I recently saw a quote that said “Negativity may knock at your door, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it in.” This really resonated because there are times in life that negativity does try to seep in and corrupt happiness and positive feelings. It emits toxicity and wants to take control over everything – and sometimes it’s hard not to feed into it and become consumed by it, especially when it presents with life circumstances that are unexpected and unwelcome.
It’s inevitable that at some point throughout life everyone experiences difficult times that unfortunately they have no control over. Things happen, obstacles or illnesses that we can’t foresee, but it’s important to know the aspects of your life that you do have control over. The people and influences that you choose to make a part of your life can be positive ones – you can make the choice to surround yourself with positive reinforcement and encouragement by choosing who you want to be a part of your inner support network. Are there times that we can’t control who are a part of our day to day lives? Of course. But sometimes you can control the frequency or duration of these interactions with others – even though sometimes this may be more difficult to accomplish. Let’s say if it’s family or friends that emit negativity, it can be more challenging to control and limit these exchanges because of the nature of the relationship. However, if there are moments that their negativity is all consuming and blocks out all that can be uplifting and positive, you can respectfully remove yourself from the situation.
One way to decrease negative energy is to purposely and consciously surround yourself with positive energy. Doing things you enjoy, communicating with others who make you feel supported and inspired and letting yourself experience good moments are ways to increase affirmation and optimism. When you have the chance to remove yourself from a negative encounter, be sure to book end it with a positive one, so that way at the end of the day, light conquers all.
The summer season usually conjures up warm memories for me (sorry, no pun intended!) of times when things were simpler being young and summer was the best time of year. Growing up, my family used to gather at my aunt and uncle’s house for get-togethers and special occasions, especially during the summer months because their house was attached to a private elementary school where there was a lot of open area. They acted as caretakers to the school grounds so we had access to two different playgrounds equipped with slides, swing sets and jungle gym activities and a large tot-lot for playing basketball and volleyball. We often had family barbecues there and were so excited when the 4th of July holiday was celebrated because we could watch the fireworks right from their porch. These are some of my best memories I hold from my childhood – playing outside with relatives and being with family and thinking the summer should never end.
As we grow older our memories stay with us – as special pieces of time you’ve stored for yourself to take out and reminisce over whenever you’re feeling sentimental, or just want to recall something good. There are certain triggers that can activate these memories – songs, movies, places, things. For me, my summer memories are triggered by the smell of flowers and grass, barbecue grilling – and the charcoal kind, not the fancier gas grill devices seen all over the place nowadays. Rice Krispy treats – my grandmother used to make the best treats for summer occasions. And mosquito bites – I know this one is a bit strange, but those little buggers would eat us alive playing outside during the summer!
The point is, no matter what the memory is or its trigger, these precious fragments of time that represent moments throughout our lives are something to treasure and hold onto with care. They allow us to go back to times we remember fondly and that gives us hope that the memories could possibly be recreated again someday.
What’s your favorite summertime memory?
It’s here again – the summer season is upon us! Though for some people it actually may feel like it’s been here for quite a while depending on where you live. But the recent Memorial Day holiday really kicked off the start of the season for most around the country. With the arrival of summer some people start making travel plans and agendas for how to spend these months. Trying to schedule a trip can be stressful, and for those traveling with a disability or chronic illness, the planning process can be extra demanding. Ensuring certain accommodations are in place, scheduling stops and making arrangements for accessible travel are some of the necessary steps to take when planning a trip. Here are some things to consider in the planning phase:
Where are you going?
- If they are needed – does your destination have disability accommodations? Like accessible bathrooms and sleeping areas, accessible activities/restaurants/shopping/travel routes within the town? It may help to call hotels and destinations beforehand to ensure their facilities meet your needs. This can help to decrease the stress of arriving at your destination and not having what you need to enjoy your trip.
What will you need for your trip?
- Packing necessities like toiletries is just one part of the process. Having the appropriate amount of medications/treatments, equipment, and other products is important to ensure you won’t be left without something significant for your health condition while you’re away.
Who can you contact for help?
- While planning a trip you will find there are resources available that can help you with the process. For example, you can work with a travel agent who specializes in accessible and disability travel that has knowledge on how to find locations and services that are accommodating for your requests. You can also get in touch with disability organizations and resources in the area where you’ll be traveling for additional assistance regarding local services and what’s available. Websites like Disabled Travelers and Access-Able Travel Source can provide information for accessible travel needs as well.
Do you have plans for the summer? What does your planning process look like?
