Woman checking her smart watch after a run
Personal Motivation

Starting an Exercise Routine

There are many reasons why a person wants to incorporate more exercise into their daily lives: health, weight, or just something to do. It may be doctor prescribed or self-motivation, but the message is the same when starting out: I need to be more active.

But taking that first step can be the most difficult one. Where do you start? What equipment do you need? Do I need to join a gym? Is this even feasible?

There’s a lot of baggage to starting an exercise routine. Insecurities about how you’ll look as a beginner, how much money or time it might cost, or just how to stay motivated on the down days.

All of this is completely normal. The key is to push through these feelings by keeping the eye on the prize…but what might that be?

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Information Huddle

Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory or Mediterranean Diet

One of the things that I have found most beneficial for my MS is to maintain an anti-inflammatory diet. This is because I am lowering my intake of foods that might cause flare-ups such as wheat, dairy, or sugar. It isn’t easy to drop these delicious foods, but it’s doable because there are plenty of delicious recipes available all over the internet and passable alternatives for specific cravings.

Unfortunately, some of the recipes take time and prep and if you are low on energy, that can be discouraging. Making food ahead or finding shortcuts can help minimize food prep-stress.

In the news recently, there’s been a lot of talk about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Looking at the two food pyramids for each diet there’s a lot of similarities between the two. So if you were ever considering doing the Mediterranean, or already on the Mediterranean, then you are maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet.

Food Pyramids

*I am linking to them to respect each site’s copyright.

Comparing the two, Dr. Weil breaks down the Mediterranean Diet in further detail, but each food category is in the same area of the pyramid; there are certain foods types you eat more of and others you eat less of and they overlap. While it may not be 100% the same, the overlaps are significant and the health benefits equitable.

The advantage to recognizing the similarity between the two is it can open up the doors for more recipe options with modifications. When starting new diets, it’s easy to get discouraged by recipe limitations. Having more options available can make the diet shift process smoother and more pleasant.

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The Check-In

Personal Health Check-In

Today I will be reflecting on my overall health, how I am feeling physically and mentally, and also talking about my MS Symptoms and if I’ve noticed any changes with the lifestyle changes I’ve made.

Physical Health

I am close to peak health right now. I have lost enough weight that I am no longer in the “overweight” BMI range but in the “normal” range.  I haven’t seen this number since before high school.

I have found that I feel lighter and less sluggish, though that may have more to do with my metabolism. Regardless, I wanted to find a natural way to get more energy and I have succeeded.

With the good, comes the bad: I had a couple of days where my stomach hurt after eating and I wasn’t sure what was going on.  After visiting two different doctors, I found out that I have h.pylori. I suspect I picked it up from contaminated water caused by a water main break back in early March. We boiled water and followed the warnings, but the county was slow on placing a boil advisory and probably too quick in lifting it. I am currently on the recommended antibiotic regimen, and I wouldn’t wish those horse pills on anyone.

To balance that out, since I am destroying my gut bacteria, I have upped my probiotic intake via supplements and drinking a lot of kombucha.

I do suspect that I might have a lactose sensitivity in addition to this infection because my stomach would hurt almost every time I had dairy. The source of the pain was inconsistent because it would happen after eating other foods too, but after eating something high in lactose it would inevitably cause some sort of pain.

On the days where I don’t eat any dairy, I feel absolutely normal. Especially during this minor reset: I haven’t had any stomach pain since Wednesday.

As Ash says, I’ve reset my body to the point that I cannot enjoy some of the foods I used to; my body is now a finely tuned machine and I need to be careful what type of fuel I put into it.

This stinks because if I had always wanted to go back to eating dairy products, I really can’t because I don’t like how I feel afterward. I know there are some measures I can take to cheat now and then, but it is clear that my body is treating lactose the same way it treats sugar: beginning to reject the stuff. This isn’t a surprise because I always suspected I had a dairy sensitivity since I was a kid, but like with sugar, I would ignore any symptoms I had in favor of eating cheese.

I am looking at this as a plus: by removing dairy from my diet I am lowering my flare-up chances. Back when I did research for the week I dropped dairy, I found out dairy contains a protein that can increase my chances of a flare-up. Basically, I can’t cheat and have a nibble of dairy whenever I want.

