Managing symptoms

Symptoms can vary from person to person, symptoms experienced can also be affected by fatigue, insomnia and stress.

Here are some tips for managing symptoms.

Managing fatigue

Fatigue is a common symptom in some neurological conditions. It can be a primary symptom of the condition or it can be caused by secondary factors such as stress or insufficient sleep.

Fatigue can take a heavy toll. If you’re tired your mood, memory, concentration and emotional well-being may all be affected. Fatigue can impact on many aspects of your life such as your job, relationships, ability to exercise and participate in day-to-day activities.

This is why it’s important to manage fatigue well.

Get adequate rest

Build rest breaks into your day. Ten minutes might be enough, but you may need longer.

Get help and conserve energy

Work smarter, not harder. Prioritise, delegate tasks, find alternative energy-saving ways to get things done.

Monitor and manage contributing factors

Your fatigue may be caused by other factors such as insomnia, pain, stress, poor diet or infection.

MSWA Occupational Therapy department offers information resources and advice as well as running regular Fatigue Management Programs.

‘Fatigue and MS’ booklets are also available through MSWA.

To find out more contact us on 9365 4888 or by email customerservice@mswa.org.au

Getting enough sleep

Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep daily to function at their best. Lack of sleep in turn can contribute to fatigue and depression.

Insomnia is a condition describing difficulty falling asleep in the first place, or staying asleep. Some people experience one or the other, or a combination of both conditions.

Other sleep disruptions include sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome and REM behaviour disorder, associated with punching or kicking type movements.

Insomnia affects most people at some stage of their lives. However, people at greater risk of insomnia are generally older, have health conditions, experience anxiety or depression. Certain medications and issues relating to pain and immobility can also compromise healthy sleep patterns.

Neurological conditions are often associated with sleep disruption. If you’re living with a neurological condition, getting a good night’s sleep may be especially challenging.

Tips for good sleep habits

Managing stress

Everyone experiences stress at times, but if you’re living with a neurological condition, it’s important to keep your stress under control.

Studies have shown that stress may contribute to the onset of some neurological conditions, or even trigger a flare-up. For instance, stress can activate an inflammatory response in MS.

Stress can be described as a feeling of being overloaded, wound-up, tense and worried. Having an unpredictable, chronic condition such as MS, Parkinson’s Disease or stroke can contribute to elevated stress levels and cause anxiety on a daily basis.

Explore the warning signs of stress

Good sleep habits

  • Manage your stress using strategies like meditation, relaxation and mindfulness (these are covered in more detail in the next section). Counselling can be very helpful to work through issues that may stress you to your worry point.
  • Monitor and assess your sleep patterns over a 24-hour cycle. A daytime nap may be beneficial, but it may also prevent you from sleeping well at night.
  • Keep the bedroom for intimacy and sleep. Reading and quieter activities are better for preparing to sleep.
  • Try having a ‘get ready to sleep’ ritual.... take a warm shower, have some warm milk and practice deep breathing or relaxation – this can sometimes help to initiate and maintain sleep. There may be interactions between your drugs, anti-depressants, medication for spasms etc. and sleeping medication so please discuss this with your pharmacist/doctor.
  • Avoid TV and computer activities in the half hour before going to sleep.
  • Menopause with hormone fluctuations can certainly cause wakefulness and trouble sleeping. Keep the bedroom temperature cool and wear cotton pyjamas to counter any hot flushes.
  • Some new mattresses cause overheating and this can wake you during the night. Overlays are available to assist with cooling.
  • Exercise is great for reducing stress and may help with promoting sleep, but not in the few hours before bedtime. A regular massage also improves quality of sleep.
  • Restrict coffee and alcohol intake, or swap coffee with chamomile tea.
  • Try to maintain a dark bedroom with effective light-blocking window treatments.
  • Avoid disturbance from light-emitting devices such as mobile phones. Keep these out of sight or turned off at night. Sleep masks can also help
  • If you can’t get to sleep, or stay asleep, try not to stress. Get up and do something relaxing, then try to sleep again later. Lying in bed worrying only makes matters worse.

If you’re following sound sleep guidelines but are still having disrupted sleep, discuss your symptoms with a nurse or your GP or neurologist. You may need to get a referral to a sleep specialist.

Warning signs of stress

Warning signs of stress include muscle tension, breathing changes, fatigue and mood changes. Become aware when you are overworking or becoming fatigued or anxious.

Triggers of stress

When you feel the symptoms of stress coming on, pause to think about the triggers. Are you tired? Hungry? Over-committed? Running up against a deadline? Worried about your health, family, or other problems in your life?

Knowing what has brought on the stress allows you to address the trigger and try to remove or reduce its impact. The triggers of stress may be beyond your control, but you can manage your stress with strategies such as exercise, mindfulness meditation, relaxation, adequate sleep and rest.

It can be very helpful to share your concerns with those around you and seek their support to help you manage.

Stress management strategies

Look after your general health. Ensure you drink enough fluids and get adequate nutrition. Avoid or limit alcohol consumption, don’t smoke and be sure you get enough rest.

Exercise can also help reduce the impact of stress.

Mindfulness describes a practice of focusing on the present and paying attention to the thoughts, feelings and sensations you are experiencing right now and trying not to be judgmental about the things you notice.

Mindfulness involves meditation, relaxation and breathing techniques. By focusing on the present, you divert your thoughts stressful thoughts about the past or the future.

Stress Management Strategies Mindfulness

MSWA offers a variety of programs incorporating mindfulness training, relaxation and meditation. We also run classes such as art therapy, sound therapy and other activities designed to help you manage your stress.

Our nursing staff, counsellors and occupational therapists are here to help you manage your stress.

For further advice or assistance regarding stress management, contact us on 9365 4888 or email customerservice@mswa.org.au