Keep the Piles Small and Reach Out in This Challenging Time

By Stacie Prada

It’s tough right now living through a pandemic. I assume I’ll live through it, but many will not. I appreciate hearing from people who are having a hard time, because I’m glad they’re expressing themselves. I think the silent ones are sometimes the ones to worry about most.

When I think of everything I need to figure out, solve and do, it’s overwhelming: work while adapting to a state of emergency, isolate physically, help others in need, maintain my health, don’t catch COVID-19 and don’t have an MS relapse. A mantra I started using years ago comes to mind, “keep the piles small.”

I started saying it to myself after hearing a quote by Regina Brett:

“If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”

A takeaway is that we’re more comfortable with the problems we know and more confident in our ability to live with them.

From that idea, I liked the visual of piles of problems. When a pile of something is small, it’s easier to deal with it. When it gets really large, it’s overwhelming. It can seem pointless to even try dealing with it, because it feels like any effort won’t accomplish enough to make a difference.

When I’m thinking about everything that needs to be done and all of the barriers to doing them, it feels like I’m throwing every task, challenge and problem into one pile. I’m creating a mountain of a pile that feels insurmountable. If I can split things up into small piles, then I can focus on what would help each one.

It helps me to schedule time to deal with each issue and task. While everything may be constantly close to mind, it helps me to set things aside for moments at a time. When I focus on what I can contribute instead of what I need, I’m improving my mental health and building connection. When the challenges come to the forefront of my thoughts, I’ll notice what I can do about it in that moment and note it to include later when I work on it again. When it’s time to pick up that pile, I dive in and make progress where I can.

One of the steps I use in each project I undertake is to take inventory of my resources. What do I know and what do I need to research? What equipment do I have and what do I need? Who has done this before, understands what needs to be done, or could share some wisdom?

This week, I realized that I have a full team of colleagues and friends who provide technical advice, friendship and moral support, but I felt like I needed one more voice. I combed my mind for who could provide some wisdom and guidance. I realized there was one more person available to me. I contacted a former mentor who I haven’t connected with in a while. This person was perfect for helping me think bigger, organize my thoughts and reinforce my core values. While I started that conversation feeling very stressed, I ended it feeling inspired and energized to move forward.

Nothing had changed, yet I had changed, and progress was made. May you all have who and what you need as we move through this very stressful time. Keep the piles small, reach out, and take good care. Remember you’re needed and you matter.

*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 

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About MSAA

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is a national nonprofit organization and leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a Helpline with trained specialists; award-winning publications, including, The Motivator; MSAA’s nationally recognized website, featuring educational videos, webinars, and research updates; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; safety and mobility equipment products; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; MRI funding; My MSAA Community, a peer-to-peer online support forum; MS Conversations blog; a clinical trial search tool; podcasts; and more. For additional information, please visit or call (800) 532-7667.

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