National Volunteer Week 2021

National Volunteer Week — April 18-24, 2021

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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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Ideas for Stress Management

Living with MS can be super stressful, especially when you’re living in the middle of a pandemic. Now is the best time to start practicing stress management techniques to help you overcome stressful moments. Here are a few ideas for stress management that can help you get through tough times.

·      Exercise

Keeping your body as active as possible on a regular basis is a great way to balance your nervous system and flush out those inconvenient stress hormones.

·      Eat a balanced diet

Well-nourished bodies manage stressful moments better. Eat more fruits and vegetables, avoid processed foods and sugar, and drink plenty of water.

·      Connect with friends and family

Although most of us are seeing our friends and family online or on a virtual basis, it still helps to release stress hormones by seeing their faces and hearing their voices. Even when it is through a screen.

·      Have some “Me” time

If you have a hobby or something you love to do, schedule some time to do whatever it is that you love to do. Whether it is reading, writing, napping, or watching tv, makes sure you spend some time doing what makes you feel happy and relaxed.

·      Get a good night’s rest

Sleep is extremely important. Getting a good night’s rest can set your day up for success just as much as a poor night’s rest can start your day off on the wrong foot. Getting between seven and eight hours of sleep can actually improve your ability to manage stress.

·      Talk to a mental health professional

If you are feeling overwhelmed by stress and are struggling to effectively cope and mange life’s stressful moments, it’s important to seek professional help.

Your health and life are absolutely worth it.

No stress neon | Neon quotes, Neon words, Neon signs
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We Can All Use a Good Chuckle Now and Again

I think we can all agree that life has been especially heavy lately. The world turned upside down last year with the pandemic and we are still living with uncertainty and concerns daily. Stress levels have soared, and this can have lasting negative effects on one’s health. So how can we help manage our stress? There are many ways, but a fun one is through laughter.

Having a good chuckle is good for the body and the soul. You wouldn’t necessarily think that laughter could have real, significant health benefits, but it can! Especially for managing stress. Laughter helps to stimulate organs, reduce stress hormones, and relieve pain. It helps boost mood and soothe tension in the body and helps combat depression and anxiety. It’s fun to do and even something you can fake at first until it comes more naturally. There are many benefits to laughter and its skills are plentiful.

It’s important to look for humor in life wherever you can find it. Life is stressful and chaotic and finding ways to lessen the heaviness of it is key. There are many outlets to find laughter in everyday life. And making this a goal can help to reduce stress, without putting in a lot of effort. Laughing with friends and family, at media, and even at yourself can bring instant change to your attitude and demeanor. Things can get so serious a lot of the time. Finding ways to laugh and humorize situations can be just what is needed to lighten the load at times.

After reading more about laughter and its wellness benefits, I see even more truth to the phrase ‘laughter is the best medicine.’ The expression of laughter not only increases happiness and elevates mood, but it also helps connects us to others and stimulates positive thoughts and feelings. So let out a chuckle…it can do a world of good.  

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Improving Mental Health and Wellness

MS Awareness Month

Dr. Adam Kaplin, Dr. Annette Okai, Dr. Amy Sullivan, Dr. Mitzi Williams

For this year’s MS Awareness Month campaign, MSAA provided a number of digital resources focusing on Improving Mental Health and Wellness. This campaign featured webinars, a podcast episode, and insights from MS experts covering topics, such as:

  • Purpose in Life (PIL) – This research area focuses on the interactions between mind and body in powerful ways. PIL has been shown to significantly support the central nervous system, cardiovascular health, and even the immune system. Explore the concept and learn how to develop and foster your own Purpose in Life in the archived webinar, “Finding Purpose in Life.”
  • Depression and Anxiety in MS – Depression is a common and often overlooked symptom of MS, while anxiety is perhaps the most taxing and under-treated psychological effect of living with multiple sclerosis. Discover helpful strategies to manage these significant mental health issues in the archived webinar, “Managing Depression and Anxiety in MS.”
  • Care Partnering – Learn about the often overlooked physical and emotional needs of care partners and how to avoid care partner burnout in the podcast episode, “Caring for the Care Partner.”
  • Wellness Strategies – Find helpful strategies to better manage four key areas that impact mental and emotional health – sleep, staying connected, diet and exercise, and self-care – on My MSAA Community.

