The Stillness of Christmas

By Alene Brennan

In the midst of the holidays, with all of the shopping, decorating and parties, there is a moment when all is well. A moment when the chaos quiets and I am reminded of the true meaning of the Christmas holiday. It’s a moment that I’ve treasured since childhood and now living with MS, I treasure it even more.

It arrives Continue reading

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Holiday Hope and Faith in Humanity

"Seeing isn't believing, believing is seeing." Holiday Hope and Faith in HumanityThis is a quote from one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies, The Santa Clause. When I heard the quote again this week watching the movie for the millionth time, it got me thinking. What does this really mean? For purposes of the movie plot they’re talking about it in terms of jolly old St. Nicholas and the happenings at the North Pole. But I started to think Continue reading

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Some Extra Holiday Help

The holidays can be a joyous time of celebration and cheer. But they can also be stressful and challenging. When it comes to expectations of what should be done throughout the holiday season, financial limitations can be especially difficult. For those who could use some extra holiday help Continue reading

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It’s beginning to look a lot like…the most stressful time of the year

Wow, I can’t believe its November already! I don’t know where this year has gone, but its end is quickly approaching and with it, the holiday season. Any time of year can be hectic and stressful. For many, the holidays bring an added helping of overload and chaos a lot of the time. While some are able to focus on Continue reading

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There’s No Place Like Home…?

So the holiday season is here and for some of us that means a lot of extra time spent with family. Now for many people this is a welcome and joyous gathering; spending time with loved ones and those you may not see all year round is longed for and appreciated. For others, being with family may be a bit more stressful, so one’s strength and will can find that it’s tested more so this time of year. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all family occasions and activities are taxing, they can be very pleasant at times, but there are those moments where we find ourselves maybe wishing we were at Ebenezer Scrooge’s house for Christmas dinner (the Ebbie we see before his change of heart, lol).

I think most of us can relate to those relatives who can bring out the worry, stress and anxiety in us—and for whom we do our best to place a smile on our face and grin and bear their remarks and actions because they come from a place of concern. I know some say that family only wants the best for us, but do they have to work so HARD at it? Tough questions, unrealistic expectations and lingering comments can be very trying to endure, especially for those coping with their own changes or challenges and expectations. No one’s arguing the fact that we do ultimately want to treasure and appreciate the moments we have with family, because we all know that special moments can be fleeting and life can be very unpredictable when it wants to be. But why do some of these moments have to be so hard sometimes? Why can’t we get through a meal or activity without that moment of discomfort because someone asks an unwelcome personal question or comments on something they don’t know anything about?

Again, I’m not saying that all family get-togethers and events bring about these types of feelings; I’m merely trying to validate that these moments do occur for some and they are not without frustration or stress. The question is; how do you approach these more interesting of family encounters, especially around the holidays? What would Ebenezer do? (The changed Ebbie at the end of the tale, that is).

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S-T-R-E-S-S, what does that spell…?

As if the whole year round doesn’t bring enough stress, with the holidays approaching and busy end of year happenings, stress can rear its ugly head two-fold during this time. Stress can have negative effects on anyone’s health, but especially for those living with a chronic illness like MS; this beast can cause additional challenges on other symptoms. That’s why it’s so important and crucial to try and reduce stress when you have any control over a situation and it’s possible to have influence over it. Now this isn’t always the case, because as we all know, life tends to be a tad unpredictable at times so control isn’t always a possibility. However, when you do encounter those moments to change things yourself, make it worthwhile and significant to your benefit. So how can you try to manage stress?

SStay flexible. When things occur that you can’t predict or plan for, the stress we place on ourselves as a result can have real consequences. So try to stay open to change; sometimes it may bring good results.

TTalk to others about the stress you’re feeling. Opening up about what’s going on may reduce the inner stress you’re experiencing if you keep things bottled up inside.

RRest and relax when you’re able to. Your body is stronger at combating stress and illness when it receives the rest and care it requires.

EEnjoy simple pleasures and special moments when you can. Life goes by so fast, so make sure to take in the joyous times and happy occasions to hold onto if and when stress surfaces again, it can aid in the fight.

SSocially connect to others who may have had similar stressful experiences and challenges—it can help to learn some different ways to cope and to also know you’re not alone in this.

SSlow down. There’s no need to try and act like a superhero constantly. We are only human. Take time for yourself, do what you can and are able to, and don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself. You’re already doing your best!

What are some ways you try to reduce stress?                        

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Wishing You a Safe and Joyous Holiday Season

Happy Holidays 2015

There is still time to share holiday greetings and raise awareness about MSAA! This season, our festive cards include artwork by artists living with multiple sclerosis. Please visit support.mymsaa.org/holidaycards to send a holiday eCard to everyone on your list!

PLEASE NOTE:  MSAA’s offices will be closed Thursday, December 24th, through Sunday, December 27th. 

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Unwanted Advice During the Holidays: How to Cope?

By: Meagan Freeman

During the holidays, we may find ourselves in the idyllic, peaceful scenes depicted in a Norman Rockwell painting. Surrounded by loving family and friends, sipping hot beverages and laughing by a crackling fire. Along with those scenes, we often partake in traditional meals, full of wonderful foods and desserts. The downside of this beautiful family tradition might be the hazards of incredibly high calorie, high fat, high sodium foods that may take a toll on those with multiple sclerosis.

