Advertising
Advertising

15 Things To Remember If Your Loved Ones Suffer From Multiple Sclerosis

15 Things To Remember If Your Loved Ones Suffer From Multiple Sclerosis

Has someone important to you been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS)?  This disease can be hard for patients — as well as their family and friends — to live with.  Here are some important things to remember if you love someone with this disease.

1. They Value Their Independence

Many MS patients, as the diseases progresses, can have problems with muscle control and mobility — and everyday tasks like preparing a meal, walking or going to the bathroom can become a challenge.  But they want to maintain their independence and do for themselves for as long as they possibly can.  It is an important part of their dignity.

2. They Live in Hope

MS is a progressive disease and there is no cure for it. However, they do have hope that this might change.  And research is underway around the world to help find eventually find a cure for this difficult disease. And in the meantime, new MS treatments are offering the hope for a better quality of life.

3. They Want to be Acknowledged

As the MS advances, many patients will often become confined to a wheelchair and may have difficulty speaking and some short term memory loss. Oftentimes, other people will feel uncomfortable about this and talk to relatives or doctors as though the patient is not there. People with MS want to be acknowledged and spoken to directly: their IQ is not affected by this disease and they want to be able to communicate just like everyone else.

Advertising

4. They are Not Helpless

People with MS can be empowered to take control of managing their disease through many lifestyle choices.  Diet, for instance, can play an important role in MS management and although it cannot cure the disease, it can help with the health of the immune system and the body in general.

5. They are Not Alone

Over 2.5 million people all around the world live with multiple sclerosis every day.  There are 400,000 in the United States alone and around 200 new people are diagnosed with this disease each week.  Because of its prevalence, there are MS support groups all over the country and many people find that joining a support group and getting connected with other who also struggle with this disease is emotionally helpful.

6. They Have Choices

Many patients with MS are choosing the route of complementary and alternative medicines to help manage with condition. Some will do this along with traditional treatments and some in place of them.  These alternatives include herbal therapy, acupuncture and massage therapy, among others.

7. They Do Not All Have the Same Signs and Symptoms

Multiple sclerosis is not a “one size fits all” disease!  It is different for each person who experiences it. There are four types of multiple sclerosis and each one can be mild, moderate or severe.  Not all people with MS will wind up with walkers or wheelchairs.  Not all will have vision or memory problems, either.

Advertising

8. They Do Not Have a Fatal Disease

Multiple sclerosis is not considered to be a fatal disease. The life expectancy of someone with MS is only 5-10 years less than that of the general population and with new treatments and better understanding of the disease, even that gap is beginning to close. It is important to note, however, that some complications from MS, like pneumonia, can become life-threatening.

9. They have the Same Interests as Everyone Else

People with MS enjoying going out to eat with friends, visiting a park or museum or going to a place of worship — in short, they have much the same interests as everyone else!  While it can take more planning and preparation to do these things with MS, it is still possible and still an enjoyable experience to get out and live life as fully as possible.

10. They Like to Be Active

Don’t assume that because someone has to use a walker or a wheelchair that they have to “rest” or “take it easy” all the time.  Even as the disease progresses, exercise within reason is considered to be beneficial for MS patients and activity in general can help to keep to boost the immune system and help with symptoms like depression.

11. They Can Struggle with Depression

Because multiple sclerosis can lead to a loss of independence as the diseases progresses and because this disease has no cure, people with MS can struggle with feelings of depression.  It is important to talk to the doctor about these feelings and seek therapy and/or medications — but loving support from family and friends can really help them, too.

Advertising

12. They Can Have Vision Problems, Too

Multiple sclerosis affects nerves throughout the body — including the optic nerve which controls vision.  As a result of this, people with MS can struggle with vision at times and have symptoms like blurred or double vision, difficulty controlling the movements of their eyes or even blindness (this is usually in just one eye and usually temporary).

13. They Might have Periods of Remission

Depending upon the type of MS a person has, they can have periods of remission, where the signs and symptoms of the disease seem to get better. This does not mean that they are cured of the disease, however, and these times should be enjoyed as a sort of reprieve when it is possible to get out and do more.  Keep in mind, though, that sooner or later, the MS symptoms will return.

14. They are Sexual Beings like Everyone Else

Even in an age of rights for the disabled, many people are uncomfortable with the idea that people with disabilities have sexual thoughts and feelings — and are capable of sexual expression.  While sex with MS can be more challenging, it is still possible for a couple to have a intimate and satisfying sex life even with this disease.  Good communication between the sexual partners is very important — just as it is in any relationship!

15. They Can Still Have Children

Women who get MS are often diagnosed in their 20’s or 30’s — when they are still of childbearing age.  And many women with this disease go on to have healthy pregnancies and give birth to healthy children — though often they must deliver by Caesarian section (C-section).  Don’t assume that because a young woman has MS that she is infertile and not interested in having children.

Advertising

So if someone you love has MS, keep these things in mind.  Because as with many chronic diseases, the loving support of family and friends is vital for emotional health and a good quality of life.

Featured photo credit: IM Free via depositphotos.com

More by this author

Brian Wu

Health Writer, Author

Why Am I So Tired? 10 Reasons You’re Tired and How to Fix It Signs You Might Lack Iron (And 9 Iron-Rich Foods for Your Diet) Amazing Benefits Of Cucumber Water (+5 Refreshing Recipes) How To Improve Your Health With Matcha Green Tea How To Enjoy Green Tea By Reducing Caffeine In It

Trending in Communication

1 15 Things To Stop Doing If You Want To Be Truly Happy 2 7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language 3 How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake 4 7 Science-Backed Books About Spirituality That Will Change Your Life 5 20 Things Life Is Too Short to Worry About

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

Advertising

1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

Advertising

3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

Advertising

It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

Advertising

Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next