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Stop “Shoulding” on Yourself

By Mary Pettigrew

Many of us tend to feel guilt with our lives with MS. We tend to be harsh on ourselves when we are unable to do the things we used to do or things others expect us to do because we used to be able to do them without problems. This article is not necessarily about guilt, yet it is one component of the situation.

We need to stop using words such as “should,” need,” “ought to.” etc. Instead, we need to use words like “want,” “like to,” etc. In other words, we want to do exercise more, we want to call our friends more, we want to take care of ourselves more, and the like. 

I’ll never forget a psychiatrist who told me to stop using the word “need.” She made me realize this one, single word could easily set me up for failure. I could not agree more! 

Make a list – What’s most important to you vs. what you need to do.
What you need to do:
  • What you need to do is stay on top of hygiene – Brush your teeth, shower or bathe, get your dishes done, seek out help when you can’t do any of the above or more to take care of yourself.
  • What you need to do to stay on top of doctor appointments
  • What you need to do to stay in touch with friends and family
  • What you need to do to stay physically healthy
  • What meds we need to take and reasons for and being compliant

What you want to do:
  • What you what to do to get physically fit
  • What you want to do to stay in touch with friends and family
  • What you want to do to get yourself off the bed and onto the projects you desire
  • What you want to do to start eating better
  • What we want to do to stay compliant with meds and why
  • Find our ways to help ways to stay on top of such things you want to do.

Make another list on things to anticipate failure or success:
  • Problem days or times that I anticipate
  • Plans for overcoming those days or times

Anxiety, OCD, and procrastination can play a big part in this. When we have MS, these two factors can play an even bigger part. There are options to look into. Here are a few links which may be of help. 
  • The Anxiety Disorder Association of America www.adaa.org
  • National Mental Health Association www.nmha.org
  • OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Support Group
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness www.nami.org

There are a lot of reasons why we can’t or do not do the things we want to do. Part of it is guilt. Part of it is procrastination and part of it is not knowing how, where, or when to start the process of forgiving ourselves. We must stop “shoulding” all over ourselves. Each of us has a different way of living and doing our day-to-day things, but the point is we must stop “shoulding” ourselves. Even if we simply change our verbiage, that’s a great start.