Change is something that can be unavoidable at times and not always favored, nor asked for or necessarily welcomed. Though sometimes it can be difficult, there may be times when change is needed to make certain things more manageable. As it can be known to cause shifts in all types of roles, relationships, plans, or daily routines, adjusting to change can have impacts not just on yourself but those around you as well. One of the significant pieces needed throughout the change process is communication. Communication with family, friends, support networks, medical teams and others within your circle is important to be able to discuss what change has occurred and what can be done to accommodate it.
When dealing with something like a chronic illness, change can particularly affect family and relationship roles and dynamics. This can be difficult for all the family members involved. It can be difficult to change a routine and how things used to flow from one day to the next. Say one family member has been known to be the ‘caregiver’ to the others, taking care of the household duties and responsibilities. What if they suddenly need to be the one being cared for due to an illness? This can create a shift in how the household duties are shared and now need to be assigned to others.
Communicating how these changes affect the relationships is important. Feeling frustrated, confused, or even angry at times is ok because things are different. The critical point is to make sure that these thoughts and feelings are expressed to ensure that all people feel they are heard and that their feelings are validated and valued. Seeking some type of family counseling supports can be beneficial to talk about change in a safe and open format—so that all of those affected can discuss it.
Has change affected any of your relationships? How did you approach this?
Such a direct question, right out of the gate! And it’s one we encounter often when meeting new people – report your name and occupation for informational purposes, please. Because of the nature of this interaction (which feels very unnatural at times), meeting new people can be intimidating. It can be an awkward situation with pressure to ask or answer certain questions that may be sensitive to you or the other person. It can also be stressful to open yourself up to new people because the outcomes can be uncertain. How will the other person interpret what you said? Will they be accepting of you? And the detailed request to explain what you do rather than who you are can feel uncomfortable too, especially for those who may not currently be in the workforce to identify themselves as their work first.
Ok, so new conversations don’t exactly occur like this: “Hi, I’m John. I like traveling, going to the opera, and fishing.” But they don’t necessarily have to evolve into interactions that make you feel like you’re filling out paperwork at the DMV either. There can be a balance, where you can actually learn about the person’s character and their likes before judging them solely by what they do or don’t do for a living. It may not feel like it, but perhaps those who are no longer working are at an advantage at times in this new meeting scenario. This leaves the discussion open to actually discussing matters that are not just work related!
Other topics of conversation can be brought into the encounter and people can learn who the other person is and not just what they do. Maybe this conversation flow can include “tell me something about yourself,” thus creating a whole new direction of discussion between new people.
Even though meeting people can be scary sometimes, it can also open up so many exciting doors for increased interactions and forming relationships with others, which can be of great value!
How do you meet new people?
Ahh, the time of year that brings colorful flowers into bloom and comfortable temps is finally here! April showers that bring May flowers help mark the arrival of spring type weather and a time for people to get outside and enjoy this time of year. It’s not too warm yet in most of the country, which allows for outdoor events to be enjoyed, not denied because of the heat. So what are some things people can get out and enjoy doing during this spring time?
Doing outdoor chores like gardening or yard work can be relaxing at times while you go at your own pace, or just sitting outside during this season can be refreshing, breathing in air that the winter months made most people hibernate against. Attending ball games, community events and outings, exercising or taking a ride can all be welcomed activities to appreciate this month. Spring doesn’t seem to last too long in relation to the sizzling summer and frigid winter months, so consider this period a ‘fling’ to do what you like, no matter what the activity is.
You can get together with people you enjoy spending time with and make up your own activities or events this season. Try something new – like a project or artwork you’ve always wanted to create, and have others help you to make it a fun group activity. It’s important to let yourself be present in the moment, especially if you’re engaging in something new, so that you can appreciate the situation for what it’s offering. The seasons come and go, so be sure to make your ‘spring fling’ a memorable one!
What’s your idea of a fun ‘spring fling?’
During the holidays I received a gift certificate to try yoga classes at an exercise studio in my area. I was always interested in trying this type of class and this was my opportunity to finally do so. I have to admit that I was a little nervous going to that first class. With feelings similar to the first day of school I didn’t know what to expect – what the teacher would be like, if I would be doing the exercises “right,” and if I wanted to come back. I don’t think I was alone in these feelings as I’m sure others have similar thoughts when trying something new for the first time, but I was worried about how it would affect my performance. I didn’t want to be the odd man out and have it be completely transparent that I had no idea what I was doing.
To my surprise, on the first day of class I wasn’t the only new student! I was relieved to see that there were several other new students joining the class and trying this yoga for the first time! This gave me comfort knowing that I at least wouldn’t be the only new face in the crowd of others more experienced and that perhaps these other folks shared in my own initial fears about trying something new.