I am one of those people that, even if I can handle it, I tend to not want to do anything that could inconvenience myself. It’s just easier to avoid dairy and sugar than deal with the consequences of how I feel afterward. I may try lactaid if I absolutely want to eat something with lactose, otherwise avoiding the matter altogether is easier for my well-being.

Mental & Emotional Health

These physical changes have helped with my mental health.;

I am feeling better mentally, with the occasional down moment, but overall I am doing well. Keeping busy with the blog and feeling productive has helped improve my mood. I think by feeling productive, I don’t feel like my MS is bothering me as much as it does.

 

I am finding that I am working very hard to be more compassionate and self-compassionate. That has helped lower my intense emotions significantly. I am finding things don’t bother me as much as they used to which has been really helpful in getting through the day. I feel that I’ve been providing Jai with a good example because of it.

MS Health

Overall, I don’t really notice a huge difference in my symptoms since my last check-in. I find that by removing certain things from my diet helps give me a minor energy boost because I am not feeling bogged down. But the difference tends to be negligible.

I still have issues with fatigue and mental fog, but my L’Hermittes Sign and MS Hug haven’t made a reappearance since February for which I am grateful.

I have an appointment with my neurologist later this month, but without an MRI, so I will be updating with his assessment of my overall condition. I count not needing an MRI as a personal win: I don’t hate getting them, but it means my neurologist believes my condition is stable enough that an MRI is unnecessary.

I talked about restarting my drug-therapy once Jai weans from breastfeeding, but I am finding it hard because of how good I’ve been feeling without it. Not going back on Tecfidera means that I will be putting my long-term health at risk of progressing into SPMS, so there is a lot of important things to consider if I do decide to hold off a while longer.

The Takeaway

That’s how I am feeling overall and I would say that I am feeling pretty good. It’s been a lot of work to get here, but I would have to say taking it a little bit at a time has helped. Remembering not to put too much pressure has helped keep me going on the lower-motivation days.


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Information Huddle

Talking to others about MS

There comes a time to reveal a difficult diagnosis to those outside the immediate family.

This can be a stressful or liberating experience. Friends may have suspected all along or been completely surprised by the information shared with them.

Revealing your diagnosis is an intimate act because you are sharing something personal with a friend in the hopes they will be supportive.

Because we cannot control others’ reactions after such a revelation, waiting until you are ready to talk is extremely important for your emotional health.

When to Say Something

First of all: you do not owe an explanation for your health. If you choose to divulge your diagnosis, that is a decision only you can make. Do not let anyone else force the matter from you.

If someone is visibly unwell and been so for a while, it may be harder to keep diagnostic information from others, particularly if treatment starts. It may be a relief in telling others because there is finally some information to share, but don’t be surprised if holding onto that information a little longer is more important.

While there might be a temptation to tell people immediately after the diagnosis, waiting until the information is processed is best. It allows for better preparation both with reactions and questions. Knowing which friends can handle the information with care and sensitivity helps in deciding who gets what information first.

But there may be some friends, despite waiting until you are ready, that may scale back the friendship because they don’t know how to handle your diagnosis. This hurts, but being ready for it will help mitigate the pain versus being blindsided. I made this mistake a few times and each time I wish I had waited to reveal my diagnosis or not bothered at all.

Only you will know the right time to divulge information, there isn’t a magic number or “best by” date to tell others.

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Parenting

Adaptive Parenting

While MS can make parenting a little bit harder and I have to be okay with my limitations, there are ways of working around it and still be able to be the parent I want Jai to have in me.

Remembering that I am enough for my son and he won’t necessarily recognize my limitations helps as I plan workarounds in our daily lives to minimize MS’s impact. As he transitions to a different developmental stage, my adaptations will evolve and I may be able to do more for him as he gains his own independence.

This isn’t meant to be taken as advice or “what should be done,” but an insight into how someone deals with their MS and what works for them. If you are a parent with MS or newly diagnosed, remember to be gentle with yourself and don’t compare yourself to others. You are doing the best you can and that’s the most important thing.

Finding Alternatives

On Monday I related some of my personal frustrations regarding my MS: fatigue and mental fog. Fatigue prevents me from being able to have the energy I need to chase Jai around like I want to and mental fog/memory loss means that I can’t recall information as quickly as I would like to answer questions or teach concepts.

