Stress. One tiny word that packs a big punch. With everything that’s been going on in the world, this little term has been doing its part in wreaking havoc. Maybe it’s not all bad—some stress can be good to help with productivity in certain situations. But overall, stress can really take a toll on the mind and body. And finding ways to reduce stress that works for you may take some time. To be honest, I often find it hard to relax and decompress. Just thinking of ways to try to relax can sometimes Continue reading
Spring is in the air! And do you know what that means? Spring cleaning, UGH! For many of us it’s hard to get into organization mode and try to clean up the clutter that’s accumulated over the year thus far or that’s trickling over from last. But it’s an important task to take on because it really does benefit you in the end. Staying organized helps to maintain order and can result in decreased stress and anxiety.
Life can be so busy and chaotic at times that Continue reading
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
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
Not long ago I wrote some about my first trip to see an acupuncturist. It’s a recurring trip that I genuinely look forward to and enjoy. There are lots of other areas where you can find some alternatives that can be added to what you are already doing, or in place of something. Now each alternative therapy may not work for you specifically and you should consult your physician when it comes to any radical changes to your diet, routine or the programs you adhere to. Continue reading
If you can believe it, we are already in the month of May! 2017 has been steadily moving along and this month we are looking into the topic of coping. Everyone has their own versions and ideas about how they best cope with, and through, stressful or difficult situations. For years professionals have presented, written about, fine-tuned and zenned over the most positive ways that we can cope. While not every example will work best for every person it’s always great to have some ideas in your back pocket when the need arises. There is nothing wrong with testing a few out to see which ones do not work for you and which ones are your go-to when counting to 10 just does not cut it anymore. You can try:
- Cooking or Baking
- Scheduling some time off and stick to it
- Spend some time with young children or animals (both tend to be care free and some of that may rub off on you during your time with them)
- Create something artistic (this can be any number of mediums such as music, clay, paint, found objects, writing, photography and the like)
- Visualization, Meditation. Group or Individual Therapy
- Physical Activity (this too can be any number of things; swimming, dance, yoga, stretching, sex…yep, you read that right…a bike ride or walk)
- Give of yourself to organizations you are interested in. Volunteering can not only help you, but also others
- Explore something in your area that you haven’t before
- Get some more sleep
- Seek out speaking with friends or family and expressing your emotions
We all know that we have some negative coping mechanisms that may help for a short period of time in the moment but still leave us a bit in the lurch. Seeking out more positive ways in which to cope, these or others may help us to set up a more positive pattern to help deal with a negative situation. We’d like to hear some of your positive coping skills or ideas that you’d like to share. Take a moment to check out our thread on My MSAA Community.
Many people who have pets will admit that they do not need an excuse to give their pet extra attention and a little pampering, but did you know that there is a National Love Your Pet Day coming up on February 20th?
Having a pet or any kind of animal companion can offer a variety of benefits to anyone. Whether you are cuddling with a furry family member, or confiding your fears and frustrations to an attentive animal, our pets can reduce our stress levels, providing both physical and mental relief. Who hasn’t come home after a long day with a desire to just say hello to your pet, give them a pat on the head, or a belly rub? We can vent our frustrations and acknowledge the things that make us nervous and anxious to our pets, without fear of being judged for our thoughts. They support us without ever needing to actually speak back to us.
As some of our My MSAA Community members have said about their pets:
“Gidget is waiting for me every time I come home. No matter where I’m at she finds me. She is wagging from head to tail. I swear she knows when I’m sick because she follows me around like my little shadow.”
“My dog Razor has seen me through 5 ops in 5 years, never left my side.”
“My little kitty girl, Tux, is my daytime companion. She follows me around and sometimes even rides on the back of my chair. We like to sit in the sun and watch the birds in the trees in the backyard.”
Our pets are often considered an extension of our family and can easily be considered a care partner for many of us when we aren’t feeling our best. How has your pet been there for you?
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).
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?
S– Stay 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.
T– Talk 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.
R– Rest 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.
E– Enjoy 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.
S– Socially 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.
S– Slow 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?
By: Matt Cavallo
While most people are planning for their New Year’s resolutions, many of us with multiple sclerosis are just trying to feel normal again after all the holiday activities. The problem with the holidays is that they take us out of our normal routines and create financial and emotional stress. When we go outside of our normal routine or have increased stress, we unknowingly put ourselves at risk for an MS exacerbation, or relapse.
Last year I blogged, “Tips for Avoiding a Post-Holiday Multiple Sclerosis Flare”, which can be read by clicking here. Those tips include: developing a financial plan, changing eating habits, exercising, getting back on your schedule and setting attainable goals. You can enjoy the holidays, but it is critical to have a plan to get back on track.
Most times my tips come from lessons I’ve learned the hard way. Instead of taking my own advice last year I tried to be super dad and ran myself ragged. I spent the next couple of months trying to recover from the MS fatigue, was unable to take off the extra holiday weight and had to buy new pants with a stretchy waist band.
You see, you don’t have to wait until the New Year for a do-over. Resolutions can start at any time. Mine was to ditch the stretchy pants. I made sure to start working towards it before the holiday season began. I also made a couple of smart decisions along the way.
I took extra time off to make sure that I wasn’t stressed with last minute running around. Taking care of the gifts ahead of time also softened the financial stress of the season, because the costs were spread out. We didn’t stray too much from our regular diet, but did allow some holiday goodies. I also made sure to take extra time to rest. Taking the time off to spend with my family allowed me to be super dad and catch up on rest.
With all of the planning I did ahead of time, I am much less stressed and fatigued than last year. I am also down a couple of pounds and can ditch the stretchy pants. I’m still not exactly where I want to be yet, but I am working on it. A pleasant side effect of implementing a resolution before the New Year is that I actually believe that I have some attainable goals that I can stick to.
What I learned is that I don’t need a holiday to commit to feeling better. I cannot control what MS does to me, but I can control other things like fitting into my pants. Making small changes can have a big impact on how you feel or how fatigued you are. What little changes are you going to make in 2015?
Thank you for your continued readership and support. Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy New Year!
*Matt Cavallo was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005. Matt is an MS blogger, author, patient advocate, and motivational speaker. Matt also has his Master’s degree in Public Health Administration. Matt is the proud father of his two sons, loving husband to his wife, Jocelyn, and best friend to his dog, Teddy. Originally from the Boston suburbs, Matt currently resides in Arizona with his family. To learn more about Matt, please visit him at : http://mattcavallo.com/blog/