What comes to mind when you think of a Symptom Tracker? If I’m keeping it real, I think of it as yet one more thing to do. I don’t need ANOTHER list, let alone one about symptoms of MS. I don’t need a list to remind me of the fatigue, brain fog and all the other joys of living with MS.
That mindset is what has prevented me from being consistent with a symptom tracker.
It just seemed like another thing to do, when my plate was already full.
Managing MS can feel all consuming. But that’s exactly why I decided to give tracking another try, and I encourage you to do so as well.
What is a Symptom Tracker?
It’s a journal, diary or log of your symptoms over a period of time – days, weeks, months, or even years.
I also viewed trackers for people with super analytical brains who love to track data and trends. While I’m fascinated by people who do this, and often jealous of their charts and data, that is not how my brain works. So I assumed symptom trackers weren’t for me.
But, a symptom tracker can help to keep you accountable and consistent – something we all struggle with. It also helps you to see both immediate connections to any habits you may have (food, sleep, medication, supplements) and how you feel in your body on a daily basis.
A symptom tracker can also help you to see longer term impacts on your health. For example you may experience less pain in your body or fewer headaches after taking an omega-3 supplement for a month, or feel less fatigue after eliminating gluten from your diet for three months, or seeing improvements in your walking after going to physical therapy for six months.
Without tracking information, we’re left to rely on your memory… which isn’t always the most reliable source when living with MS brain fog and fatigue… or even just natural aging.
And one of the things that I think is most relevant here, is recognizing that many of the changes that we make through diet and lifestyle don’t always give us dramatic or instant results.
They tend to be more subtle changes that can easily go unnoticed. Eating one salad or even one week of a supplement aren’t going to take away your symptoms.
It’s a gradual process, so gradual that it’s easy to think that there’s no connection between the two.
THIS is one of the greatest benefits of a tracker.
It offers both a close-up view of day-to-day changes as well as a high level view of the more subtle changes over a longer period of time.
Track Wellness, Not Symptoms
I created my wellness tracker, here’s why. A traditional symptom tracker is just that, a tracker of your symptoms. But I don’t want to just focus on my symptoms.
Having a list of symptoms that I rate on a scale of 1-10 each day doesn’t appeal to me.
Tracking symptoms is helpful, and it’s one aspect of my tracker but it can’t stand alone as the only thing that I track.
I wanted the full picture of my health, so I called it my wellness tracker.
Just the name of it feels better – wellness versus symptoms.
I choose to focus on wellness.
What to Track?
Now, what kind of stuff is worth writing down? You track what is most important to you.
That can include:
It can be as simple or as detailed as you want it to be. Personally, I like short and sweet, so I’m more inclined to be consistent with it. I mainly track the amount of vegetables that I eat in a day.
Track the hours of sleep and the quality of sleep. Your body heals during sleep, so if you’re not sleeping well, you may be missing out on valuable healing. This isn’t meant to stress you out, this is to help you prioritize the practices that help you to improve your sleep.
Yes, we even track poop! Paying attention to your poop is probably the cheapest functional medicine test that you can do!
- How often are you pooping?
- How easy or hard is it to go?
- What’s the shape of it?
- Are you dropping pebbles or are you getting a good long satisfying snake out?
This tells you a lot about digestion and your overall health! Pay attention to your poop!
I think this one is a given when it comes to living with MS. Rating your energy levels and your strength. This is one that will likely be most valuable when looking at it compared to the other areas – food, sleep, elimination and the next category which is…
What type of movement are you doing and for how long?
And last but not least, track any unique symptoms. For me that might be migraines, for you it might be pain and for the next person that might be urinary frequency or brain fog.
How to Track
Now you may read that list and think, that’s great Alene, but I don’t have the time to track all of that. I agree! I knew in order for me to start and maintain this, I had to keep it simple.
If I could do it in five minutes or less, I would be far more likely to do it than if it took 30 minutes out of my day – everyday.
Keep it simple. Personally, mine is one page that I can fill out in five minutes or less.
On days that I’m not feeling by best I keep it short and sweet. On days that I’m feeling better or have more to share, I have the option to write more, but that’s only if I want to. It’s a bonus.
Do what works for you.
Why to Track
Now, let’s talk more about why to track or what to do with this information.
First, let’s talk about awareness. This is a tool to help you get honest with yourself. Days can blur into each other, and we might ignore or downplay symptoms.
A symptom tracker is like a daily check-in with yourself. Now just with your body but with your mindset and heart too. Because they’re all connected.
It’s about understanding your body’s language, and sometimes, that language speaks in symptoms.
This trains you to start listening to the whispers so your body doesn’t need to get out a megaphone for you to hear it.
Spotting Trends – Not Just the Bad, But the Good Too!
Next, spotting trends. When you regularly track your health habits and symptoms, you might start to notice patterns.
- Do certain foods trigger a flare-up?
- Does stress play a bigger role than you thought?
And it’s not just about the negative. Maybe you’ll spot patterns of improvement, days when you feel stronger, more energetic.
These insights are gold – they can guide lifestyle choices and treatment strategies.
Accountability is another crucial aspect. It’s easy to tell ourselves we’re doing ‘okay’ or that we’re following a health plan. But are we, really? It holds you accountable not just for noting down symptoms, but also for taking care of yourself.
- Did you take your medication?
- Did you rest when needed?
This accountability is HUGE!
Informed Conversations with Doctors
Lastly, having a symptom tracker arms you with concrete data for doctor’s appointments.
Instead of trying to remember how you felt weeks or months ago, you have a detailed account.
This makes discussions with your healthcare provider more productive.
You can pinpoint issues, ask targeted questions, and collaboratively develop a more effective treatment plan.
Personalizing Your Symptom Tracker
Now if this is inspiring you to start tracking too… I encourage you to make it simple and easy.
Make it personal.
If you need a starting point or want one that’s already done for you, download a free copy of mine today at alenebrennan.com/tracker.
Learn from it.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Okay I want to hear from you now! Do you use a tracker? Why or why not? Please share in the comments so we can learn from you too!