About Claudia Chavez

My name is Claudia Chavez, and I am a Manager of Mission Delivery at MSAA. I am bilingual in English and Spanish and hold an Associate of Arts in psychology, a Bachelor of Social Work, and a Master of Social Work. I enjoy spending time with friends and family, and I spend a lot of my free time rescuing and helping animals in my community. I take pride in making a positive impact with the work that I do, and helping others brings me joy.

Enjoy yourself, you deserve it.

It’s no secret that summer can be debilitating for those with MS. The heat and humidity can be a nightmare for so many of us. While everyone experiences summer differently, I think we can all agree that it’s important to plan head to ensure we are as comfortable as possible during these summer months.

Being prepared is more than bringing water, an umbrella, or a cooling vest. Being prepared also means understanding your limits and respecting them. It can be difficult to skip plans or cut them short when we need a break. It’s okay to sit down under the shade when our body is getting overheated. It’s okay to sit back and relax while friends and family continue with certain activities on their own. It’s okay to turn down plans when we know certain events will not sit well with our bodies. It’s okay to put your needs first.

Modifying certain activities can allow us to enjoy the outdoors this summer. Feel comfortable voicing your opinion when choosing a vacation destination, planning the activities for the day, or simply choosing the hotel bed closest to the air conditioner. Your voice matters.

Here are some things to keep in mind this summer:
• Do your research on the weather and humidity of the area.
• Notify your family and friends that you may need more breaks or downtime to relax.
• Declining to go to an event or activity you do not want to participate in or may be physically detrimental is self-care.
• Have fun and relax!

Summer is typically a time for fun and excitement and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the fun and forget that our bodies might need a bit more rest. Sharing your needs and feelings with your friends and family may help come up with a plan to ensure that everyone is safe and comfortable.

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Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be

Acceptance is easier said than done sometimes. It can be difficult to fully acknowledge the difficulties that we are facing, especially when they are out of our control. Whether it be a new diagnosis, a relapse, or the progression of multiple sclerosis, change can be hard. Denial, fear, anger, and sadness are normal emotions that can arise during this time. For those struggling to manage these intense emotions, know that you are not alone.

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Wellness at Every Stage

Wellness is important at every age, especially for those with MS. While our needs naturally change over time, self-care becomes increasingly important as we enter the later stages of life. Aging is uniquely personal. While some may still have the mental and physical capabilities that have kept them independent, others may need additional support to complete daily tasks. Understanding our needs and having access to supportive services and devices can make a difference in our quality of life.

Mobility and independence go hand in hand. Having the necessary equipment may allow an individual to remain living independently for as long as possible. As we age, our balance and physical strength decline. While exercise and physical activity are typically recommended to stay healthy, falls may be a frequent concern. Mobility devices and assistive technology may assist with daily tasks, but sometimes specialized equipment may be needed to fully meet an individual’s needs. While MSAA’s Equipment Distribution Program offers equipment such as walkers, canes, and grab bars, some people may require additional specialized devices to fully meet their needs, such as Hoyer lifts and hospital beds. Occupational therapy and physical therapy may help evaluate our needs and help us adapt.

Daily living activities may be especially challenging for those who may be experiencing cognitive decline or don’t have care partners for assistance. Homecare may offer in-home services to help with these tasks, such as light housekeeping, laundry, and meal preparation. A limited support system may also impact socializing. The benefits of socializing are undeniable. It keeps our minds active and is important for cognitive functioning and our emotional well-being. Adult daycare services may be a great resource for those who would like additional social activities outside their home. These services are provided to older adults in a community setting and typically offer a range of events and activities like trivia games, painting, or group conversations.

Planning becomes increasingly important when taking into consideration the specific needs of someone with MS. It can be overwhelming to deal with medical expenses, housing modifications, transportation, and other unexpected costs. Navigating health insurance and Social Security benefits can be complicated, and becoming familiar with government benefits and local and national organizations may ease some of the stress.

