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Timothy L. Vollmer, MD
Department of Neurology
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Timothy L. Vollmer M.D.
Department of Neurology
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
Co-Director of the RMMSC at Anschutz Medical Center
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Stress, Multiple Sclerosis, and My Moment of Zen

By Trevis Gleason

On crisp, autumnal mornings such as these, I look out and ponder where to go to collect bulbs of wild garlic from along the little road, with an eye to setting and tending to them in pots or in my garden beds. I ask myself, would they still be “wild” garlic, or simply cultivars I’m keeping for my own entertainment, like a monkey in a cage?

When I let these little musings flow without interruption or judgment, I know I’ve attained an appropriate level of stress in my life.

I found myself jotting down the above thought this morning in the eye of a mounting storm of bustle and fuss. It’s not that I don’t have stress in my life. It certainly isn’t that I’ve attained the “monk on the mountaintop” phase of existence. But perhaps I have learned to take steps to reduce the stress that multiple sclerosis can pile on top of all the other stuff.

I’m negotiating with an Irish publisher to have Chef Interrupted published here and in the UK. I have two MS Ireland events to emcee (and write scripts for), an article deadline, a local festival event to manage, and the 1996 French Master Chef of the Year is coming to stay with us for six weeks. Stressors? Perhaps…

‘Control Is an Illusion’
I was recently quoted in an article in the autumn issue of Momentum Magazine. In it I summed up one of the most important lessons I’ve learned living with multiple sclerosis: “Were I to dig down into the sack of coping mechanisms that I’ve tried to employ over the years, I think that coming to the realization that control is an illusion has served me best. The only things over which I truly have any control are my reactions and my responses. I respond more thoughtfully, I react less harshly, and I assuredly laugh at myself more heartily than ever in my life.”

I’ve come to realize that I get less worked up – and less stressed – about things that I don’t control much in the first place. I’ve taken myself out of figuring the how, when, where, and why I focus on the “Now what?” and it feels so much better.

‘Awk, Sure. It’ll Be Grand.”
A little bit of that Irish colloquialism (or Paddy Zen as I’ve come to think of it) — “Awk, sure. It’ll be grand” — has sunk its way into my head.

Back in 2013, when Caryn and I were having immigration issues that may have led to our being deported, people here in Ireland told us,“You’ll be grand,” and “It’ll be right on the night,” with such frequency that we began to believe it ourselves. And it was true.

We learned how to fake it until we made it during that very stressful time, and some of that way of thinking has settled itself into my being. I know that it’s made for a better life, and I also feel like my lower level of acquired stress has helped my MS.

On an episode of The West Wing, one of my favorite television characters, President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet (who also had MS), says that stress was invented to help market flavored coffee. I don’t believe that. But stress is the body’s chemical reaction to difficult situations in the world around us. It changes how we think, act, and exist. It’s not a matter of refusing to enter a stress-filled room. It’s how we react when the door closes behind us.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by EVERYDAYHEALTH
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length


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