About MSAA

As a national nonprofit organization, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America is a leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a toll-free Helpline; award-winning publications including a magazine, The Motivator; website featuring educational videos and research updates; S.E.A.R.C.H.™ program to assist the MS community with learning about different treatment choices; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; a resource database, My MS Resource Locator; equipment distribution ranging from grab bars to wheelchairs; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; educational events and activities; MRI funding and insurance advocacy; and more. For additional information, please visit http://www.mymsaa.org or call (800) 532-7667.

The War on Summer Heat

By Lauren Kovacs

It is a war of bugs and blankets of heat.

Limit time outdoors folks. Being unsocial is part of MS for many. I would rather not be a wet noodle. Even if you are an extrovert, say “no” to the soggy social butterfly. I would rather be perky than soggy. Butterflies can’t fly with wet wings and MS can drench them. Be social inside. Air conditioning is our friend. Stay cool and they will come, so to speak.

Drink slushees and smoothies. I find sipping semi frozen drinks help me, if I can get through the brain freeze. When available, ice cream is my BFF. Ice being the main word for me. Wear ice and consume it.

Cool feet housed in sandals, a cold drink, air conditioning and various cooling items are my shields in the war on summer heat.

I also picked up a trick from my aunt years ago for fashion purposes. Now, I use it for MS. Swim trunks make great shorts, with the mesh cut out. They can get wet, thus a glorious moment of reprieve. Bonus, they dry fast and allow for multiple cooling opportunities.

I used cooling wrist wraps, when I rode horses for therapy. I need new ones, however. Their farm smell was offensive at my last theme park visit.

While the kids rode some puke inducing roller coaster, I waited in the shade. Many folks didn’t embrace the earthy smell my wrist wraps were omitting. So yeah I need new ones.

Cool is cool. We are not going to gain brownie points. I often pay for trying to be outside. Stay where it is cool. I personally have days of paybacks just for letting my butterfly be social. If I get hot, then paybacks are longer.

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Don’t Wait, Act Now!

By Doug Ankerman

There are things we are reminded to do on a regular basis.

Replace batteries in smoke alarm
Floss
Rotate tires

Some are to be done seasonally, others annually.

Change furnace filter
Swap baking soda in fridge
Have eye exam

And yet, others are on an “as needed” basis.

Cut toe nails
Vacuum inside car
Shave back

But what I ask is… “Why wait to make a change or a new beginning?”

Why wait till a new season? Till the new year? The next month? Or, even Monday?

Do it now. This moment. There’s nothing stopping you. Do something right now to improve your being. It doesn’t have to be huge. Drink water instead of soda. Eat a piece of fruit. Stretch your weary legs. Take a deep breath. Dance to music. Make a silly face.

My point is, don’t wait to begin anew. Certainly, our nemesis multiple sclerosis doesn’t wait around. It doesn’t wait for the following day, week or month to wreak havoc. Heck no, that bad boy changes constantly. So we must be willing to change with it.

A fresh start, or a new beginning can happen anytime YOU want it to. There is no need to put it off till the flip of a calendar. You can make a change right now. This very instant.

Replace car’s air filter
Have an MRI
Clean dryer vent

Okay, okay, I understand the importance of replacing batteries in one’s smoke alarm—but don’t put a timeline on improving yourself.

Get started right now. That other stuff can wait.

*When not shaving his back, Doug writes goofy stuff about MS and other topics on his humor blog at myoddsock.com

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New Beginnings

By Stacie Prada

Spring holds top honors
as the season of new beginnings
for new growth, budding blooms and wildlife births.
Spring marks the end of winter,
although they often overlap
in their weather shift competition.

January 1st rivals spring for a new beginning point
as the first day of the first month,
and it too may garner significance
for its relationship to
the last day of the prior year.

Waking marks the beginning of the day
and end of overnight slumber.
A new friendship,
a health diagnosis,
a life without someone
exist in cognition as before and after
a moment.

All are endings and beginnings.