Learn more about Improving Mental Health and Wellness through these resources at: mymsaa.org/ms-awareness-month

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Purpose in Life

This famous quote, “The purpose of life is a life with purpose” resonates with me.  I often stop and think about my purpose in life.  I am a mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, wife, caretaker, and a social worker.  As I reflect on my purpose, I have come to learn that I enjoy helping others.  Working for MSAA offers me the opportunity to help the MS community.  I hope to provide a safe place for many to call in for help and to find support.  I feel a great sense of pride knowing I can help and navigate others through uncharted waters in a time of need.

So, my question to you is: What is your purpose?  Is it maybe being a friend, maybe being a spouse, or maybe simply it is doing things that bring you happiness?  Sometimes finding the answer is easy, and sometimes it takes time to see where we are appreciated most. If you are struggling to answer this question, do not be afraid to turn to others for guidance and friendly suggestions. Those around you often see the gifts that you exhibit to them that you may not recognize in yourself. This could help you to understand what your purpose is and how to make the best of it.

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Enjoyable Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

Mental health plays such a large role on your psychological and emotional well-being. It is super important to find enjoyable ways to improve your mental health. To help get you started, here are some cool ideas.

Sleep

Getting a good night’s rest is not only enjoyable, but it also comes with amazing benefits. Catching about 8 hours of sleep has been shown to strengthen the heart muscle, improve memory, and it greatly lowers your risk of depression and anxiety. Wow! *searching for my favorite pillow and blanket as I write this*

Pet Your Pet

Pets are AMAZING for improving mental health. Dogs are amongst the most common pets known to provide emotional support for individuals, but they aren’t the only ones. If you have a pet that brings you joy and happiness, you should totally pet your pet. Ha! See what I did there? Whether your fur baby is a dog, cat, bunny, squirrel, or guinea pig, petting your pet has great emotional benefits. I have a 4-month-old puppy named Oreo, and he definitely improves my mood. I love to snuggle him with his wittle cute fuzzy wuzzy face and his adorable big brown eyes and little curly tail and…focus, Selena, focus. *Inserts adorable picture of Oreo below.*

Doodle

Yes, you read that right. Doodle! Doodling and scribbling have proven to relieve stress and anxiety for individuals who are feeling overwhelmed. Doodling has also shown to help improve focus and the best part is that it’s fun too. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious, bust out the pen and paper and give doodling a try.

Even though these cool ideas are fun and helpful, they aren’t a one size fits all deal. You know yourself better than anyone else does, so I encourage you to find something that is enjoyable to you. Whatever that thing is for you, do that whenever you notice your mental health is in need of some improvement and have fun with it. You are the best person to find enjoyable ways to improve your mental health.

You got this.

*If you ever find yourself struggling to manage your mental health on your own, please be encouraged to reach out to your physician or a mental health professional for help.

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Resiliency is a Powerful Tool

No secret here-life can be very unpredictable a lot of the time. It can be messy and chaotic and ever-changing. But even after a year filled with such challenge and turmoil as 2020, it’s incredible to see how resilient people are and can be. Yes, life and the changes experienced can have its ripple effects. Impacting not only physical health, but mental and emotional health as well. But it’s how people adapt and overcome these hurdles that helps foster improved wellness of the entire body.

Resiliency, among other aspects, can be an extremely powerful tool when it comes to mental health care and wellness. Learning to adapt to difficult situations and continuing to strive forward despite them helps build resilience. And the great news is-this is a skill that can be learned and taught. Whether it’s teaching yourself the skillset or working with a professional for guidance, building resilience is an important key to overall wellness.

There are different components used to help nurture resiliency, with two crucial ones being self-compassion and self-care. Being kind to ourselves and our bodies is so important for both mental and physical health. This helps to decrease issues with anxiety, stress, and depression. Practicing mindfulness, surrounding yourself with others who support you, and taking care of yourself physically are all key parts to resilience skill-building.

I think many of us would agree that taking time for ourselves and thinking about our own health and well-being usually falls towards the bottom of our daily agendas. This is something that we can all start to do better with. Because taking care of ourselves helps validate that we can take care of others around us too.

