Anxiety and depression are among the most common symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. It can be challenging trying to navigate through life with a disease that affects both your body and your emotions. In this blog, I’d like to share some helpful resources for mental and emotional wellness. I want you to know that if you find yourself battling anxiety and depression, there are resources available to help you manage and improve your mental and emotional wellness. Continue reading
Coping with change is something that every human has had to experience at least once in their lives. Whether expected or unexpected, exciting, or disappointing, change is an inevitable part of living life. Learning to effectively cope with change comes with great benefits that can help improve your quality of life. Coping with change can also help lower your chances of experiencing anxiety and depression while increasing your level of resilience. Here are some helpful ways to increase your ability to cope with change.
Ask yourself, “What am I thinking?”
When changes arise, you might find that your mind automatically jumps to the worst possible outcome of the situation. If you notice this happening to you, slow down and take the time to sit down with yourself. Ask yourself, “What am I thinking?” Then, examine your thoughts to determine how rational they really are. You will find that in most cases, the worst possible outcome of the situation is extremely unlikely to occur.
Be in the Moment
During times of change, looking to the future can be a positive experience when it is done with expectation and positive thoughts. However, it can be a slippery slope when you are looking to the future with excessive worry about worst possible outcomes. It is important to be focused on the present moment, and not allow life changes to pull you towards negative future predictions. If you notice this happening to you, stop what you are doing, take a deep breath, and bring yourself back to the present.
Reach out for Support
As changes arise, there might be moments when you are feeling overwhelmed. It is important to realize that during these moments it might be best to reach out for emotional support. Talking with friends or family or even joining an online support forum can really make a big difference when you are coping with change. MSAA offers a great (and free) online community called My MSAA Community, https://mymsaa.org/msaa-community/my-msaa-community-forum, for individuals with MS, their families, and their care partners. This is a great resource for those who are looking for emotional support, especially during times of change.
Remember friends, we might not be able to control whether changes happen, but we can control how we respond and cope with those changes. You’ve got this!
When living with MS, it is super important to learn simple yet helpful ways to combat stress. Effectively managing stress levels can have long-lasting benefits on your body. Practicing relaxation is more than just a desire to be happy or be at peace. Relaxation is meant to bring relief not only to your mind but also to your body. Practicing relaxation techniques is a great way to help you cope with both daily stressors and also MS-related stress. Here are a few ways to combat stress: Continue reading
June 20th marks the first day of summer, however, the heat didn’t seem to wait for summer to officially start this year. Once May came, the heat wasted no time in making its big debut. June is here now, and we have already seen temperatures over 90 degrees. Woah! Adding MS to that equation can make for an unbearable summer for those experiencing heat sensitivity. I’d love to offer you a few resources that Continue reading
Being forced to stay home and practice social distancing has been an interesting experience, to say the least. It is going to be 3 months that we have been staying at home, and I can tell you that now I have found about a million things in my house that need to be fixed, repaired, or just plain updated. Yes, I am being overly dramatic, but you get the point. This stay-at-home period has definitely inspired me to take on some lofty DIY (Do-It-Yourself) projects since we have limited options right now as to what we can do and where we can go. Aside from home projects, here are some ideas Continue reading
Join the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America on March 29, 2017 at 6:00 PM for an Ask Me Anything session with MS Expert, Dr. Barry Singer, on My MSAA Community. For one hour, Dr. Singer will answer your questions about MS posted in a designated conversation thread on the Community.
WHAT: MS Awareness Month “Ask Me Anything” (AMA)
WHO: MSAA and Dr. Barry Singer, Director of The MS Center for Innovations in Care in St. Louis, MO
WHEN: Wednesday, March 29th, 6:00 – 7:00 PM EST
WHERE: My MSAA Community on HealthUnlocked
If you would like to ask a question during the Ask Me Anything session, you will need to have or create a profile on My MSAA Community, our peer-to-peer online community in which you can share your MS journey, connect with others, and contribute to ongoing conversations – all from your phone, tablet, or computer.
Join us on My MSAA Community for this special “Ask Me Anything” session during MS Awareness Month to get answers to your questions!
Exercise is a great way to help maintain strength and endurance in order to better take care of your physical well-being. There are countless varieties of exercise trends and routines, but traditional exercise isn’t always the best fit for everyone, especially individuals with MS, due to the increased physical demand and rising body temperature. Research conducted over the years has suggested that aquatic exercise is an effective way for individuals with MS to improve their flexibility, fatigue levels, and (most importantly) their quality of life and psychological well-being.
