I Wish My Body Had a Dimmer Switch to Relax…

By Stacie Prada

It’s too bad our neurological wiring doesn’t include on/off dimmer switches like some of the electrical lights in my home. The central nervous system and myelin degradation caused by multiple sclerosis are often compared to electrical wires with the outer coating frayed or damaged. It seems only fitting that we should be able to extend the metaphor and enjoy the ability to increase or decrease the current through our nerves. The fantasy of being able to turn off or dim misfiring electrical signals to my arms and legs when spasticity is acting up is enticing.

Dimmer Switch written on a blue post-it talking about how to relax
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Feet Up

By Doug Ankerman

Kick back. Tune out. Unplug. Turn off. Relaxing is as simple as that, right?

Maybe. But it helps.

Today’s totable technology makes it difficult to “get away from it all.” Laptops, cellphones, Bluetooth, iPods, WiFi…the list is longer than your power cord.

There is no escaping the news, the noise or pictures of what Sharon ordered at that Italian joint.

With MS my brain & body are frazzled enough. The buzz of mindless clutter only adds to a defragged nervous system.

As a self-proclaimed news junkie, it’s even harder for me to step away from the gear to find my blissful “chi.” But it can be done. And it may be easier than you think.

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Relax, you got this.

Relaxing is easier said than done sometimes. Whether it be work, school, parenting, pets, health concerns, or finances, sometimes daily tasks are simply overwhelming. Stress can be triggered by internal factors such as negative self-talk or external factors like major life events or daily hassles. Here are some helpful strategies to help us relax when we are feeling stressed and need to soothe our mind and body.

Change your negative self-talk to positive or neutral.

We are often our own worst critics. Negative self-talk is that critical inner dialogue that devalues us or puts us down and limits our potential. It may sound like “I can’t do anything right” or “my body is weak; I’m never going to get better.” Negative self-talk promotes feelings of helplessness and stress. These are cognitive distortions, persistent thoughts that aren’t grounded in facts or reality.

This harsh form of self-criticism can be managed. Practice recognizing these thoughts, acknowledge them when they arise, and take your power back. Try stopping those thoughts by saying “stop” to yourself, remind yourself that these thoughts are not facts, and replace them with a positive or neutral thought. For example, instead of telling yourself “I’m useless and it won’t get better,” try reframing your thoughts to say something positive like “I am having a difficult time right now, but I have dealt with similar challenges before, and I can handle this too.” Reframing those thoughts doesn’t mean lying or relying on false positivity. If you can’t think of a positive way to rephrase it, try something neutral like “It’s not going great, but I’ll handle it.” Identifying these thoughts and reframing them takes practice. The first step is becoming self-aware and understanding that there is a difference between your feelings and reality. If you have a difficult time recognizing these negative thoughts, ask yourself, would you be this negative and critical of a loved one if this was happening to them instead?

Massage Therapy

Massages are a great way of relaxing tense muscles, relieving pain, and reducing stress. It involves the manipulation of soft tissue, including muscles and tendons, to promote relaxation, pain relief, and improved circulation. Getting a massage with a professional massage therapist can be expensive, but luckily, self-massage can also give us some of the same benefits.

You may use your hands or tools to knead your skin and apply pressure to tense muscles. Rub massage oil or lotion on your hands and massage your shoulders, neck, head, and body. Focus on the areas where you feel tension and discomfort. You may use the palms of your hands to massage in circles and apply more pressure with your fingertips. Be mindful of the amount of pressure you are applying to avoid injuries. You may use specifically designed massage tools like electric neck and shoulder massagers and foam rollers, or you may use a tennis ball or other objects to help get those hard-to-reach areas in your back by placing them on the wall and using your back to roll the object.

Professional massage therapy can be effective for people affected by MS who are experiencing pain, but it may exacerbate symptoms for some individuals. MS can be unpredictable and affect individuals differently. It is important to consult with your healthcare provider before engaging in complementary therapy and seek a professional therapist who is trained and can accommodate your specific health needs, such as sensitivity to heat, bladder concerns, and mobility issues. You may visit the American Massage Therapy Association for assistance in locating a qualified massage therapist and information about your state’s licensing regulations.

Next time you are feeling overwhelmed, try these techniques to help soothe your body and mind. We might not have complete control over external factors, but we can control how we treat ourselves.

