These Strategies Can Help to Improve Emotional Well-being

Dagmar Munn avatar

by Dagmar Munn |

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Learning I had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was certainly a big adjustment.

The changes to my life that slowly chipped away at my goals and sense of self made me feel lost. It was only when I observed ALS patients who were thriving that I was able to appreciate how our emotional well-being influences how we live with ALS. After seeing this, I developed a coping strategy that continues to help me today.

During my first year with ALS, I noticed two distinct groups of ALS patients. One group used social media and online forums to complain about their doctors, ALS clinics, and their latest symptoms. Everything in their lives seemed negative and going downhill.

The second group, however, was noticeably positive, optimistic, and hopeful. They smiled in photos and videos, happily peddling special bikes or in wheelchairs pushed by family and friends. They participated in social events, joined fundraising and awareness campaigns and sporting events, and even traveled.

I yearned to be in the second group. But how?

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Here’s what I learned. Many factors influence the quality and length of life for people with ALS. But there is only one factor that we can affect directly — our psychological and emotional well-being.

Well-being is a state of mind. It’s how satisfied we are with our lives, no matter what our physical condition might be. The second group, the ALS patients who were thriving, clearly had high emotional well-being.

Here’s why that matters. A 2015 study published in Frontiers in Psychology concluded that poor emotional well-being among ALS patients contributed to feelings of dependency, isolation, and hopelessness, while research conducted four years later found that poor emotional well-being is associated with rapid symptom progression.

But can positive coping strategies be learned? Yes! The study identified a number of behaviors that can be applied to improve one’s emotional well-being, including:

  • Choose to retain a sense of control over your life. As I’ve written before, life changes are often out of our control. We need to move on so that we can begin to make the best of our changed circumstances.
  • Accept the loss or problem without being resigned to it. Often, it’s our pride that gets in the way. Allow the feelings of denial, anger, and sadness to flow through you and finally settle on acceptance.
  • Focus on what can be done to aid the situation. Try to avoid being distracted by negative thoughts. Think out of the box, look for other options, or join the ALS News Today Forums and ask what other patients are doing.
  • Rely on supportive people in your life. Consult with family, friends, caregivers, and your ALS clinic team.
  • Use functional and technological aids. When we have a reason to get up and get out the door, it’s less important how we get from point A to B than what it is we want to accomplish.

While no two journeys with ALS are alike, these simple steps to improve how we cope with ALS can be used by everyone. I’m sure these tips will help people cope with changes they are experiencing and help them to improve their state of mind and emotional well-being.

Join me in learning how to live well with ALS.

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Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.

Comments

Tom Hehir avatar

Tom Hehir

This is such an important piece, Dagmar. Your positive, pragmatic attitude is refreshing and affirming.
Thanks.
Tom

Reply
Dagmar Munn avatar

Dagmar Munn

Tom, thank you! I appreciate knowing that what I write and share is helpful to you and others in our ALS community! Dagmar

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