Take, for example, the way aquatic exercise has affected Mandy Iris. “I can swim as angry as I want. I can be as sad as I want, but it all just seems to melt away every time I jump out of the pool. I feel better. It’s invigorating, it makes you feel alive,” says Mandy. Spending time in the pool and swimming a few laps, or just walking around in the pool can not only help strengthen your muscles, but allows you the time and space to clear your mind.
If you are looking to try aquatic exercise for yourself, and you’ve discussed this with you doctor or physical therapist, here are a few of tips for finding the right facility for you:
- Location – Find a facility within a reasonable driving distance or that you can get to using public transportation.
- Safety and Accessibility – Make sure that you are able to easily move about the facility and pool deck. Also, be sure that you will be able to get in and out of the pool with ease.
- Classes – If it interests you, see if the facility offers any aquatic exercise classes you can attend.
- Schedule – Find a facility or a program that works with your schedule, including work, child care, and personal preferences.
You can find more tips, resources, and inspiration to get started on MSAA’s Swim for MS Online Aquatic Center at: aquatics.mymsaa.org/aquatic-exercise/
MSAA is pleased to announce that through a partnership with Antidote, a digital health company, we are now offering a clinical trial search tool on our website that will make learning about and connecting with MS clinical trials easier than ever.
While we remain dedicated to improving lives in the MS community through vital services and support, MSAA recognizes the value of having access to clinical trial information, providing important answers to researchers. This is why we encourage you to try Antidote’s clinical trial search tool.
Although some may be familiar with the purpose of clinical trials, others may not know or understand the benefits of these studies. Clinical trials are scientific studies that test the safety and effectiveness of new treatments for diseases, including MS. They often use patient participants; are conducted by universities, MS clinics, and neurologists; and must follow FDA-approved protocol so that all treatment is provided and all data is collected uniformly. No drug can be approved by the FDA until there is clinical trial proof of their safety and effectiveness.
The major advances in the treatment of MS in the last 15-20 years have only been because of data provided through clinical trials, which is why these studies remain so significant for MS research.
You can start searching for clinical trials for you or your loved one right now on our website. Click here to begin.
This month we’re talking about wellness and this sort of fits in to wellness but it also just fits into life. I recently spoke with a young man and being the empath I sometimes am, what he said resonated with me on a person-to-person level. It’s not MS specific or specific for a gender, age, or race. This, I think, can be anyone and when I spoke with him it definitely was me. This young man not yet 25 years old had just found out he has MS and was not even out of the hospital parking lot contacted our helpline to…well honestly to vent. But not in an I just need to yell or scream or I need someone to blame way. His first words after Hello and the usual exchange of courteous pleasantries was “I’m not ready.”
Confused, I sat quietly trying to decide what, if anything, I should say in response and before I had crafted my next sentence he continued “I’m lost and I don’t know if you can help me but I am just not ready. I’m not prepared for this or know what to say or do. I am not open enough or smart enough for this. I’m not sick enough or old enough. I’m just not strong enough for this. I’m not ready.” We spoke for a while about the world he’d just entered, what he wanted to do next and what MSAA did. But mostly he spoke, listed and got lost in thought and I listened as he exhaled a breath he’d probably been holding for some time. Before finishing he asked me, “Do you have any idea what I mean?”
And I did; I do. I can’t relate to the diagnosis but I’ve been there, the I’m not ______ enough place. I’m not friendly enough, prepared enough, knowledgeable enough or good enough. I’m not helping enough, understanding enough, empathizing enough or listening enough. I’m not enough for them or won’t be enough to do this. I know I’m not alone in this (I don’t think I am at least), we all can get there from time to time. We aren’t ready, aren’t available, not right enough, rich enough or poor enough. We’re not well enough or sick enough or we feel we aren’t loved enough or able to love enough. We aren’t able to explain how we feel or why we feel the way we do. We’re not enough for them to stay or we aren’t ready to leave. I’m not sure, I’m not *you fill in the blank*.
It’s hard being able to admit the things we feel we aren’t. What we lack or perceive we lack. It makes us vulnerable and exposed, sometimes sad, but it’s also honest. Part of wellness, I believe, is acknowledging these “I’m not _____ enough” statements and facing the feelings they bring out in us. It’s taking the time to recognize the part they play in our lives and seek the assistance or understanding we need to address them. The “I’m not” statement doesn’t have to have the final say; it doesn’t have to be the whole story. I’m not sure if anyone will be able to relate…but just maybe they can.