For the past 6 months, I have made tremendous changes in my own diet. I have made fruits and vegetables the focus of my diet, along with low fat, low sodium options. I have worked very hard on maintaining this way of eating, and in general, have been supported by my family and friends in this process. In a few short months, I saw dramatic reductions in my blood pressure (I have hypertension in addition to MS,) and I have also seen large reductions in my cholesterol. In combination with my medication, I have reduced the severity of my MS symptoms through this lifestyle.

Why do the Holidays seem to completely derail healthy lifestyle choices? I have already begun to hear comments from family, such as: Why don’t you just take a break from the diet? Why don’t you skip a few days? What is the big deal? Why are you being so extreme? It is amazing how quickly “tradition” becomes the priority at holiday meals, rather than health. I am a believer in the concept that healthy meals can also be incredibly tasty.

In addition to these dietary comments, we may also find ourselves being showered with the ever-present “helpful advice” from family members about how to best manage our MS. “Have you tried———?” I happen to be a licensed family nurse practitioner, and even with my medical background, I have family and friends who ask me this very question constantly. They send me articles about new research, suggest different alternative and traditional therapies, and question my treatment decisions with regularity. Sometimes I feel a twinge of anger, and I have to hold back an emotional response. Instead, I find the response, “Thank you for letting me know about that, I will look into it,” to be the best.

Sticking to our choices while being gracious recipients of unwanted advice can be especially trying during the holidays. The most important thing to keep in mind is that we are loved and surrounded by people who only want the best for us. This is important to remember when you find yourself at the Thanksgiving dinner table receiving your 50th comment about the food (or lack of) on your plate!

Happy Holidays!

*Meagan Freeman was diagnosed with RRMS in 2009, at the age of 34, in the midst of her graduate education. She is a Family Nurse Practitioner in Northern California, and is raising her 6 children (ranging from 6–17 years of age) with her husband, Wayne. She has been involved in healthcare since the age of 19, working as an Emergency Medical Technician, an Emergency Room RN, and now a Nurse Practitioner. Writing has always been her passion, and she is now able to spend more time blogging and raising MS awareness. She guest blogs for Race to Erase MS, Modern Day MS, and now MSAA. Please visit her at: http://www.motherhoodandmultiplesclerosis.com.

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Planning Around the Holidays

As the holiday seasons steadily approach, so do the holiday events and planning. Perhaps you have already received an invite or two, or are a part of an elaborate e-mail chain or Facebook group. For some, the mere thought of having to plan around the holiday season is stressful; and for those living with MS, an often unpredictable disease, the stress burden can increase even more.

So how do you tackle the holiday planning in a polite and self-determined fashion, while making sure to keep your health as a priority?

  1. Recognize your limits and be honest with yourself. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies when it comes to planning. We want to be able to do everything, but realistically, it is not in our best interest. Knowing your limit and sticking to it can help alleviate the overwhelmed feeling that is commonly seen in planning events.
  2. Have a game plan. Use a calendar to keep track of events and use this to track tasks that must be completed for these events. For example, you signed up to bring a side dish to a friend’s holiday party; write down the day of the party, and plan ahead the grocery shopping day and cooking day and build those into the calendar. This will help avoid the last minute day of dash to the store that often leaves you too tired to cook or even go to the party!
  3. It’s OK to say no! For some, this is an on-going struggle; but saying “no” from the beginning of planning is a lot easier than the last minute “I can’t make it”. Place yourself and your health first, and build around that. Use the prior two steps to build a holiday plan, and know which events to say no to.

Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” When having to say no to an event, don’t allow others to make you feel bad about yourself because you cannot attend. By choosing to place your health and wellbeing on a pedestal, down the road one day, you will see what was actually important and thank yourself.

What tips and strategies have you established to help manage holiday planning?

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It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like…

The holidays…that’s right. They’re quickly approaching and if you’ve seen any advertisements or store displays you’d think it’s been here since the start of October. Right about mid-November straight into January are some of the most festive times of the year. Gatherings, parties and decorations as the sounds and smells of old holiday classics fill the air. Most people think of this time of year and are instantly thrown back to childhood memories of parades, waiting to open gifts, big family dinners and traditions that predate you. They break out the recipe cards and address book in anticipation of all that the holidays bring.

This year before the holidays actually start (I’m telling you they should begin the Monday before Thanksgiving not the end of September) take some time to look at how you have celebrated the season in the past. Do you gather with family around a warm table and welcome meal? Get together with friends who are from far and wide to celebrate the connections you’ve built over the past year? Do you lend a hand and volunteer for an organization? Spend every waking moment coming up with just the right gift? Plan the details from décor to the meals to the stamps for your cards? Or maybe your holidays are quiet and calm.

keep-calm-holidays-are-comingYour holiday doesn’t have to look just like mine or like anyone’s for that matter. It doesn’t have to be a Norman Rockwell painting or look like the commercials you see for Pillsbury to be wonderful. There’s no one way to celebrate this time of year. Maybe this year your celebration will be completely different than years past and that’s ok. Take the time before the holidays begin and give yourself permission for this year to be this year. Circumstances may be different and life may not look the same. Take a moment to feel any losses and acknowledge the shift. Take in the changes and celebrate even the smallest of victories and good memories.

As the weather begins to turn cold and the days seem shorter take a moment to think back and find those things you most want to make part of your holidays this year and celebrate them.

Happy New Year… oh wait, we aren’t there yet 😉

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