Social Wellness

As our blog theme for the month will focus on various concepts of wellness, I wanted to emphasize that wellness does not necessarily mean just in the physical sense with diet and exercise. Wellness can encompass many different factors, including spirituality or social well-being. As with many notions and ideas we have, wellness too can be perceived differently by individuals, and there’s not only one right way of looking at it.

Social wellness can be just as important as other types because of the impact it can have on one’s body and mind. Taking care of yourself physically is vital, but taking care of and being mindful of your social needs is equally essential. Human beings are meant to connect to others to find fulfilling emotional and thoughtful interactions. Reaching out to other people to make ties that create happiness and contentment is one of the most basic human instincts. Of course there can be interactions and relationships along the way that don’t always bring this sense of fulfillment or joy. But again, it’s part of our nature to either work through these obstacles to work on trying to change and repair these ties, or to dissolve them if they are causing increased stress and harm. The latter decision can be very difficult, but it’s important to know when a relationship is not providing positive benefits but rather draining energy and support.


There are different ways for people to get socially connected to one another. Joining something like an art or education class, or attending social events in your community are some of the ways to increase connections. Throughout the MS community there are various internet group forums and discussions online, an MS Friends telephone line, support group settings and MS educational events. The form of communication can vary in social circles too, as some may feel more comfortable interacting online or may have access issues to physically attending outings. No matter the method, having affirmative social bonds can help to increase positive wellness.


MSAA Motivator: Wellness in Multiple Sclerosis


MSAA’s latest edition of The Motivator features an updated design, with printed and digital versions available.

Included in this issue of The Motivator:


  • Cover Story – Wellness in MS: How good food choices, exercise, correct posture, and other lifestyle changes can have a positive influence on your overall health.
  • Up Front – MSAA’s president and CEO gives a special message to readers, reflecting on his 16 years of service to MSAA.
  • Research News – Updates on recent news items occurring since the last issue of The Motivator are featured.
  • Program Notes – MSAA’s new aquatic fitness DVD, plus My Health Insurance Guide, are both highlighted.

Throughout the month of October, aligned with the release of latest edition of The Motivator, MSAA Client Services staff and guest bloggers will continue to highlight the impact that a wellness strategy can have on an individual with MS. Discussing topics such as diet and exercise, mental health, and social wellness, we hope to continue the conversation about wellness and learn from each other’s experiences.


Mental Illness Awareness Week

Mental health awareness

Each year Mental Illness Awareness Week occurs during the first full week of October. Every year there is a recurring theme that spreads across the country. This year, the theme revolves around building a movement through the Stigma Free initiative.

“Being Stigma Free means learning about and educating others on mental illness, focusing on connecting with people to see each other as individuals and not a diagnosis, and most importantly, taking action on mental health issues and taking the Stigma Free pledge.”

The hashtag for the theme is #IAmStigmaFree

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness in America. Mental health stigma affects each and every one of us as well as the people we love. Stopping Mental Health Stigma is an imperative first step which provides those who silently struggle with mental illness, the opportunity to reach out for help.

Did you know that the risk of suicide was 7.5 times higher among persons with MS than the general population? In a study of individuals with MS who experienced thoughts of suicide, one-third had not received any psychological help. If you have concerns regarding mental illness, or thoughts of suicide, please reach out for help. Depression is a treatable condition and needs to be discussed with the doctor.

For more information regarding Depression and MS, please visit the MSAA website at

National Alliance on Mental Illness:


October 2015 Artist of the Month: Celebrating the Work of Artists Affected by Multiple Sclerosis

MSAA is very proud to present our 2015 Art Showcase – celebrating the work of artists affected by MS.

We have received many wonderful submissions from across the country and are delighted to share their work and their stories with you. Please visit our online gallery to view all of the new submissions.

October Artist of the Month:
Bean Fairbanks – Seattle, WA

 Bean Fairbanks - Blowin in the Wind

About the Artist:
“All of my life, I have been part geek and part artist. Since 1987, I have been living with multiple sclerosis. One of the consequences/opportunities of MS has been that I have had to reinvent myself over and over again to maximize my current talents and surmount obstacles. That has been true of my career as well as my art work. Over the years, I have crafted with charcoal, pen and ink, pastels, acrylic and oils as well as my first love: textile arts.

Now most of artwork is augmented digitally. My laptop is much more forgiving of my hand tremors than pen and ink! The computer allows me to bring my artistic vision to light. Art remains my inspiration, therapy, passion and a means to communicate. My artwork is as eclectic as my moods, whether reflecting frenzy, sensuousness or the bare essence of being.”
Read more

Be inspired – please send an online card featuring artwork by MS artist Bean Fairbanks and spread awareness of MS and MSAA.