By Stacie Prada
In the last three years so much of my life has changed.
My beyond-two-decades-long marriage was ending while my career took a completely unexpected and welcome turn. I moved to a new place, and I had a few surgeries. Valued in-person friendships were no longer nearby, and they shifted to Facebook interactions. All of my daily routines I had in place no longer fit into my new life, and I spent a lot of time redesigning them. Often it felt like my entire life was tossed in the air and landed scattered on the ground. Picking up the pieces and deciding how to arrange them again took up a lot of my time and mental energy.
Any of these changes would have been big for me, but juggling them all at once took a lot of effort. MS was a factor in this because I strove to maintain my health throughout these changes. My biggest goal was to avoid an MS exacerbation, and, fortunately, I succeeded.
Experiencing change can alter how I view the world, myself, my past, my future, and the people around me. It’s a mental shift from what I thought I could count on to knowing how vulnerable and impermanent everything can be. The diagnosis of MS made me question my body’s abilities and health. I thought my body was strong and healthy. Being diagnosed led me to realize that a healthy and mobile future isn’t necessarily in my control. I can eat right, exercise, and get checkups, and still have no guarantee for good health or the ability to walk in my elder years.
Adjusting to change is a skill I’ve cultivated to save my sanity and bring myself mental peace. Some years ago, my New Year’s Resolution was to “Embrace the things that I resist.” It was a great experience acknowledging when I was resisting things and actively shedding the internal resistance I had to doing them. When I was nervous about running a public meeting, I decided to dive in and just do my best. When I liked a fashion choice that I thought might be too flashy, I decided to try it anyway. When the group sang karaoke, I got up in front of the group with my not-great singing voice and sang my heart out. I knew I might sound terrible or look silly, but I let myself have fun doing it.
My personal challenge that year allowed me to think about and recognize why I resisted things, and it helps to think about it when dealing with change. Most of the time my resistance stemmed from the following:
- Uncertainty for what the next step was or how to decide
- Being afraid that following that step would lead to an outcome I feared
- Being overwhelmed from the quantity of things to deal with at that moment
- Fear of making a mistake, making what I would later judge as a wrong decision, failing, or being judged negatively by others
- Holding on to a belief that I have control over the future, others, or anything other than what I do, say or believe.
Coping with change:
With MS, a lot of change stems from the domino effect of losing mobility, cognition and physical abilities. Focusing on these losses can lead to depression and a sense of doom. When an exacerbation hits, it’s natural to worry about where it will lead and how it will affect the future. It’s all understandable and natural, but it’s also incredibly unsettling, frustrating and just plain hard. I try to embrace changes I’m resisting by doing the following:
- Recognize that feeling unsettled, nervous or fearful is natural. Accept it will be stressful but try to do what I can to minimize the stress.
- Think about why the change is stressful. Does it require changing my life, my relationships, or just my attitude?
- Seek inspiration and motivation from people who have lived through a similar change. What insight can they lend?
- Pace myself. Take on only a few extra tasks each week or month, and reduce some of the things that aren’t necessary for my physical or mental health. Know that my regular life still requires a lot of energy, and something needs to give temporarily.
- Know the deadlines and what’s at risk if they aren’t met. Give myself enough time to do things, but not too much so that it feels never-ending.
- Break down the steps to dealing with change into smaller doable tasks to avoid getting overwhelmed.
- Prioritize based on importance, deadlines, and energy level. If my energy is low, I’ll do the easy tasks for now and the more involved tasks at a time of day when I have more energy. Certain things may also be able to wait months.
- Wait to start until I’m ready to commit. I keep a list of things to do, but I don’t start until I’m ready to do them and complete them.
- Set realistic expectations and ambitious dreams.
- Look forward to something. Whether it’s seeing kids or grandkids grow up and being a part of their lives, traveling, dancing, watching the sun set, or anything else small or large that brings joy.
- Enjoy the path I’m on even when portions of it are difficult. Give myself credit for all of the things I do that aren’t hard because I’ve put so much effort in the past into getting better at them.
- Trust that I’ll do what I think is right for me each step of the way and that it’s enough.
Dealing with change has been a learned skill for me, and it’s taken a lot of effort to cultivate that skill. It’s been worth the effort to reduce my internal stress and increase my sense of contentment. Relaxing into and embracing change has improved my confidence, given me opportunities and experiences beyond my expectations, and made for a much more satisfied and joy-filled life.
*Stacie Prada was diagnosed with RRMS in 2008 at the age of 38. 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/