Purging: Useful in More Ways than One

Ahhh Spring…a time when flowers are in bloom, daylight lasts a bit longer, and everyone tries to come out of hibernation from the cold winter months. Spring cleaning is known to be synonymous with this time as well; to rid households or offices of stale, closed up winter residue and open up to the fresher and rejuvenating seasons ahead. But this period of spring cleaning does not have to begin and end with just cleaning out closets or drawers, but rather a purging of all things unwanted, unnecessary or negative that’s affecting your life.

Now I know this can be easier said than done—things happen that you can’t control or predict sometimes or can even change, but for the situations where you do have control or a say in it, rid yourself of negativity and toxicity. If you have the opportunity to shed things that don’t add or contribute positively to your life, do it. Life is unpredictable as it is and there’s so much that we don’t have control over, so if there are moments where you can actively take charge and remove the unwanted, jump on it.

The act of purging can be cathartic; it can help you discard pessimistic thoughts and even people, which can be so very draining to deal with, especially on a regular basis. This practice may be a lengthy and emotional one because it can take time to evaluate these aspects of your life and day-to-day. To realize what should stay and what should go is an inner learning process and one that only you yourself should decide. It’s not easy breaking ties or cutting things out, but in the end you have to consider what’s ultimately going to be best for you, and finding comfort with the decisions you’ve made and to be able to move forward. Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be defined by just clearing out closets; it can be a clearing of the mind as well.

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April 2017 Artist of the Month: Celebrating the Work of Artists Affected by Multiple Sclerosis

MSAA is very proud to present our 2017-18 Art Showcase – celebrating the work of artists affected by multiple sclerosis (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.

David Desjardins – Union, ME
Burnt Island Light
Burnt Island Light

About the Artist:
When I received my MS diagnosis, it was difficult to remain positive and find anything to be happy about. As time went on and I wasn’t able to work anymore, it occurred to me one day that my inactivity could be a good thing because at last I had a chance to paint!

There is very little in my life I have control over now, but one thing I do have control over is my painting. Creativity has always been part of who I am, but aside from being able to create something beautiful, I can escape the realities I face through my art even if it’s only temporary.”
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Recovering from ‘Overdoing It’

Recently, one of our community experts wrote an article detailing how she recovers after a day of “overdoing it.”  Whether overdoing it means doing too much physical activity, traveling, or just pushing yourself past your limits to take a shower, so many of our community members could relate to this feeling.  Whether this occurs frequently or only occasionally, you are not alone!  So many people responded with what overdoing it means to them, how it frustrates them, and they you recover.  We received so many wonderful comments, we wanted to feature several to share with everyone!

The Overall Frustration of Overdoing It

“For me, overdoing it brings foot drop, a very bad mood, balance issues and trouble getting things into words. Oddly enough, reading books gets hard too……my mind just can’t seem to concentrate”

Overdoing it is rough and what might get you one day, might not be as bad on another day. You never really know until you’ve done it. And dealing with those who have no idea what it’s all about only adds to the problem”

“It stinks when ‘overdoing it’ consists of walking my child to the bus stop so she can get to school, coming home to make myself a bowl of cereal, and going all-out and brushing my teeth immediately after eating!”

Overdoing it can take on many forms and can be caused by completely varying triggers, causing much frustration and agony.

Attempting to Avoid Overdoing It

“I try to pace myself and not schedule too much for one day, but I also want to live as much as I can while I still can.”

“It is important to pace yourself which is why it’s important to put some breaks in between long days. But even doing that I’m still exhausted”

“I’m trying to make sure I eat healthy and pace myself, but it’s really difficult once I try. I’m still looking for a balance between work, classes and personal life”

Even the best laid plans and precautions can still lead to exhaustion later.  If this sounds like you, you are certainly not alone!

