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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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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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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A memorable summer

Summer is officially on. One of the places that I try to visit every summer is the beach. There is nothing more peaceful than the rhythmic rush of the waves, the warmth of the sun, the cry of the sea gulls, the gentle breeze and the sand beneath your feet.

One of my favorite ones is the Ocean City Beaches in Maryland. Kids can be seen building sandcastles, collecting seashells, burying friends in the sand or splashing in the waves. While some folks may be lounging in the sun or picnicking, others might be surfing or having a beach volleyball game. This beach is well known for its old-fashioned boardwalk that have trams to transport you back and forth across the entire span.  Besides enjoying the super convenient ride, one can hop out to visit the shops and grab lip smacking food at any restaurant along the way. For those who want to enjoy the full experience of the boardwalk or the beach, wheelchairs are a feasible option. Installation of ramps near the boardwalk, beach mats, handicap accessible public restrooms and paratransit services are some measures that are available to enhance the beach experience for individuals with limited mobility. I remember eating a scoop of ice cream as I marveled at the wondrous sand sculptures near the boardwalk. For those seeking an extra thrill and adventure, there is also an amusement park nearby with exciting and what I consider nerve-wracking rides.

It was a day filled with relaxation, fun and excitement. I watched the sun setting on the horizon as I strolled along the boardwalk for the last time with a content smile on my face. Until next time…

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Frozen Cool Whip Summer Lemonade Delight

Welcome to Summer!   Nothing says Summer like lemonade or a frozen treat; especially if it is easy to make and is all in one. This recipe combines frozen lemonade concentrate with pudding, Cool Whip and a graham cracker crust.  What a tasty way to beat the heat!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 box instant lemon pudding
  • 8 ounces frozen lemonade concentrate thawed
  • 1 ¾ cup cold milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 container Cool Whip
  • 2 pre-made graham cracker crust

Directions:

In a mixing bowl whisk together pudding mixes and milk until it thickens. Once thick, add in vanilla extract and mix again until combined.

Stir in 8 ounces of thawed lemonade concentrate and mix well.

Fold in Cool Whip gently until completely mixed together.   Pour mixture into 2 prepared pie crusts and refrigerate for about 8 hours. 

Enjoy! 

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Midsummer Eve

Perhaps it’s the illuminating glow of light… or maybe even the circle of fairies, this ‘Midsummer Eve’ painting by Edward Robert Hughes has always fascinated me.  The scenery depicts a fairy tale world, a mythical goddess sprinkled with flowers, surrounded by little winged creatures. I like to believe she is singing a song of summer and the fairies are singing along. It reminds me of the bedtime lullabies my mother and grandmother sang to me as a little girl. Moreover, this painting has proven that even as an adult, my imagination is just as powerful.

Research shows this piece of artwork references the belief that barriers between the fairytale world and the world as we know it, were thinner at “midsummer”, allowing mythical spirits to enter our world. This created a phenomenon that if you entered the woods on a midsummer evening, then you would encounter fairies and mystical creatures.

This phenomenon was often viewed as sinister, but starting in the nineteenth century, fairies acquired a much more likeable reputation. The artist, Hughes, contributed to the shift in this attitude, redefining this folklore with his use of golden lights, warm tones, and soft pastels.  

Today, this painting is known as enchanting and charming, reminiscent of a more magical and distant life.

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An Ode To Mothers

A picture does indeed speak a thousand words. This artwork by Mary Jane Q. Cross is a powerful depiction of the relationship shared by an aging mother and her daughter. It portrays the content smile on the mother’s face and the daughter’s gentle embrace but what is more evident is a bond that is built on friendship and trust. Like old wine, this foundation between mothers and daughters gets stronger and the hearts grow fonder as the years pass by.

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Art perception

What is it about artwork that catches our attention? Is it the colors? Or maybe the artist’s story. As an art newbie, I don’t have knowledge of the proper technical skills or techniques. I don’t know what makes a piece of art great. I have minimal understanding of the intricacies of painting, but what I do know is how it makes me feel.

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Roasted Ranch Brussels Sprouts

Recipe of the Month from MSAA's MS Conversations blog

These Roasted Brussels Sprouts with ranch flavoring are amazing and easy to make. This is a quick and delicious recipe that takes Roasted Brussels Sprouts to the next level. These savory and crispy Brussels Sprouts are always a crowd favorite in my house.

Ingredients:

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