For those who would like to explore their local resources, consider the following:

  • Center for Independent Living: For those looking for additional support and resources, your local Center for Independent Living may be able to offer a variety of services to promote the independence of people with disabilities and those who are older. Services may include information and referral, independent living skills, individual and systemic advocacy, and equipment loan closets. The ILRU Directory of Centers for Independent Living (CILs) and Associations can be found by visiting https://www.ilru.org/projects/cil-net/cil-center-and-association-directory.
  • Eldercare Locator: The Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging that connects you to services for older adults and their families. Their specialists can assist with information about support services, housing, elder rights, insurance and benefits, health, and transportation. The Eldercare Locator can be accessed by visiting https://eldercare.acl.gov/Public/index.aspx.
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Slow But Steady Wins the Race

February has arrived, and we are one month into our new year’s resolution journey. Let’s face it, it can be difficult to keep the motivation we once had. While I had the best intentions to get up every morning and go for a walk, some days I didn’t feel like changing out of my pajamas, and that is okay.

The momentum that developed in January suddenly started slowing down as the month passed. While I started my new year’s resolution in full force, I have noticed my motivation fluctuating as of late. Surely, I’m not alone. Many of us have experienced our motivation decline as the year goes by. It’s not uncommon to lose track of our original goal and slowly fall back into old habits. What can we do when this happens? And how can we retain that excitement and focus we once had?

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Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll be among the stars.

Every January, most of us ask ourselves and those around us, “What is your new year’s resolution?” But why is this a thing? Is this simply a tradition, or is January truly the ideal time to establish goals for the rest of the year?

New Year’s Day serves as a clean slate. It is such a popular time of year to evaluate our goals because it represents a reset button, a fresh start that has the potential for greatness. My personal new year’s anthem is the song Feeling Good by Nina Simone. Regardless of the intended meaning of this song, the lyrics speak to me around this time of year.

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Embracing Change During the Holidays

Traditions, especially during the winter holidays, are a significant part of our culture. For many of us, traditions bring a sense of connection and comfort. They represent consistency and hold great meaning and purpose. But how do we keep a tradition alive when things are ever-changing?  

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May the Simple Things Bring You the Most Joy

Coffee in hand on a snowy day.

The holiday season can be filled with so much excitement. Families gather to celebrate, many take pride in decorating their homes, cooking becomes a marathon event, and last-minute shopping can be unavoidable. I truly enjoy the holidays because it brings people together and kind gestures are plentiful. The generosity seen during the holiday season is inspiring, and no act of kindness is too small. It is easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and lose track of the true meaning behind our traditions.

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Where did the sunshine go?

Big tree and leaves signifying that Fall has arrived, reflecting the title of this blog "Where did the sunshine go?"

Fall has arrived, and it brings many beautiful changes. The cooler weather is typically a welcomed change, comfort food is readily available, and trees change their color to all sorts of gorgeous shades of red, orange, and brown. I personally love the pumpkin overload and watching the rain while sipping on a cup of coffee, but many others find this time to be the cause of sadness, anxiety, and even dread. For many, this drastic change in weather and the holiday season can mean unwelcomed feelings and a need to be extra gentle with ourselves.

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I’ll do it tomorrow, maybe  

Scrabble tiles spelling out Why Not Now as a tip to combat procrastination

Whoever said procrastination is the thief of time was not joking. It takes much longer to delay a task than it does to buckle down and complete it. But why do we procrastinate if we know that it is probably a bad idea?

Being productive is not only a matter of planning our day. Being productive means setting that plan into motion. Too often, I have waited to complete a task and chosen to tell myself tomorrow will be a better time to start. Even in writing this blog, I experienced procrastination. I told myself, “Tomorrow I’ll have a better idea, tomorrow I’ll be more inspired,” because tomorrow always seems to be a better time until it isn’t.

Most of us consider procrastination to be a problem that stems from lack of planning, poor time management, or even laziness, but procrastination is much more than that. Although there are many contributing factors, such as lack of motivation, research shows that we tend to delay or postpone doing tasks that we perceive as unpleasant.

Joseph Ferrari, professor of psychology at DePaul University in Chicago, identified three basic types of procrastinators, each with different motives:

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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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