Moments in time often pass
without anticipation or awareness
until later upon reflection and applied significance.
Detecting these turning points in real time
is infrequent
not for lack of effort
but for the constant stream of beginnings and endings.

Noticing and assigning purpose
elevates common moments.

Foreseen, by happenstance, or noticed in hindsight,
each ending lays foundation for a new beginning.

*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 just shy of 38 years old.  Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/

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Hop to it, but a nap might be better

By Lauren Kovacs

Hop away from the old and hop to the new. It is always a good time to star anew, fresh air and new life. Leave to cold dead winter behind. Shed it like an old snake skin.

I know easier said than done. I face the “why bother” monster too. Spring feels magical. Embrace that magic. Before the suffocating, still summer heat, and bugs, enjoy the clean breeze and light air.

New beginnings don’t care where you plop them, but springtime seems to be good. Try a bit of exercise. Maybe some easy, gentle yoga? Maybe a few sit-ups. Maybe a pet is your new or perhaps something else. Organizing something to better suit your needs. Be open to anything being a new beginning.

A new hair cut is a refreshing way to mark a new beginning, even if it is crushed by fatigue. I think making plans is just as good as doing them. Trying is worthy for us. Daily unplanned obstacles are thrown at us, like an over filled water balloon.

I plan on getting some pink streaks in my hair this summer. If I can get it done, great. If not, no loss. I avoid appointments because I never know what MS will do. I am far from spontaneous and I hyper-plan. With MS, appointments often are commitments I avoid. MS requires flexibility. I am more set in stone, a “yes sir” kind of girl. MS is at odds with being raised a Navy brat.

So, plan your new beginning, but be flexible enough to change plans. MS is like chocolate in summer. Some days it melts on your hand and other days you have bad tremors and it melts in your hair. True story. Plan, but be flexible.

I like to see flexibility as plan B. Flexibility and spontaneity cause me anxiety. New beginnings are more like goals. I think any new good habit is a new beginning really. Self improvement is great. Self care is a great new beginning too. 

Fresh flowers, for example, on my kitchen counter, all the time, was a new beginning for me. My allergies don’t really like it, but too bad. I enjoy fresh flowers, as my morning greeting. I just have tissues handy. New beginnings should be good. They may require a contingency or a strategy.

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How to Find Your Purpose in Life

From “Finding Purpose in Life” – The Motivator

MSAA is proud to introduce the latest edition of The Motivator, now available in both print and digital editions! This edition’s cover story, “Finding Purpose in Life” discusses how the concept of Purpose in Life has been shown to dramatically affect one’s emotional, mental, and physical health.

Read an excerpt from our cover story below:


Finding a Purpose in Life is a deeply personal thing. For it to have optimal impact, it must be something that resonates for you – something that reflects your beliefs, your interests, and your goals. They key is knowing how to unearth it under the trials and tribulations of everyday life.

  1. Make a list and check it twice.

Actually, make several lists…

  • What makes you happy?
  • What are your talents?
  • What can people learn from you?
  • What calls you to action?

Spend time with your answers. Perhaps your purpose in life is on one – or more – of your lists.

2. Thank-you notes.

Grab a pen and a piece of paper and write thank-you notes to the people who have made a difference in your life. Sometimes, in acknowledging those people and the impact they had on our lives, we find a desire to do the same for others.


Continue reading for more tips and check out the entire Winter/Spring 2021 edition of The Motivator on MSAA’s website today!

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Meet the Board – Michael Schoenhaut

MSAA strives to be a leading resource for the MS community by Improving Lives Today through vital services and support – and we could not accomplish this without the help of our volunteer board members. MSAA’s Board of Directors is comprised of accomplished professionals from across the country who volunteer their time to further MSAA’s mission. Our ongoing series, Meet the Board, introduces you to our wonderful volunteer board members! 

This month, MSAA is proud to highlight our newest board member Michael Schoenhaut and share his inspiration for joining the Board of Directors and future goals for the organization.  