Below are some ways I actively adapted my parenting due to the MS. I am certain there are other things I do without thinking that are adaptations, but I don’t know what thos would be.

Fatigue

This is a rather simple solution for me: take rest breaks when I can. But with a toddler that’s easier said than done. Additionally, when I take rest breaks, I feel guilty because I am not spending active time with him. Below are some ways I’ve adapted my parenting despite the fatigue.

Playtime

How I’ve worked around it: encourage more independent play for Jai. While he’s going to be 18-months soon, he does a lot of independent play for his age. This means I will sit in the room with him while he plays with his toys or when we go to the park, I will sit and allow him to explore in a safe manner. When I need to intervene, I do, but for the most part, I allow him to entertain himself when I am feeling particularly fatigued.

This is good for him in several different ways: it grants him a safe form of independence that will help boost his confidence; allows him to critically think through a problem, like detangling two toys; and discovering his abilities or limitations. When we are out of the house and around other children, I have found that taking a hands-off approach has helped improve his socialization with others in ways that my teaching cannot.

I gauge his emotional mood and if I feel he needs more one-on-one interaction with me, I will get down with him and play for as long as I am able. I make sure to warn him if I find my energy is flagging so it is a sudden stop in playing from me or I redirect the play into something less high-intensity, like reading a book or playing with a stuffed animal.

I have found that “warnings” have helped minimize any sort of upset feelings. Warnings have a negative connotation but they are me saying: “Mommy has 5 more minutes that she can play like this with you,” or “you can go down the slide 3 more times before Mommy needs a break.”

There is a liberal use of timers in our household. I will use the timer as an objective third-party that can arbitrate the length of my play. I do this to be fair to him and to begin teaching the concept of time. When the timer goes off, Mommy needs to take a little breather, therefore take that time to play independently again.

Naps or Rest Breaks

Jai would take two naps a day, averaging two hours at a time; and I used these periods to get things done or take a nap myself. He’s hit a developmental stage where, in his opinion, naps are mere suggestions and no longer necessary. It’s a toss-up if he’s going to take his morning or his afternoon nap so the only way we know is if I put him in his crib.

While he may not need those periods to sleep, I need them to rest so I can keep going throughout the rest of the day.

That’s why I continue to keep him on a nap schedule, but they are rest breaks for the both of us. For about an hour (or longer depending on my need), he will be in his crib with quiet music playing, pleasant lighting, some of his favorite toys and books, and allowed to play until I can collect him.

By putting him in a calm and low-sensory stimulation environment, I am giving him a chance to calm down and process all the activity during the day up to that point.

When he gets older and I am more confident in allowing him to be out of his crib unsupervised for a duration of time, it will transition to quiet time which is similar to his independent play. He will already be used to that quiet time, it will only be a location and activity change.

Mental Fog

This is the tricker adaptation for me. Figuring out what I know and what I don’t know and being okay with both answers.

Currently, I use my phone and my smart speaker to help me with reminders and timers. While this isn’t much help as far as advice is concerned, utilizing the tools there help keep me focused and on track with things that might previously be an issue.

As Jai gets older and I need to answer questions, my plan will be to use my phone as a teaching tool.

If I cannot give him an answer off the top of my head, I will turn it into a teaching moment: “Mommy does not know the full answer to that question, let’s work together to figure out how to research that.” I will then walk him step-by-step through the process of figuring out the right question to ask a search engine; how to analyze sources for trustworthiness; and discuss how he feels about the answers to the question, or where to continue our research.

We live in an age where having personal computers at our fingertips is normal, so introducing him to their research abilities early on will be a good thing, provided I limit the screen time appropriate for his age.

Acknowledgment?

I put a question mark at the end of this header because I don’t know the answer to the question: do you acknowledge that you’ve made parenting adaptations to your child?

I will be discussing teaching your children about MS next week, but I wonder if not calling attention to the changes I’ve made helps normalize my parenting. As Jai gets older and able to recognize the difference in parenting styles from Ash and myself, we will acknowledge it but until then I want to maintain as much of a normal childhood as possible for him.

For those with MS or other conditions that limit your parenting abilities, what have you done to make adaptations to your parenting? Have your children noticed and what do they think about it? Leave your suggestions and comments below.

 


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