Highlights from MSAA’s Annual Golf Tournament

On Monday, September 28th, MSAA hosted the annual Gary Wallace Memorial Golf Tournament at Little Mill Country Club in Marlton, NJ. The golf tournament is held in memory of Gary Wallace, MSAA’s former Vice President of Finance & Administration, who devoted himself to improving the lives of people living with MS.

It was a full day of fun and friendly competition, all in the name of fulfilling MSAA’s mission of improving lives today for the entire MS community.

IMG_20150928_133858 IMG_20150928_134848 IMG_20150928_153142

We would like to thank all of our supporters, sponsors, volunteers, and everyone who came out to the event.

Thank you!!


No Routine Schedule with MS

By: Matt Cavallo 

There has been nothing routine about my schedule lately. Between traveling for work, the kids going back to school and everyday stress of life with multiple sclerosis, I am wiped out. My last flight was particularly exhausting. It seems that every time I travel, the airlines come up with new ways to delay my flights. This past one last week was a flat tire. Yes, a flat tire delayed me for two hours on a one hour flight to Santa Barbara.

That is the thing about life. There is relatively low predictability. Those of us living with MS love a predictable schedule, but the truth is that circumstances outside our control force us to adjust on the fly. The problem is that if we don’t keep up, we get left behind. So how do I manage to keep up with a busy schedule while dealing with a chronically fatiguing disease? Here are some tips that I use to make my hectic schedule a little more manageable.

3 Tips for Managing a Schedule with Multiple Sclerosis

1. Prioritize and Plan Ahead – Prioritize neurology, other doctor appointments or medical procedures ahead of time. There is limited availability for these medical services and spots fill up fast. If you know that you need a neurology follow-up, MRI, etc., plan six months ahead of time and book it. This will reduce the stress of trying to get an appointment at the last minute, which may cause the extra stress of having to juggle other items on your calendar.

2. Keep a Calendar – Whether electronic or paper, you need to have access to calendar reminders when planning your schedule. I cannot tell you how many times I have double booked myself because I did not refer to the calendar in my pocket. Using today’s technology will allow you to be prompted for important events or forecast possible conflicts. With MS you have enough to worry about, let the calendar manage your time, so you don’t have too. I know once I did, my stress of wondering what I had next was gone.

3. Let Go of what you can’t Control – This is perhaps the hardest lessen to learn. So you have prioritized, planned ahead and calendared an event. Then something unexpectedly flares up derailing your schedule. This is OK. It is bound to happen. Last week, there was nothing I could do about the flat tire on the plane. Some in the crowd went to customer service. Others went up to the gate agent. Most waited in some line for two hours asking questions about an event they couldn’t control. I sat in my seat and waited for the tire to be changed. After all, I would rather be a little late then try to land on a flat tire.

Living with multiple sclerosis is tough. It can be a chronically fatiguing condition that makes you feel like you are constantly trying to catch up with those around you. Don’t let your schedule contribute to your MS fatigue. Use my 3 tips for managing a schedule with multiple sclerosis. Remember to prioritize and plan ahead, keep an up-to-date calendar and let go of what you can’t control and you will find the everyday stress of keeping your time melt away.

*Matt Cavallo was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005. Matt is an MS blogger, author, patient advocate, and motivational speaker. Matt also has his Master’s degree in Public Health Administration. Matt is the proud father of his two sons, loving husband to his wife, Jocelyn, and best friend to his dog, Teddy. Originally from the Boston suburbs, Matt currently resides in Arizona with his family. To learn more about Matt, please visit him at :


Season of Change

Leaf PicIt’s that time of year again when the leaves are changing from green to yellow to red. What a beautiful time it is before they fall from the trees and we have to rake them up in the yard. This is a great time of year to go for a drive on a scenic route to see the beautiful scenery. Remember to pack a camera or take a quick shot with your phone!

The change of the season gets me thinking about how we accept change in our lives. Just like the seasons change, our lives change. Changes in your life require faith, dedication, and perseverance. Did you know that the true test of intelligence is not how much we know, but how we behave when we don’t know what to do?

Some people know that they need to make changes in their lives. But often find themselves taking the path of least resistance and don’t make the changes even if it means remaining unsatisfied. People stay in relationships that aren’t good for them. They keep jobs that bring them no joy. There is nothing wrong with change, especially when it has the potential to bring happiness.

The world around us is constantly changing. By being open to change we open ourselves up to learn the lesson that this change has for us. When we take this approach to change, we will accept it as a powerful, positive force in our lives.