Michael Schoenhaut

Professional Background: Michael Schoenhaut is a Managing Director and Senior Portfolio Manager on J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s Multi-Asset Solutions team, based in New York. Mr. Schoenhaut is responsible for a global suite of multi-asset income strategies and is lead portfolio manager across the funds. He focuses on asset allocation, portfolio construction, manager selection, and risk management. He was previously a member of the SmartRetirement portfolio management team which was awarded the 2014 Morningstar U.S. Allocation Fund Manager of the Year for their efforts.

An employee since 1997, Mr. Schoenhaut has held other positions within Multi-Asset Solutions, including portfolio manager for GTAA and balanced strategies and head of quantitative portfolio management. Mr. Schoenhaut earned a Bachelor of Science in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering from Cornell University and is a CFA charterholder.


What inspired you to join MSAA’s Board of Directors?

After my wife was diagnosed with MS seven years ago, we researched a bunch of organizations that supported patients and research efforts. She had been fortunate to have her MS under control, but we knew that many were not so fortunate. After finding MSAA, Gina Ross Murdoch – MSAA’s President and CEO – reached out to me and personally introduced me to the organization. We kept in touch over the years. Given my background in finance/investment, when an opening on the Board of Directors arose and Gina reached out, I thought it was the perfect way to utilize my professional skills to help a cause that was personally meaningful to me and my family. 

What are your goals as an MSAA Board Member?

I would hope to make a difference as a Board Member. Whether that’s starting new programs, helping with existing ones, raising money, or getting to know the people we are serving, it’s all interesting to me. I will be on the Finance Committee and am happy to help MSAA where needed. In addition to the needs of the organization, my personal need is to be an advocate and supporter in the lives of our friends with MS. I hope that my knowledge of MS and passion for supporting others enables me to be a great Board Member and I look forward to the days when we can meet in person!


Editor’s Note: MSAA is extremely proud and honored to enlist the support of Michael Schoenhaut and all dedicated Board Members who volunteer their time, expertise, compassion, and leadership to help us achieve our mission of improving lives today for the entire MS community. We are very grateful for their service and look forward to their continued support as we strive to serve more people in more places than ever before. Thank you once again Mr. Schoenhaut!

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Stress Management with Chronic Illness

By Moyna John

It was November 2019, and my life was extremely challenging. I was struggling to find a balance between working and parenting my two-year-old toddler. I questioned myself at every turn. Being a first-time mother, I was very unsure of myself. Plus, I was still experiencing a case of post-partum depression. I was not handling all the stress well. Weeks later, I woke up with blurred vision in my right eye – this was the beginning of my symptoms. By the end of December 2019, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). I am sure that my high stress levels led to my initial MS symptoms.

Stress is something that everyone experiences. But managing a chronic illness can add even more. Unchecked stress can lead to various physical and mental symptoms. Some of these symptoms are chest pain, anxiety, headaches, depression, high blood pressure, and panic attacks. Stress management can provide healthier methods to cope with stress. Here are some stress management tips that I use.

Take care of your body.

You only get one body in this life; it’s essential to take care of it. Your body will give you signs when you are overly stressed. There are many different ways you can take care of yourself. Exercise is a great way to relax your mind and body—the endorphins from exercise can relieve stress and pain. I bought an exercise bike for my home. I try my best to exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Also, a well-balanced diet is another way to take care of yourself. Since my diagnosis of MS, I switched to a gluten-free diet. I have found that this diet has helped reduce my symptoms. Before making any changes, consult with your doctor first.

Relax your muscles.

I have noticed that my body gets taut when I am stressed. During overly stressed moments, I experience muscle spasms. One way I keep my muscles loose is through massages. COVID has prevented me from going to a spa to receive a massage. I purchased a massage gun, and it is a game-changer. It can be painful sometimes because of the intensity of the massage gun. Another quick way to relax your muscles is taking a hot shower/bath.

Grounding techniques.

