Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Life's Little Challenges

I remember how quickly and easily I used to go up and down stairs. I didn't even think about it at the time; it was like breathing - I just did it. Now, because I have MS, it takes me a little longer to climb up a staircase and going down stairs can be even more laborious. I definitely have to use handrails these days, too.

Taking the stairs is a challenge for me now. It's not a major obstacle; it's just not as easy as it used to be.

Sometimes when we get hit with a problem in life, a bunch of others come falling on top of it, like candy spilling out of a broken pinata. When we're faced with a big problem, it can also cause a lot of everyday things to become more challenging. These smaller challenges can be the most frustrating, as they are a constant reminder of the larger problem. Just going grocery shopping is complicated these days because of higher prices and tighter budgets in our struggling economy.

When things become challenging, whether it's because of health conditions, money woes, or some other negative circumstance, I've learned it helps to do the following:

Practice patience. I used to be kind of an impatient person, but being slowed down by MS has definitely changed that. Since I already have to have a lot more patience with my own body, it's gotten easier to have patience with others. Things that may have irritated me before, like waiting in line, don't bother me as much now.

Patience is said to be a virtue. It's also necessary when circumstances get tough. Things won't get better overnight. It takes time.

We may feel like we're burdened enough, and then something else goes wrong. Right now on top of the fact that I'm dealing with my MS symptoms, I have a sick cat, a car that needs new brakes, and oh yeah, it's the holidays! I could become impatient because the problems can't be taken care of quickly or easily enough, and I could take my frustration out on someone else, but what good would that do?

Getting impatient doesn't help. It doesn't make the situation go away; all it does is make us tense and irritable.

Relieve stress. Dealing with challenging circumstances is stressful, and that means getting some downtime is a must. Do what you can to relax as much as possible. Try to have some fun and take your mind off the things that are stressing you.

Taking care of ourselves is of the utmost importance. It's easy to skip out on doing things like getting enough rest and taking time for ourselves when we're stressed. I often find myself stressing over situations and then realize I've gotten myself to a point where I am either physically or mentally exhausted. So I take some time to just watch a little TV and relax, or I go for a quiet drive to clear my head.

Find ways to adapt. Being flexible and innovative helps when life throws a challenge our way. If it's going to be around for a while, we may just have to get used to it. We may have to make drastic changes or even call upon the people in our lives for help.

We can always find ways to change how we do things and still keep up with the demands of our daily lives. The current economic woes have brought about a lot of frugality. In dealing with MS of course, I've had to adjust daily activities because of having limited energy to work with. I've learned to prioritize and give myself extra time to do things.

In some cases we have to adapt emotionally. I find it easier now to keep my spirits up when I am hampered by MS. It wasn't always that way, but both time and the realization that there were other areas of my life where I could still find happiness helped me to better handle the situation and develop a more positive attitude.

Dealing with our challenges we may feel anger and frustration, and that's understandable. We just can't let those negative feelings overtake us or cloud our judgement.

Keep your chin up. Whether you're dealing with an ongoing situation like having MS or a temporary setback that makes day-to-day things tougher, it's important to maintain a positive outlook.

In a previous post, Pathway to a Positive Attitude, I wrote more about doing just that.

Life's journeys don't always take us over a smooth road. We do hit some bumps now and again. How we react and deal with them is our challenge. I still take the stairs from time to time because I like a challenge.

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