Yoga is something that I talk about a lot because it’s just so effective for my MS symptoms. It relieves my aches and pains, keeps my mental wellbeing in check and boosts my energy levels.
I plan at least 15 minutes of stretching yoga in the morning. A morning stretch routine is the best for me as it’s all floor-based as I can struggle with standing poses and sun salutations. Even when I have very little energy, I know that I can at least get through this routine.
Yoga is also a very accessible form of exercise with chair yoga routines available for those with limited mobility.
I prescribe myself a healthy dose of self-care even when I’m well, but during a relapse, self-care is like oxygen. Once again this is where having a daily plan comes in handy. If I make time for some self-care, I find I can regain back some of the spoons I used up earlier in the day. The secret is to split up your self-care and recovery time throughout your day. If you overdo it and end up with a spoon deficit, then it’s tough to regain your energy. I find I need a much longer recovery period.
Countless articles show that exercise is beneficial for combatting MS-related fatigue. When I was first diagnosed and was feeling the effects of fatigue, the concept of exercising when I felt unwell sounded absurd. My body was tired, and in pain, my instinct was to lay down and have a nap, but that never made my fatigue any better. After reaching rock bottom, I decided, ok I’m going to give this exercise thing a go. Now I go for walks with my dog or go to the park with friends. If that is too much, then I would do another short afternoon yoga session.
Now, I’ll be completely honest with you. Many days I feel I can’t do anything at all because of my fatigue, and that’s ok. Self-acceptance is the final ingredient in fighting your way back after a relapse. I used to be all or nothing and just give up on my plan completely if I didn’t do everything I had intended to. I never achieved any gains that way. Now when I make a plan, even though I rarely manage to complete everything on it, I do it so I can look back and reflect on the things I did do, and approach tomorrow knowing that, bit by bit, I am getting there.
Through these interventions, I can begin to make improvements to my overall health and combat the effects this relapse has had on my body. Even if my MRI shows no new or active lesions, which is great, doing these things will help me improve my health overall.