According to Dr. Sarah Allen, “Grounding means to bring your focus to what is happening to you physically, either in your body or in your surroundings, instead of being trapped by the thoughts in your mind that are causing you to feel anxious.” My therapist recommended trying grounding techniques when I feel stressed or anxious. I have found these techniques to be very helpful for calming myself down. Here are the following techniques I do:

  1. Deep breathing
  2. Take a sip of cold water
  3. Focus on listening to my surroundings
  4. Recite lyrics to one of my favorite songs 
  5. Think about everything I am grateful for
  6. Countdown backward from ten

Finding a hobby.

A hobby is an excellent way to occupy your mind. Find something that interests you or keeps your hands busy. My hobby is coloring; I have found a color by numbers app for my phone. Also, I purchased a paint by numbers kit that comes with an easel, paint, paintbrushes, and canvas. I think these kits are great because you get everything all in one; something to occupy the mind and hands and beautiful pictures that look lovely once completed. 

Life is full of stressors, and chronic illness can only make it more challenging. Stress management strategies can help reduce stress-related symptoms and maintain a quality of life. Be mindful of taking care of your body through exercise and a well-balanced diet. Grounding techniques can be helpful for self-calming. Plus, finding a hobby can occupy your mind and keep you relaxed. Overall, stress can be detrimental to someone with a chronic illness. Remember to keep your health a priority! 

*Moyna John is a multiple sclerosis advocate and freelance blogger. She is passionate about adding representation within the MS community, creating space for Black MS warriors, and empowering modern women to live a purposeful lifestyle outside of chronic illness. Visit her website or follow Moyna on Instagram.

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Relaxing Method: 4-7-8

By Doug Ankerman

4-7-8 relaxing method of breathing

Trying NOT to sound like an infomercial, snake oil, salad shooting pitchman BUUUUUT here’s the easiest, cheapest and most relaxing method to melt stress and ease pain while clearing your head.

No more warming oversized beanbags in a microwave.

No more soaking in the tub till you’re a giant prune.

And no more oily and expensive massage sessions.

Yes, this stress reliever is no mess. Can be done anywhere at YOUR convenience. And is absolutely free. You heard right…FREE!

What is this life-changing, stress-reducing procedure, you ask?

It’s breathing! Breathing to a count of 4-7-8, in particular.

What’s 4-7-8, you ask? (You ask a lot of questions!)

Well, 4-7-8, beside being my locker number in junior high, is a simple, deep breathing technique that helps restore energy, focus… and sanity in this cray-cray world.

Let’s break it down so you can learn to breathe the 4-7-8 way…

FOUR

Begin by inhaling through your nose to a slooooww count of four. One…. Two…. Three…. Four. Make it a deep, belly-expanding breath. Filling your lungs to max capacity with fresh air.

SEVEN

Next, hold that glorious breath for a seven count. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

EIGHT

Finally, exhale through your mouth as you slowly count to eight. Tighten your belly, squeezing out as much stale, old air as possible.

Repeat the compete cycle again. Inhaling through your nose to a slow count of four. Hold the fresh air for seven. Before slowly exhaling through your mouth for an eight count.

Do the 4-7-8 cycle several times as you focus on slowly inhaling, a relaxed hold, followed by a slow, controlled exhale through your mouth.

I like to breathe 4-7-8 when first waking up. Breathing fresh air deep into every cell gets your body ready to rise and shine. Likewise, a few 4-7-8’s before bedtime releases the day’s stress and preps your mind and body for a restful night’s snooze.

The 4-7-8 breathing technique can be done anytime! Anywhere! At your convenience! Whenever you feel stressed. At work. At home. Even at the in-laws! 

Melt stress today…. with 4-7-8!

4-7-8 is yours, absolutely free, but I feel no shame in accepting credit or even a donation!

*Doug Ankerman writes silly stuff about MS and other blurbs on his humor blog at myoddsock.com.

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National Volunteer Week 2021

National Volunteer Week — April 18-24, 2021

Volunteer button

It’s National Volunteer Week and volunteering has changed over the past year. We haven’t been able to get out and support our favorite organizations as much as we may have liked to. But you probably volunteered more this year than you think did! Maybe you volunteered to help a neighbor who fell on hard times during the pandemic, or made masks and donated them to places that really needed them. Even sharing resources on your social media accounts so your friends and family knew where to find information they needed counts as volunteering.