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Meet the Board – Meryl Ravitz

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. With our ongoing series, Meet the Board, we look to introduce you to our wonderful volunteer board members!

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

Professional Background: Meryl Ravitz is an entrepreneurial financial executive with more than 25 years of senior-level experience in small/mid-capitalization companies in the telecommunications and consumer products industries. She has been instrumental in Equity & Debt placements, IPO’s and the related SEC work, Sarbanes-Oxley, budgeting, reporting, audits, treasury, and human resource functions at her various companies.

Ms. Ravitz has been the CFO & Treasurer of XcomIP, a wholesale telecommunications company, since 2011. Prior to that, she held multiple finance positions at Vivaro Corporation, leaving as the CFO & Treasurer. She also held finance management positions at Wired Business as well as Destia Communications. She started her career at Deloitte & Touche.


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

I am thrilled to join MSAA’s Board of Directors! I have been volunteering for MS organizations since 1992 when I joined the National Multiple Sclerosis Society – NJ chapter, as the youngest board member. My father had MS my entire life, and he passed away in 1988, prior to the availability of any MS medications. I vowed to do something to help other families not go through what he and our family went through. I was the Board Co-Chair and Treasurer through my 25 years at the MS Society, leaving in 2017. I then joined MS Hope for a Cure as Treasurer for three years.

MSAA’s focus on helping people living with MS is really exciting to me. During my time at the National MS Society, I instituted a scholarship program for teens with MS or a parent with MS to help with college-related expenses. I loved getting to know the teens and their families, who benefited from the scholarships, which for many was life changing. I also helped at various events (both programs and fundraising) over the years where I could meet the people we were serving. Helping others is something I’m very passionate about. My daughter and I have also been volunteering at a homeless shelter for the past four years, since she was three years old. MSAA’s mission of helping those living with MS inspired me to join.

Lastly, I joined because MSAA has the best CEO around. I have known Gina Murdoch since our days at the MS Society, and look forward to working again with someone so dedicated, trustworthy, and caring.

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 at 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 Meryl Ravitz 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 Ms. Ravitz!

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Garlic Butter Mushrooms

I was never a fan of mushrooms until I started making this recipe.  I can tell you honestly, I pop them in my mouth like candy. 

These sauteed mushrooms only need a handful of ingredients and are easy to make.  If you are looking for a flavorful side dish to impress your taste buds, this recipe is for you.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound button mushrooms
  • 3 tbsp salted butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 garlic cloves crushed/minced
  • Dash of salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. In a large frying pan, heat butter and olive oil over medium high heat.
  2. Add mushrooms to pan and mix to coat them in the butter/oil mixture.
  3. Cook mushrooms for about to 8 minutes without moving.
  4. Flip the mushrooms over one by one and then let them cook for another 8 minutes.
  5. Add crushed garlic and parsley to pan, mix to coat and cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
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The Importance of Valuable Relationships

Valuable Relationships

Relationships. Just how important are valuable relationships? Do they really matter? In the current state of the world, in the midst of a global pandemic, are relationships still relevant? Short Answer? Absolutely!

Relationships are important because they bridge the connection between people. They are the essence of humanity and are vital to the mental and emotional health behind the human experience. It is the connection between two individuals that can lead to happiness and success in a person’s life. This very reason is why it is so important to have valuable relationships.

Whether it be a relationship with a parent, family member, or friend, relationships are important because they satisfy the human need to connect. Important relationships also provide an additional perspective to your own thoughts and can help get you out of emotional slumps. I’m thankful that throughout everything I’ve encountered in my life, I’ve had valuable relationships to help keep me encouraged and moving forward.

Valuable relationships can also give you that much needed “second wind.”

 Friends, there might be times when you want to give up. There might be times when you can’t see a solution to your current situation. In those discouraging moments, reach out to a friend or a loved one for an additional perspective. It is in those additional perspectives that you can find great hope, strength, and encouragement to keep pushing forward. It is in those additional perspectives that you will find your “second wind.”

Valuable relationships are super important in more ways than we realize, and holding on to them is a must. Friends, I want to encourage you to stay connected with those valuable relationships in your life. Reach out and stay connected with your loved ones. You will find yourself much happier, and your mind and body will thank you.

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