Resilience is a tool that can help you navigate the unpredictability of MS. There are plenty of ways to develop and nurture it through the years.

Resilience is the ability to adapt and respond effectively to life’s circumstances. It represents a set of skills and attitudes that help you “roll with the punches.” Traits like optimism, self-agency, and resourcefulness are all components of resiliency.

When you have a chronic, lifelong condition like multiple sclerosis (MS), resiliency can make a difference in how it impacts your life and well-being. And even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, there are ways to develop and nurture resilience through the years.

Start with these steps.

Mindfulness is a state of awareness where you focus on the present moment. Any thoughts or feelings that enter your mind in that moment are accepted without judgment. The thoughts are allowed to pass through your consciousness without getting “stuck” in rumination.

In MS, mindfulness can help you learn to accept negative emotions and symptoms without letting them steer you into a spiral of anxiety, worry, fear, or anger.

Mindfulness has many therapeutic applications. Methods that incorporate it are known as mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs).

A small study from 2021 found that MBIs in MS were helpful in managing symptoms of depression during brief periods of hospitalization.

Another 2017 study found that MBIs paired with yoga movements led to significant improvements in physical function, vitality, and mental health among participants with MS.

Acceptance in MBIs may also help with pain. A study from 2019 found acceptance of pain, rather than fixation on it, increased pain tolerance and endurance.

You can practice mindfulness at home or with a trained practitioner. Start with these steps:

  • Sit in a quiet, comfortable space.
  • Focus on the in and out of your breathing.
  • When a thought comes through, briefly acknowledge it and then refocus on your breath, letting the thought pass.

Optimism and hope are related psychological concepts. Optimism is the overarching attitude that, come what may, things will turn out positively. Hope is the belief in a certain outcome, even when faced with uncertainty.

Optimism and hope are important in resiliency. They help you focus on the positive rather than the negative. And when you’re in a positive mindset, you’re more likely to be motivated to keep up with treatments, pursue opportunities, and make every effort to live life fully with MS.

A 2017 review found higher levels of hope and optimism were associated with better chronic disease outcomes. However, more research is necessary across a broader range of conditions.

Even if you’re not naturally optimistic, you can build hope and optimism by:

  • challenging negative thoughts with positive alternatives
  • taking time to visualize positive outcomes
  • writing down your daily accomplishments
  • journaling about positive daily experiences and outcomes
  • identifying the “silver lining” in negative situations
  • surrounding yourself with optimistic people

A positive outcome in MS doesn’t mean that the disease will go away. It means understanding that your outcome with treatment can be better than it would be without treatment.

Gratitude, like hope and optimism, is another facet of positive psychology.

When you practice gratitude, you force yourself to focus on the things in life you’re grateful for. This gives you less time to dwell on the negative.

According to a study from 2020, higher gratitude levels predict better quality of life in those with MS. The findings were supported by research from 2023 that noted gratitude helped improve quality of life in MS by mediating levels of perceived stress.

You can build a practice of gratitude daily by listing the people, places, and experiences you’re grateful for. If you’re interested in journaling, you can pick one thing and write about it in-depth.

You can be resilient on your own in MS — but your resiliency can also be influenced by the people you surround yourself with.

Living with MS can be extremely taxing, both physically and mentally. Having a support network of trusted friends, peers, and family acts as a safety net when your individual resilience falters.

A 2022 review notes that online support networks also offer beneficial social support, coping strategies, and a sense of camaraderie that reduce the risk of isolation in MS.

You can build your support network by:

  • communicating openly with loved ones about MS
  • asking friends and family to check in with you often
  • setting up regular visits and check-ins
  • joining peer groups the share life experiences of MS
  • participating in community MS programs and initiatives

Your body needs resiliency as much as your mind.

Improving your physical health is possible, even when you have MS. For example, you might have the opportunity to eat a more balanced diet, or maybe you still need to quit smoking. For some people, getting quality sleep should become more of a priority.

When your body is functioning at its best, it helps reduce the effect of MS symptoms and may lessen the side effects of treatments.

Stretching, for example, can help improve muscle-related MS symptoms, like tightness or limited range of motion. If MS severely restricts your motion, you may find exercising or stretching in water can help.

If you’re one of the many people living with MS who experience sleep disturbances, you can try:

  • keeping your bedroom at a comfortable temperature, dark, and quiet
  • practicing relaxation techniques before bed
  • avoiding screen time before sleeping
  • skipping naps during the day

Self-esteem, or how you perceive your self-worth, appears to be a protective factor of well-being in MS. A study from 2021 found that self-management and self-esteem among people with MS were positively associated with multiple dimensions of psychological well-being.

Boosting your self-esteem also builds your confidence, which can increase your self-agency, or how in control you feel over your actions and choices.

It’s not always easy to boost self-esteem. You can start by making a daily list of personal attributes you like. Add to this practice by listing daily accomplishments. Focusing on kind, positive self-talk also matters.

Resiliency helps everyone adapt to life’s challenges. But becoming resilient is especially important when you’re managing a chronic condition like MS and everything that comes with it.

Even if resiliency doesn’t come naturally to you, it can be built. Focusing on aspects of positive psychology, like hope, optimism, and gratitude are just some of the ways you can foster this beneficial life skill.