The class turned out to be great – the teacher was encouraging and the exercises were dynamic and fun. It was a challenge on the mind and body in an uplifting and positive way, and something I felt so proud of myself for trying. I have continued attending the class and look forward to it each time I attend.
No matter the task, exercise, venture or opportunity that comes your way, the point is that you’re not alone in the initial fears or concerns or questions that you have about it. At some point everyone encounters something new, so it comes down to the question of if and how you’ll approach it, and if this something new has potential benefits for you. You won’t know until you try it, right?
What new venture will you try?
*Please remember to consult with your physician before starting a new exercise routine
That is the question, at least today as it pertains to learning about the disease of MS. As we close in on a month dedicated to MS awareness, many individuals still do not know much about this rare disease. One challenge lies in the fact that the information available on MS can be very overwhelming at times, especially as the internet alone exudes multiple portals of literature and resources about the disease. This can sometimes have the opposite effect on education; rather than pulling people in to learn more, it actually sometimes intimidates people to the point where they shy away from learning more about it. This is completely understandable – MS can be difficult to understand and grasp, so it’s a process to educate oneself and others about it. So the question is, is it better to know, or not to know?
When MS touches the life of someone you know, love, interact with, or share a history with, it can be hard to comprehend what this disease is that’s affecting that person. If you didn’t have knowledge of what it was before, this may be a whole new learning process for you as well. Being part of someone’s support network keeps you tied into what’s going on in their daily experiences, so knowing what MS is and its process can help keep you informed of what they’re going through, and how you may be able to offer support when needed.
It’s not something that can be learned or taught overnight. It’s a process – and one that doesn’t have to be done alone. Talking about MS with family members, friends, peers and other support resources can aid in the significant education piece that comes with the disease. Learning more about it is the first step in knowing what it is and how you can offer your support. It can start with just an overview of MS information, and lead into further discussions and outreach. It’s also important to know that it’s ok to take your time learning about MS – review the information as you’re comfortable doing so at your own pace, and when you have questions reach out and ask. In the matter of MS, the act of knowing can be more beneficial than not.
Share something new you’ve learned about MS…
Boy oh boy, what a winter we’ve had this year! There wasn’t a part of the country that didn’t experience some effect of this peculiar and extraordinary season – whether it was ice, snow, freezing rain or just downright frigid temperatures, we’ve all had a taste of the season! I think at this point spring will be a welcomed phase of the year – even though that means some sweltering summer temps are right behind it. But until then, why not take advantage of the weather change (whenever it does occur), and do some things to enjoy the season?
Spring is a great time to get back outdoors after winter’s hibernation; no matter what type of activity, just breathing in some fresh outdoor air can awaken the senses. Traveling, gardening, walking, exercising, riding or sitting outside are all ventures that can be explored during this period. Spring is a good time to clean things out and get organized – to throw away the old and make room for the new in order to help you keep track of what’s needed.
Explore opportunities within your community – there may be different events and activities occurring during spring that you can participate in. It may also help to talk with your doctor about different activities you can do to help with any MS symptom management issues or finding a task that is appropriate for your needs. Every individual has their own preferences and favorite things they enjoy, so the arrival of spring provides a chance to do something new and start the season with novel hope and promise.
What will you do this spring?
It’s all the rage these days – communicating to others through technology channels, especially online. Gone are the days where individuals only communicated in-person or by telephone. Now interacting with others may still involve a telephone, but mostly by way of text messaging and social media platforms do people stay tied to others.
Using online communication systems to interact has been steadily increasing with the technology age and will probably continue to do so. Individuals in the MS community use various types of online platforms and discussion groups to discuss MS-related topics and interests with fellow members of the community.
As this online communication trend continues, what are some ways to ensure your safety and comfort level when accessing these portals?
Read and review. Be sure to read and review any website and social media platform policies when engaging in online interactions. Your privacy is important, so be cautious of what information you share online and how it will be shared with others; only share and disclose what you’re comfortable with. Use discretion if disclosing personal details or identifying information about yourself. You want to ensure that your safety and privacy remain a priority when connecting to others.
If some type of interaction feels ‘off’ in some way, be mindful of that feeling and try to take the appropriate steps to disengage if necessary. Remember why you reached out in the first place, if you feel as though you are not getting the support or information you need, or that conversations are not healthy for you, you have the right to leave the conversation.
Communicating online can be a supportive and dynamic experience, so just be sure to do so safely and appropriately.