What to Do Once Exhaustion Sets In

“For me, the fatigue is the hardest hurdle because you can’t navigate around it. It must be recognized, respected, and my body rested. Always when it’s the last thing I WANT to do. Surrender. But meditation and focusing on releasing that anxiety from being forced to stop is an ongoing practice”

“I’ve been getting OT/PT and they made me keep a log of activity. I can do 1 to 2 activities a day. We practice taking breaks. Breathing between steps. Sitting before it’s too far. Laughing more”

“Try everything you can imagine to pull yourself through this maze. Exercise at home if you can’t get out. Don’t feel bad if you can’t accomplish tasks as you once did”

“Today I went in my room and took a nap. I explained that I had to. When I got up I apologized and told them I really had to take that nap”

“Sleep, shower, sleep, sleep, and sleep!”

Everyone handles their exhaustion after overdoing it differently.  Whether it’s distracting yourself with a good book or movie, getting some exercise, shifting your mindset, or just getting some good, old-fashioned rest, you know best what your body needs!

Let us know how you overcome the exhaustion after overdoing it.  Your advice may help someone else in the community who finds themselves struggling with this experience!

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Wellness is a Big Puzzle

By Lauren Kovacs

Wellness is as broad as MS itself.  It is a never-ending struggle for some kind of wellness.  It haunts most of us like a persistent poltergeist.  Little pieces fit into the MS puzzle and you need them all.

We all try and latch onto any floating debris. We ask, “What if it helps?”  There it is, the dreaded, “What if?”  Always try it; it might work for you.  Turmeric is a decent life-ring for some, for example.

It is really hope we cling to, in the end, no matter how small. Routines and eating well are obvious pieces. Many of us find reducing gluten and sugar helps.  The jigsaw puzzle of MS wellness is huge.  Someone’s failed try might be someone else’s small victory.

One piece I have found to be golden is mental wellness.  We all need to vent.  I have a talk therapist.  I dump my MS garbage on her, poor dear.

A disinterested third party is great for me, mentally.  I am a talker.  I can talk your ear off.  With recent MS stuff, talking is work. Ok, I sound drunk.  My brain wants to release, but by the time the flow gets out it is a muddy mess.

Unloading on your spouse puts a big kink in your marriage. Talking to a friend helps, but it has to be the right friend. Talking to a family member might not work either.

Many people are not equipped to carry the burden of listening to our MS struggles.  So, we put on a happy face and move on.  Eventually our bag gets too heavy and explodes or leaks.

A trail of MS juice follows us, if we ignore it.  It drips from our backpack with every step.  Wellness calls for us to find a way to lighten our load or patch the leak.  The MS backpack is a permanent fixture.  We can never take it off.  Wellness of any kind is a welcomed Band-Aid.

Talking to someone helps me feel better.  I can trip over my own words or smear them as they come out.  I need the release at times.  Friends might hear complaining and family might get annoyed.

Wellness is a puzzle piece.  Trying to smash it into the wrong place won’t work, no matter how you turn the piece.  Mental wellness is personal, and very important.  You have to find the best way you can to slide that piece of the puzzle in.  A Cadbury Crème Egg helps too.

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Wellness Needs a Nap

By Lauren Kovacs

I can’t stress this enough.  Fatigue is a relentless beast. If we want to be as well as we can, sleeping helps.  From marathon naps to a wee kitty snooze, it is a must.  Some days more than one is needed.

Don’t resist the craving to sleep.  Cave in and watch the back of your eyelids. Mid-day naps work for me. Even my dog knows when it is my naptime.   In this sense resistance is not good.  Don’t fight sleep.

I sleep with the phone and I only answer it if it is my kids’ schools.  Most people, with two brain cells to rub together, know I am out of order during naptime.  I have “out of area” numbers blocked by my phone company and if something gets through, I turn it on and off to get it to stop ringing.

Blocking out light and sounds help me too. I have a hard time with glare and sleeping in sunglasses is uncomfortable.  I put something over my eyes. Eyelids are not enough and fabric blocks it out.

A few drops of lavender oil on my sheets can be relaxing.  I also have a hard time clearing my mind.  Boy Scouts, soccer, Taekwondo and many other scenes in life are doing the Tango in my brain all night.  I draw the curtain on that sleep-sucking dance by reading.  A few pages of fiction turn the pages of life.

