One study looked at rates of wound healing and stress. They measured wound healing for people caring at home for someone with Alzheimer’s.
This study was not measuring an MS-related autoimmune illness. Instead the question was: are people under significant stress less likely to recover quickly from surgery than others. The result indicated that yes, continued (chronic) stress slows the healing of wounds (https://interferon.osumc.edu/ KG%20Publications%20(pdf)/102.pdf).
What can we say specifically about MS and stress, though?
Another study shows that chronic stress negatively impacts various diseases, including those involving immune function (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Theadore Vanitallie/publication
11331672 Stress A risk factor for serious illness/links/
There is a reason why we don't yet have more proof of the effects of stress on diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis. Because, unlike a bacteria-caused illness, there is not a measurable and identifiable agent, or cause, and the exact sorts of stressors that cause or exacerbate a disease are not easy to define or measure. Nonetheless, evidence that chronic stress causes or worsens disease is growing (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Theadore Vanitallie/publication 11331672 Stress A risk factor for serious illness/links/55368dcbocf218056e952c85.pdf)/).
Though neurologists are not prescribing de-stressing as a therapy, some offices include psychologists and physical therapists in their centers, because of the interaction of these things on symptom control.
When I was first diagnosed no mention was made of stress and the impact of stress on the onset or progression of the disease. I met more people with MS. I got accustomed to the association of high stress with the onset of the disease. It wasn’t a 100% correlation, but it happened often enough to suggest to me that there is a strong association between high stress and the disease onset.
So…let’s all de-stress. It sounds reasonable.
But how do we find the ways to de-stress when our life challenges are constant?
This is what I mean.
I have a great friend is a fellow MS-er. She is someone I admire—she is creative, she is a writer, she is well-versed in studies on MS. She a person I turn to when I want to know more about MS therapies.
My friend’s life doesn’t center around MS. Instead it centers around another challenge—her son, who she cherishes, for whom she is the strongest cheerleader possible, and who has a chronic health condition.
Her life stressors don’t slow down. To de-stress her life, to really de-stress it, she would have to opt out of her family.
“Creating a healing environment sounds wonderful—and out of range. De-stressing sounds good,” she said to me, “but --can you think of ways to de-stress in the middle of the sort of day which is my day? If you do, will you send them to me?”
I drew a blank. Short of leaving her wonderful family, she isn’t going to slow her life stressors down. I wished I could say something, but I knew there wasn’t an answer.
That is when I learned something so simple—so obvious—but it took another friend to show it to me.
I’m going to explore it myself, so that next week I can write more about it—how to find the moments in the day that bring the healing environment. You will read it and say, “Of course, I do that, I have done that, this is simple.” It will not be new, but I hope it delights you like it does me.
Till then, sending you love on your path--Rosalie