The situation can persist, with people giving and giving at the expense of their own well-being, until MS or other disease forces a reckoning. “My body says no to me frequently, and I keep going,” Natalie said. “I don’t learn.”
That’s not to say that people who suffer from MS or other diseases should blame themselves for their misfortune, for not being able to tap into their emotions and understand and prioritize their own needs. That attitude is counterproductive, Maté cautions. “A search for scientific understanding is incompatible with moralizing and judgment,” he wrote. Disease is not a punishment but a physiological reality.
The lesson is that limiting stress or finding healthy ways to process it can be a lifesaver in avoiding multiple sclerosis or alleviating symptoms in people who already have it. One intervention that has shown to be very impactful is mindful meditation, when people sit in silence and allow their minds to untether themselves from any particular thought.
One recent study from the King’s College London found that MS patients who took meditation classes experienced relief from their symptoms and less overall distress. The meditators reported lower pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression and impact of MS than the control group that did not do any mindfulness work.
“The effectiveness of mind-body therapies may lie in their ability to facilitate stress reduction, relaxation, and improvement of mood,” another meditation study noted, “which in turn may affect the degree to which psychosocial factors can negatively affect quality of life.”