Making Comparisons with MS – Community Feedback

There are so many aspects of living with MS that are frustrating, and sometimes those frustrations occur when interacting with people who do not have MS. One of our amazing contributors, Ashley Ringstaff, shared her feelings about people comparing their experiences with things like fatigue, pain, numbness, and other symptoms with those symptoms in someone who has MS. Many of our community members shared their thoughts and experiences with us after reading Ashley’s article, “You Can’t Compare…”. Here is what they had to say:

“Healthy” People Just Don’t Understand

  • This is something that I just cannot seem to communicate to certain people who don’t have MS or have never been chronically ill. “Healthy” people just cannot empathize, and I know because I used to be one and now my experience is completely different.
  • The best is when people who know I have MS contact me and tell me they feel they are having symptoms and think they might have MS too – as if I can diagnose them! I try to see it from their perspective but it’s very difficult. ‪Also when I say I’m fatigued- they say they get that way too all the time! I want to explain to them that they have no idea. But I just smile.
  • When I try to talk to family members, they say they get dizzy, or they stagger around, etc. I just stop talking and tell them they should get checked out. Even my husband doesn’t totally understand what I go through on a daily basis. I just get so frustrated that I can’t do everything I use to do.
  • I hate that my best friend who I haven’t been able to see that much in the past year constantly compares my issue with MS to her chronic pain in her hip, telling me she knows exactly how I feel.
  • When I tell people I can’t be in the heat (for me it’s anything above 70) they say “I don’t like the heat either”. I just look at them dumbfounded. I want to yell “When was the last time you got warm and couldn’t lift your legs to walk or think yourself.
  • You know, it is natural to feel this way. I am a 15-year stroke survivor and am irritated when someone (who has never experienced a stroke) says they know how I feel. The best common factor I’ve found is any type of trauma.

It’s really not possible to compare

  • You can’t even compare your symptoms with others experience who do have MS, or for that matter, I can’t even compare the last time I had a given symptom to what I experience this time.
  • I know there are many people in the world with diseases that are even worse than MS, so who compares what anyway? Just try to feel good for yourself and forget about complaining.
  • It’s next to impossible to explain what having multiple sclerosis is like to people.

“Healthy” People offer a lot of unsolicited advice

  • They ask how I am feeling, so I tell them. The response is always “have you tried such and such” or “that happens to me, too.” Now I only share my symptoms and feelings with medical professionals and a couple of friends who truly do understand. Family? Forget it.
  • I love when people say “you would feel better if you lose weight or eat healthier” or the classic “exercise would make you feel great”. My family and friends mean well but don’t always say the right things.

“Healthy” People are just trying to relate to us – it’s harmless

  • I like to be more optimistic – I believe, most of the time, they are trying to relate. Unless they are significant in my life, I don’t try to differentiate.
  • I feel the majority are trying to empathize. Most just don’t know how to react when you tell them you have MS because they don’t understand what it means.

What about you? Do you find that “healthy” people try to compare their symptoms with yours? Share with us in the comments!


Managing the Hectic Schedule

“It’s how we spend our time here and now, that really matters. If you are fed up with the way you have come to interact with time, change it.” –Marcia Wieder

While many things in life may seem out of our immediate control, there is one constant that has the ability to change; time. While we can’t make more hours in a day, we can change our perception of time and how our days will look.

Start your day off right. While preparing for the day, take a moment to jot down a few notes on things that need to be accomplished. Personal calendars, phone reminders, or dry erase boards are a helpful way to organize tasks.

Take into consideration MS symptom management. When planning out the day, consider your MS symptoms. Are you more productive in the early mornings, or late afternoons? Does your MS disease-modifying treatment cause symptoms or side effects? If so, make sure to plan around your treatment dosage time.

Reprioritize. It’s OK not to check everything off of your to-do list in one day. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Take a moment during the day to look over your list and consider what not to do that day.

Time management is a personal journey. What works for someone might not work for everyone, but it is nice to hear how others plan their days. What tips or strategies do you use to manage your hectic schedule?


Finding Peace

Did you know that September 21st is known as the International Day of Peace, or World Peace Day? A day that encourages peace and the strength of positive ideas and movements, this internationally observed time is celebrated throughout countries across the world.

In a society that’s currently faced with some troubling and distressing times, it’s important to reflect on the idea of peace and what it means to you. It doesn’t have to look the same from person to person because everyone is unique in their own thoughts and feelings. It’s about carrying out behaviors and actions that can increase positivity and optimism and a sense of tranquility.

The things that can endorse and increase peace do not have to be grand gestures. It can be personal and private moments where you find strength from certain actions, or it can be doing good deeds for others and promoting positive thinking. The possibilities of peace can be endless because the gestures and concept behind it are endless.

You can find peace through meditation, songs, books, your relationships with others and yourself. You can choose to get involved in community activities or ask others to join events that help promote peaceful and positive thinking. No matter the task, the idea of peace can be translated in many different forms and its message remains everlasting.

What brings you peace?