Listen to your body.  It whispers wellness secrets.  If you are too hot, your body tells you.  If you need to sleep your body will tell you.  LISTEN.  If your body says it needs chocolate…  Listen to it!

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This is for the Weary Ones

By Penelope Conway

This is for the weary ones, the tired ones, and the “I can’t go on” ones.

This is for the ones who cry behind closed doors yet muster up a smile to face the day.

This is for the ones who dream of the day multiple sclerosis is cured so they no longer have to deal with doctor appointments, meds, needles, and pain.

This is for the ones who keep going, even when they know they need to stop for a moment to do nothing but chill on the couch with a good book or a marathon of their favorite show on TV.

This is for the ones who long to take a vacation where they are waited on hand and foot; no laundry, no dishes, no vacuuming, no work of any kind.

This is for the ones who get stressed and overwhelmed with the demands a life with multiple sclerosis brings.

This is for the ones who find it hard to keep going, who long for a break, who need time off, and who deal with too much.

This is for you.

You are an amazing, courageous, beautiful person. You are not alone. Take some time to do something just for you. That pile of laundry… let it pile up. It doesn’t matter. Take time for you. Treat yourself to a movie, a night out, a steak dinner, a trip through the park, or a giant slice of chocolate cheesecake. Shake off those negative thoughts that cause you to feel worse than MS could ever make you feel.

Stand outside your situation and, for just a moment, try looking in from the outside. Think about what you would say to someone else standing in your shoes. Would you remind them of their value? Would you tell them to worry less? Would you encourage them to ask for help so they aren’t doing everything alone? Would you show them how to smile through the tears?

You have a mountain in front of you… an Everest. That’s your reality. But no matter how big it may be, it can be climbed. Don’t look at its massive size. Choose instead to take your eyes off of the rock in front of you and look out at the beauty all around. Stop for just a moment and breathe. It takes courage, determination and strength… and you have each one.

So as you climb Mount Everest with your heart pounding in your chest and your knees buckling under you, give yourself one tiny moment to realize just how incredible you really are. You are worth it. You matter!

*Penelope Conway was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in November 2011. She is the author and founder of Positive Living with MS (http://positivelivingwithms.com/) where she uses humor and her own life experiences with MS to help others navigate this unpredictable journey. She believes that staying positive and holding onto hope is the key to waking up each morning with the strength to get through the day.

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Being ‘Emotionally’ Well

So, in talking about different aspects of wellness this month I wanted to shine light on one wellness factor that I think is very important, and probably one of the most difficult to measure—emotional wellness. Because the concept of wellness carries with it so many different implications, the emotional piece of it comes loaded with many questions and wonderings in itself. What does it look or feel like to be ‘emotionally’ well?

In a world that’s wracked with chaos and havoc a lot of the time, how many people can say that on a day to day basis that they are emotionally feeling well? Sometimes it’s impossible to keep up this façade, and rightfully so; no matter how much you try to control in your world, life decides to get in the way at times and carry out its own agenda. Obstacles, illness, accidents, frustration, and stress are all elements that can impact one’s emotions and try to change how you react and cope with things. But this is where you get to step in and shake things up; though life does sometimes enjoy giving us a plethora of lemons, we have the choice to make lemonade. It won’t always be easy, and I guarantee there are times that it’ll be even more difficult, but if you consciously choose to stay still with yourself and use the resources you have at hand, you can make the most delicious of lemonade concoctions ever tasted as a result.

One of the main components to emotional wellness is a positive attitude, and I think this is a piece that can be especially hard to maintain at times. But again, while we may not have control over the things that happen to us, we can control how we react to them, and trying to stay positive and optimistic in this may be one of the strongest weapons we have. Being able to seek support from others is another measure of this wellness puzzle piece. Now this can be challenging for many, as asking for help can be misconstrued and thought of negatively at times, but rather than see it in this light, think of it as a strength – reaching out to others in times of need shows that you are aware of and considerate of your needs and what you need to move forward. And if that means it’s a helping hand reaching out to you, then grab hold of it. You know yourself best, so if you find that you don’t have all the pieces to help you feel emotionally well, pin down what you think is missing and allow yourself to look for it.

