Why reducing stress is important for MG patients

Here are 4 ways this columnist tackles his own stress

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by Mark Harrington |

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When I was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis (MG) in 2020, I decided to find out all I could about the disease.

I love to read, so I started with the written word. I got ahold of every book or article I could find and was hit with all sorts of advice. Most of it appeared to be decent and scientifically sound. Some advice that wasn’t backed by scientific, peer-reviewed research, however, was better left alone.

One piece of advice appeared repeatedly: It’s important with MG to keep stress to a minimum, as stress causes serious health issues for MG patients.

Back in those early days of my MG journey, avoiding stress seemed like idiotic advice. Over time, though, I came to realize that while it’s impossible to entirely avoid stress, there are ways to mitigate it. I’d like to share four of those ways that work for me.

One or more of the following may be worth incorporating into your own daily routine. Of course, nothing I suggest can remove all obstacles, but it may help to make life easier.

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Active coping

MG diminishes a person’s control over their lives, and anything from finances to a career to physical abilities can be affected.

After my diagnosis, I went online and researched how MG takes hold in a patient’s body. I asked doctors what the prognosis was. I joined a support group to learn how others coped. I began to exert control over MG. Even when I didn’t find answers to all my questions, the search alone diminished some of the fear. Later, I learned there is a term for this practice: active coping, which can help to alleviate this loss of control.


One day I discovered that I was constantly making negative statements in my head. Whether it was about an impending infusion, MRI, surgery, or a new medication, my consciousness was flooded with negative thoughts.

I decided to try another route. I wrote down some positive statements and posted them on my kitchen cabinets. Then I repeated them throughout the day. Little by little, these affirmations took up space in my brain, which left less room for negative thoughts. My psychological health benefited, and I believe my physical health did, too.


Mindfulness can also lessen stress. Think of it as taking short breaks throughout the day. They don’t have to be more than a minute long.

Become aware of where you are physically. If your thoughts have drifted somewhere other than the here and now, call them back. If you’re peeling a potato, notice it. If you’re mopping the floor, acknowledge the mop and the floor. Pay attention to your environment. What do you hear? Are there any aromas in the air? How does your body feel? You may want to write down the answers to these questions.

I have an app on my iPhone that tells me when to stop and become mindful. It asks me mindful questions that bring me back to the present moment. With little effort, my stress level decreases.

Asking for help

The fourth practice involves asking for help. My weekly column is titled “Together,” a name inspired by my sister. On the day of my diagnosis, she told me, “We’ll get through this together.”

My journey with MG would’ve been impossible without the love, compassion, and support of my family and friends. Some problems require help from others. I’ve learned that people are usually glad to help. They just need to be asked.

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I used to be a helper. Now it’s my turn to be helped.

Once a week, I write out my needs for the coming week. Will I need help with household chores or finances? Are there doctor appointments that require assistance? It’s important to be specific.

I discovered that I didn’t have to sit alone and become frustrated by what I couldn’t do. Someone is always willing to help. Even if you don’t have family or friends who can help, other resources are available, but you must seek them out.

These strategies won’t cure MG, of course, but they can help to make life a little easier and reduce stress.

How do you reduce stress? Has it helped? Please share in the comments below.

Note: 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. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Myasthenia Gravis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to myasthenia gravis.


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