It Is Important to Learn to Listen to Your Body

Retha De Wet avatar

by Retha De Wet |

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A huge part of learning to live with myasthenia gravis is figuring out what triggers symptom flare-ups. This is a very personal journey of understanding your body and learning to listen to the subtle cues it sometimes sends to take it easy. These cues can be anything from heavy-feeling eyes, voice or speech symptoms, or even shortness of breath. You must learn to listen to your body.

(Courtesy of Retha De Wet)

One trigger that I know I share with a few myasthenics is heat. This can be related to an increase in sunny weather, or sometimes even environmental heat, like when attempting to use a sauna. I always avoid the sauna, because a body that feels made of solid lead is not exactly an inviting offer. Summertime is very hard for me. I live in Cape Town, South Africa, and the summers here are meant for beach days and hiking, not recovery days in bed. The temperatures tend to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 F), and I always battle to keep up with my peers in the heat. I walk a little slower, talk a little less, and choose to move around more selectively.

The increase in temperature also tends to emphasize one side effect of Mestinon (pyridostigmine) that is quite challenging to hide from those around you: excessive sweating. Now, I do not mean a glistening forehead and a slightly sweaty upper lip; I am talking about a waterfall exiting all my sweat glands at once and pouring down my face, arms, and legs. I have learned to use extra strength antiperspirant and to carry a handkerchief with me at all times to wipe the sweat off of my forehead and body. I cannot stop taking Mestinon or try not to come into contact with the heat. This will only result in me being a bedbound hermit that slurs her words and looks at everyone through drooping eyelids — and that is no way to approach life.

We tend to learn what triggers our symptoms through experience, at least when we internalize the knowledge. Another trigger that causes me extreme exhaustion and the exacerbation of my symptoms is emotional stress. I have learned that when I am going through a stressful time with my interpersonal relationships, I have to be extremely cautious about how much I intend to take on during this time.

I must say, being quite an empathetic person also adds to the stress of being in an awkward or unnecessary relationship struggle, which in turn worsens my myasthenia gravis symptoms. I attend regular sessions with a psychologist to help me cope with all the extra stress that myasthenia gravis places on relationships. It also helps to hear the opinion of a third party regarding someone who is not treating me fairly or times that I am expecting too much understanding from a person without vocalizing the support that I need from them. It has also taught me that some people will not understand, no matter how much you attempt to enlighten them, and that perhaps it is best if that relationship comes to an end.

I am thankful that my experience with myasthenia gravis over the years has taught me how to anticipate and sometimes avoid bad days. I am appreciative that it has put my relationships through the ultimate test and filtered the unnecessarily draining ones from my life. It all makes the fight worth it. I will never stop fighting. Life is too beautiful.


Myasthenia Gravis News 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.


Lisa avatar


Great article. On the other side of 4 ICU trips and 4 intubations I can not stress how much I regret not listening to my body more. Those of us that grew up to ‘pull ourselves up by our boot straps’ and push through are in for hard lessons. Lesson learned. Accepting that I have this awful disease and learning to live within my limits has been tough! But I pray my stubbornness has been broken. I’m listening, body!!

Mimi Bradberry avatar

Mimi Bradberry

I am waiting on test results now-been trying to figure out what is wrong for 15 years-I can so relate to what you are saying. Thank you for providing answer to my question as to whether this is part of the disease.

Gay Snell avatar

Gay Snell

Thanks for your article. I've had Myasthenia Gravis for about 40 years and take mestenon. Your article clarifies the mestenon/myasthenia/heat relationship that I was wondering about........I just had a gig in 92 degree heat (although kept in shade as much as possible) and the heat really, really bothered me, as it has for a while now. The newsletter I get had an article about the effect of medications in heat, which got me thinking. So.....thanks!


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