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Hannah Garrison – August 2022 Artist of the Month

Each year, we feature the work of artists affected by multiple sclerosis in our annual MSAA Art Showcase. We receive many wonderful submissions from across the country and are delighted to share the work of these artists and their inspirational stories with you, including highlighting one artist each month as our Artist of the Month. This month, we are proud to feature artist and MSAA’s Improving Lives Benefit 2022 Mission Honoree Hannah Garrison of San Antonio, TX:

Hannah Garrison artwork in turquoise and orange entitled "Wonder what this is?" for MSAA's Artist of the Month
“Wonder what this is?”

About the Artist – Hannah Garrison

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How Visual Patterns Affect People With Multiple Sclerosis

It may come as a surprise to many people that multiple sclerosis (MS) affects eyesight. But those living with MS know it can compromise parts of their vision, including depth perception.

MS affects the muscles in the body, sometimes including the muscles around the eyes. Having eye muscles that are weak or damaged can lead to complications like dizziness or vertigo. Like MS itself, these visual problems get worse with fatigue and stress.1

Illustration of woman with MS dizziness and vertigo covering face with hands and illustrative circles around her head

To find out more about the issues the MS community faces, we reached out on the MultipleSclerosis.net Facebook page. We asked, “Does patterned flooring or wallpaper ever make you feel unstable or put you into a feeling of vertigo?”

More than 200 people responded. Here is what they shared.

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Grilled Watermelon

Watermelon wedges are fun to grill. Who knew!!! 

A refreshing, yummy summer dessert, this recipe can be made ahead of time and stored in your refrigerator. You can also eat it immediately. Seedless watermelons work best. Feel free to cut wedges into any size you like. 1” wedges seem to be just right.

Ingredients

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Summoning Summer

By Stacie Prada

Well into July this year, summer weather hasn’t arrived where I live yet. Days are cool and pleasant, but intermittent rain and cloudy days persist.

A few days ago, I ordered an iced coffee for the first time this year. With my first sip, I had a strong sense of summer. It was an involuntary and automatic response where my exhale was one of complete satisfaction. It made it clear to me how much seasons are about more than the weather. I’d been waiting for summer to start, and I realized I can enjoy summer without waiting for the weather to change.

Summoning Summer written on a yellow post-it talking about summer weather
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Lazy Days of Summer

Ahh… summertime! The lazy days of summer are here, and the season of relaxation is in full effect! It’s important to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and take a moment for yourself. Lay in the grass, lounge on the beach, walk through the gentle waves, read a book or lounge by the pool. Now is the time to focus less on work and redirect your time to the things you enjoy.

Summer not only brings an abundance of fun activities, but tasty foods as well… hot dogs and hamburgers please!  Grilling some yummy food surrounded by friends and family is the picture-perfect way to spend a warm summer evening.  Ending the meal with an indulgent dessert never hurts either… did someone say ice cream? It’s no secret that ice cream is a summer staple. My personal favorite is chocolate chip cookie dough on a waffle cone.

Here are a few activities to soak up the summer season!

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Cool as a cucumber, literally.

Cool tips using the word "Summer" spelled out in Scrabble tiles

Summer has arrived. Whether it means time at the pool, the beach, or more time at home to spend with your loved ones, summer is known for fun activities and sunburn. However, summer is not always fun and games. Staying hydrated and cool can be a difficult task, especially for those affected by MS. Here are some tips to stay cool this summer and beat the heat:

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All About the “h”

By Doug Ankerman

There are two sides to every issue. You have the pros & the cons, the agree & disagree and the ever-popular for & against.

Summer is one of those issues that is widely split. Some love it while others can’t stand the thought. As I will explain, the big difference between the two sides is all about the “h.”

Picture of a blue Etch A Sketch saying Ah Summer and Ahhhh Summer drawn by guest blogger Doug Ankerman

“Ah Summer!” people. They thrive during this season. Basking in the warmth. Soaking up the sun in all vitamin D glory. Energy & vitality all day long.

Meanwhile, “Ahhhh Summer!” people do their best to avoid the season’s amenities. Lurking in the shadows away from direct sun. Never straying far from AC or a powerful fan.

Unfortunately, those of us with multiple sclerosis tend to be in the “Ahhhh Summer!” group. The harsh sun drains our energy like a V-8 engine uses gas driving up a mountain. Plus, summer’s high temps and thick humidity soak us further into a wretched pile of human goo. But no need to suffer my friend as there are ways to make your summer pleasant & comfortable.  Here are a few of my favs…

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