Living with multiple sclerosis (MS): an interview with Gretchen Rubin and Megan Weigel

insights from industryGretchen RubinAmbassador of MS Blueprint & author of
Happier at Home and The Happiness Project
Megan WeigelPresident-elect of the International Organization
of Multiple Sclerosis Nurses (IOMSN)

How does multiple sclerosis (MS) affect a person’s everyday life?

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe, ranging from numbness in the limbs to paralysis or loss of vision. Approximately 400,000 Americans are living with MS.

The progression, severity, and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another. Some people are minimally affected by the disease, but others experience rapid progression to total disability.

What challenges do those impacted by MS face?

Living with a chronic condition like MS can be overwhelming, from managing the challenges of everyday life to scheduling regular doctors’ visits and remembering to take medication, it may be difficult to find time for yourself and focus on the positive. MS Blueprint™ can help people living with MS and their loved ones find time to focus on the positive aspects of life.

Please can you introduce MS Blueprint and the aims behind it?

Biogen Idec launched MS Blueprint to encourage people impacted by MS to set personal goals and create activity plans, called MS Blueprints, filled with fun activities that may help them attain a more positive life. The program was inspired by happiness expert Gretchen Rubin’s approach to creating a happier life and developed with guidance from the MS advocacy community.

By visiting MSBlueprint.com, people can develop personalized plans, or MS Blueprints, of simple, fun activities to incorporate into their everyday routines. People can set select activities to add to their MS Blueprints tailored to what interests them from a variety of themes: Mind & Spirit, Body & Wellness, Community & Friendship, and Heart & Home. Whether they include activities such as playing a board game or taking a walk, the personalized MS Blueprints may guide the community to a more enjoyable life with MS.

 

 

Is MS Blueprint aimed solely at people with MS or also at people who have family members or friends with MS?

 

MS Blueprint was designed for people living with MS, as well as their friends and family. In addition to creating MS Blueprints, people can visit the website to read frequently asked questions about MS, and a blog from Gretchen on how to incorporate happiness into your daily routine. 

How flexible are the goals that people can set with MS Blueprint?

It is up to those creating their MS Blueprints to decide their personal goals. Just remember, goals work better when they’re concrete, not abstract: It’s more difficult to “be less stressed” than to “get up 15 minutes earlier to stretch before starting the day.”

Once you’ve set your goals, find a strategy to assess your progress, and hold yourself accountable, such as writing them down on your MS Blueprint.

Gretchen, how does MS Blueprint build upon your approach to creating a happier life?

My approach to creating a happier life, as outlined in my book, The Happiness Project, was part of the inspiration for MS Blueprint. When I started my “project,” I identified all the areas of my life that I wanted to improve, then set goals and took small steps to try to make very concrete changes. I realized that if you do all the things you want to do, you really can be happier.

My happiness project allowed me to focus on the positive and bring more happiness to my life, and the MS Blueprint program is designed to do the same for the MS community. My hope is that this program inspires you to live in the present and focus on the activities that may bring you joy.

Megan, what role has the International Organization of Multiple Sclerosis Nurses (IOMSN) played in the development of MS Blueprint?

One of our key principles at the IOMSN is to ensure an overall wellness approach to the care of people living with MS, which is the heart of the MS Blueprint program. Part of our mission at IOMSN is to make hope happen, and this completely aligns with MS Blueprint.

Nurses are an integral part of every MS patient’s support team, and we are always looking for new and exciting resources to share with patients, and their family and friends. I believe the MS Blueprint tool can help people impacted by MS seek the most out of each day and not let MS define them.

I encourage everyone impacted by MS to check it out at MSBlueprint.com. Once you’ve created an MS Blueprint, consider downloading, printing or sharing it with a friend or loved one who may benefit from it as well. Going out and enjoying the activities with someone can make them even more fun!

What response has MS Blueprint had so far from the MS community?

The response from the MS community has been very positive. By regularly visiting MSBlueprint.com, people impacted by MS can continue to set new goals, create new MS Blueprints, and contribute their suggestions for themes and activities they would like to see added to the site.

What are the plans for the future of MS Blueprint?

Biogen Idec will provide ongoing support to the MS community through the MS Blueprint program, with additional program enhancements planned in 2015.

Where can readers find more information?

The MS Blueprint website, MSBlueprint.com, is the go-to source for all information about this program, including step-by-step instructions for creating personalized MS Blueprints, frequently asked questions about living with MS, and a blog from Gretchen Rubin on how to incorporate happiness into your daily routine. 

About Gretchen Rubin and Megan Weigel

Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on habits and happiness. Both of her books Happier at Home and The Happiness Project were instant New York Times bestsellers. On her popular blog, “The Happiness Project,” read by millions of people each year, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness and habits. Rubin has appeared at numerous conferences as a featured speaker or keynoter, including SXSW, World Domination Summit, the 92nd Street Y, 5×15, TEDx, and BlogHer, and she makes frequent TV appearances, for instance, on Today, Kathie Lee & Hoda, CBS Sunday Morning, The Early Show, and Katie. She has written for many national publications; has appeared on the inaugural cover of Live Happy magazine; and wrote a column in Good Housekeeping magazine.

Megan Weigel

Megan Weigel, DNP, ARNP-C, MSCN, is an advanced registered nurse practitioner at Baptist Neurology in Jacksonville Beach, FL, where she specializes in the care of MS patients. She received her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL, where her research focus was preventive health care in MS patients. She is the president-elect of the IOMSN and is an active speaker in the region. She is a peer reviewer for the International Journal of MS Care and is active in several professional societies, including the American Academy of Neurology, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, and the American Association of Neuroscience Nurses.

April Cashin-Garbutt

Written by

April Cashin-Garbutt

April graduated with a first-class honours degree in Natural Sciences from Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. During her time as Editor-in-Chief, News-Medical (2012-2017), she kickstarted the content production process and helped to grow the website readership to over 60 million visitors per year. Through interviewing global thought leaders in medicine and life sciences, including Nobel laureates, April developed a passion for neuroscience and now works at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour, located within UCL.

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