Whether you did good deeds consciously or subconsciously during these difficult times, just know that your willingness to offer up your time and energy has likely helped more people than you know.

If you’d like to dedicate your time during National Volunteer Week to supporting MSAA’s mission of improving lives for the MS community, we have some easy, safe ways to do so.

Street Squad

As a member of MSAA’s Street Squad, we will send you copies of our impact flyer, which includes information about MS and how MSAA can help. You can share it with your friends, family, and peers. If you want to, you can also hang copies of the flyer anywhere in your area where you might find a community board (with permission, of course).

Virtual Volunteer

Virtually volunteer by following MSAA on social media and sharing our content! MSAA regularly posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest about our programs and services. Help us spread the word by reposting or sharing with your friends and followers.

Either of these options could have a great impact on people in your community who have been affected by MS. If you have interest in these programs, or have volunteer suggestions, please reach out to Volunteer@mymsaa.org. We appreciate everyone’s efforts!

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Stress Management, Resilience Skills, Time to Shine

By Stacie Prada

Stress isn’t inherently bad, but it feels awful when it causes suffering. Stressful moments are usually only upsetting when my go-to skills aren’t cutting it to skip feelings of tension and anxiety. I’m feeling pushed to do more than I can do, I’m feeling pressured to respond more quickly than I’d like, or I’m interacting with someone who is using bullying tactics. 

When something triggers stress in me, it feels more empowering to think of it as a chance to flex my resilience skills than to say I’m managing my stress. It subtly shifts my perspective from feeling like a victim needing to suppress my natural responses to being an active participant and even champion in the outcome. Managing stress may not have the same connotations for everyone, but to me it feels like a compromise.

If I think of stress as bad and my body saying I’m failing or bad at dealing with things, it sabotages my ability to get through the moment with self-control and grace. Instead, I’m aiming to notice stress as my body telling me it’s ready to really perform at peak level.  It’s alert, energized and capable.  It’s ready to shine.

Time to Shine - Stress Management

My mantra this week is, “Breathe, focus, and shine.” I say it to myself as I leave home in the morning.  I remind myself to take a moment, consider the situation, and choose the best path forward.  I’ve been working to remember in stressful moments that I can slow down and behave deliberately.  Respond instead of react. Remember I have options, and I am choosing my behavior. I’m not obligated to a specific reaction. 

Stress makes everything feel urgent, but that’s exactly when I need to set my own pace.  When it’s a person testing my resilience skills, I need to listen more, ask a question, listen again.  Slow the tempo of my dialogue and know that listening to a person who is mad doesn’t mean I’m disconnecting or agreeing with them.  Let them experience their emotions without feeling obligated to join them on their roller coaster of frustration, anger, or abuse.

In everyday behavior, I can proactively live a life that nurtures my body and builds resilience for navigating stressful moments when they arise. Have fun, live with purpose and know I have value in this world. I can nourish my whole self with good nutrition, movement, self-reflection and connection with others.  Network with colleagues, teammates, friends and mentors who can give perspective and suggestions. Connect with people who experience similar life stressors and can share their approach and successes.

I want to react to stress by pausing and asking myself this:
If I was the most skilled person in the world to deal with this, what would I do?

It doesn’t matter if I am the best person in the world to deal with it or not, because I am the one dealing with this.  It might mean I just need to take a momentary breath to think it through. I might need to take a longer break and come back to it another time with a fresh mind. Maybe I should contact someone I know who could help me with it.  I might literally be the worst person in the world to deal with this, but thinking about what the best person would do will help me figure it out. It can be my time to shine.

*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 just shy of 38 years old.  Her blog, “Keep Doing What You’re Doing” is a compilation of inspiration, exploration, and practical tips for living with Multiple Sclerosis while living a full, productive, and healthy life with a positive perspective. It includes musings on things that help her adapt, cope and rejoice in this adventure on earth. Please visit her at http://stacieprada.blogspot.com/

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