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Where Has the Time Gone?

It’s (finally) officially spring in the Northern Hemisphere. While temperatures in the spring-like arena appeared earlier than expected in many areas, today marks the official start of the Spring Equinox, and with it the end of another winter.

Spring, like many of the other seasons, helps us to mark the passage of time. One month ends as another begins while we watch as one season gives way to the next. The passage of time can be something that renews us, but for some it can also be decidedly daunting. Preparing for a change or coming to the end of a journey. When we think of our wellness we tend to parse it out into differing categories and label each with action steps to move it along. Time is one of the few things that inches its way into all aspects of our wellness. The time we take to devote to our physical wellness. Setting aside time to recharge and center for mental wellness. Or the time we give ourselves to work thru emotional times to attend to our emotional wellness. Time and for many of us the lack of it in reserve is another aspect we have to consider when we talk about our wellness. Being deliberate about taking time to ourselves when we need it most and even when we don’t think we do. Taking an intentional (as much as is possible) look at the time we spend and what that says about the things that matter to us. It’s been said that “time has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters”. Where and what and who we spend our time on has the ability to shape the way we view not only ourselves, but also our wellness.

As spring arrives and we are in the mode of thinking of change, take stock of your personal wellness on all levels. See what aspects of your wellness that you may be spending not enough time, too much time or no time at all on and consider making an adjustment to see how thinking about the devotion of your time will impact your overall wellness.

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A Little St. Patrick’s Day Fun

March 17 is the day we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  What began as a religious feast day for the patron saint of Ireland has become an international celebration of Irish culture. Many people and towns across the nation celebrate with parades, dancing, special foods and a whole lot of green.

Today you don’t need to be from Ireland to have the luck of Irish on your side!  Here are a few simple ways you can simply enjoy some St. Patrick’s Day fun.

  1. Grab Some Cinnamon Sticks

Some believe that putting a stick of cinnamon in your wallet will lead to wealth and prosperity. Who doesn’t need a few extra bucks these days?

  1. Find Yourself a Four-Leaf Clover

The four-leaf clover is said to bring good luck to those who stumble upon it.  Check in a patch you may have growing in your yard.

  1. Visit Your Garden

Lavender comes from the Latin word “lavare,” which means to wash. Lavender is said to ward off evil spirits.

  1. Burn Sage

Sage is another plant that is said to help ward off evil spirits and is said to fight off negative energy that could be lurking on this Irish holiday.

  1. Lucky Rabbit Foot

Some cultures believe that carrying around the foot of a rabbit will bring good luck. Could be worth a try!

There are several other good luck myths, too.  These are just a few to help you feel lucky!


How will you attract luck on St. Patrick’s Day?

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MSAA to Host “Ask Me Anything”

Do you have questions about multiple sclerosis that you’ve been meaning to ask? Here’s your chance!

Join the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America on March 29, 2017 at 6:00 PM for an Ask Me Anything session with MS Expert, Dr. Barry Singer, on My MSAA Community. For one hour, Dr. Singer will answer your questions about MS posted in a designated conversation thread on the Community.

WHAT: MS Awareness Month “Ask Me Anything” (AMA)
WHO: MSAA and Dr. Barry Singer, Director of The MS Center for Innovations in Care in St. Louis, MO
WHEN: Wednesday, March 29th, 6:00 – 7:00 PM EST
WHERE: My MSAA Community on HealthUnlocked

If you would like to ask a question during the Ask Me Anything session, you will need to have or create a profile on My MSAA Community, our peer-to-peer online community in which you can share your MS journey, connect with others, and contribute to ongoing conversations – all from your phone, tablet, or computer.

Join us on My MSAA Community for this special “Ask Me Anything” session during MS Awareness Month to get answers to your questions!

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