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Brain Health

Building a Resilient Brain While Living with MS

A woman sits comfortably on a blue couch and holds an open book in her hand.
A woman sits comfortably on a blue couch and holds an open book in her hand.
Labour and Delivery Nurse Imaan Waja. Diagnosed with MS in 2016

Imaan Waja on managing her MS symptoms and optimizing her brain health.

Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. What most people don’t know is that it is very common in Canada and affects everyone differently. Many things about MS remain unknown. Therefore, for those of us living with it, finding ways to navigate our symptoms is necessary for our brain health.

Logically, I’m Emotional

MS as a diagnosis is vast. The brain controls everything, so the list of possible symptoms is scary. Since being diagnosed in 2016, my goal has been to optimize brain health now to mitigate future harm as much as possible.

When I think of “brain health”, I think of two separate but equally important components: logic and emotion.

I am very logical when seeking information about symptoms and selecting treatments.
I am very emotional when thinking about the impacts of MS on my body, relationships, and experiences.

It is easy to dive into logic and neglect emotions.
It is easy to become overwhelmed with emotions and neglect logic.
It is hard for me to hear and honour both in the face of the unknown.
However, I’ve found my “sweet-spot” truly is alignment between the two.

On my journey to optimizing brain health both collaborate to create mental peace in the face of fear and uncertainty.

A holistic approach to optimizing brain health

From my experience, being proactive with healthy habits today helps build a better brain for tomorrow. Routine does not come naturally to me and, as a registered nurse, my shifts fluctuate. Still, I have become very intentional with my self-care practices and regularly seek to fine-tune them.

Recently, I have been interested in how hormones alter the brain throughout the menstrual cycle. I have adjusted diet, exercise, and rest as a result of increased knowledge and body-awareness. For example, some days I start early with hot lemon water, prayer, yoga, and a dog walk. Other days I start early with hot lemon water, and prayer, before falling back to sleep for a couple hours. I think of it as trying to go with the flow instead of trying to force the flow. This mindset has greater room for empathy for myself when I struggle with low energy levels.

Optimization of brain health with MS is an ongoing commitment to the Self that requires conscious energy and effort.

Personally, I believe the return on investment will be worth it.

About MS Canada

At MS Canada, we are inspired by the vision of a world free of multiple sclerosis. We focus on support, advocacy and research that will positively impact the lives of people living with, and affected by MS. For over 75 years, we have been a trusted connection for the MS community to valuable resources and programs needed on their unique MS journey. We advocate for improved policies and systems that will better support Canadians living with MS. We invest in life-changing research that will advance treatment and care, enhance well-being, help to understand and halt disease progression, and ultimately prevent MS.

For more information visit mscanada.ca.

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