Lifestyle & Blogging

Benefits of Light Exercise

Getting motivated to exercise after a prolonged winter is hard.

This has been a particularly difficult year in the United States, as we’re experiencing another cold snap in April which is unusual in the Southeast. Engaging in outdoor activity is discouraging when you have to bundle up like it’s the middle of winter.

There are ways to work with the cold weather and kick-start exercising even on a minimal level to help restart those resolutions. Light exercise tends to be discounted in favor of moderate or vigorous exercise, but it does have its health benefits if that’s all you can do.

Taking a few moments to shake up the daily routine, no matter your time or fitness level can go a long way towards becoming healthier.

Continue reading “Benefits of Light Exercise”

Parenting

Being Okay with “Normal”

Content Warning: some discussion of depression and negative self-talk. If you are depressed or know someone who is depressed and in need of help, please look at the resources available through the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. You can find support groups, therapists, and treatment options here. You are not alone.


Before figuring out how to make adaptations to my parenting, I had to learn to be okay with my new normal. Parenting with MS requires a few extra steps but with some adaptability, it’s hard to notice that there’s a difference.

It’s frustrating that I can’t be the parent I want to be, but I have to be at peace with myself. No amount of changes can stand up to feeling discouraged about my situation. Discouragement is normal and should be honored when it occurs, but how I cope with that discouragement matters.

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.

A Fight for Control

Recognizing that I have no control over my fatigue and mental fog is the first step I’ve had to take to accept my limitations. I find workarounds with my fatigue (more on that in Friday’s post) and mental fog, so I am not giving into the lack of control. I am accepting that I cannot control it and there’s a huge difference between the two.

Hi, my name is Deborah and I am a control freak.

I’ve admitted this several times on the blog. I like to be in control of every aspect of my life: from relationships to professional projects, I try and control everything so it can be what I perceive to be as perfect.

Psychology does not support this attitude: maintaining strict control over everything is the quickest way to be extremely stressed out and unhappy. It may cause everything to spin more out of control if I try too hard.

As the linked article points out: “Wanting control leads to anger; this emotional response increases when control is impeded.” The more I try to control my situation, the more frustrated I get and exacerbate the situation.

How do I try to control my MS?

There is a level of regression that occurs in my grieving process: I go into denial and try to forget that I have MS. I will push myself physically and mentally and completely ignore my body’s warning signs.

Looking at Spoon Theory: if I use up all of my reserves (and then some) I have the potential of not being able to do anything for the rest of the day and possibly the next day. This happens more than I care to admit because I just want to get everything done on my “to do” list.

That’s why working on my priorities every morning is so important.

Emotionally, I try to control my MS by being hard on myself. I will berate myself if I wasn’t able to do a particular task to my liking or if I don’t get a post/email/social media interaction out in a reasonable amount of time. I find that I will sink into a slight depression when I focus too much on what I can’t do for myself and my family.

MS cannot be controlled. Its very nature does not allow for control.

Most of my frustration stems from a belief that if someone else can handle multiple projects at one time, why do I struggle to do a single task? I am constantly comparing my abilities to others and wishing I measured up.

Continue reading “Being Okay with “Normal””

The Check-In

Checking In: My Exercise Routine

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted about my personal progress, so I thought I would spend this week checking in on my exercise, eating habits, and overall health.

I haven’t discussed my exercise habits other than tacking them on as part of my posts and social media updates, so I wanted to spend some time talking about the routines I do throughout the week and my eventual fitness goals.

Exercise and Me

I have always loved yoga and been practicing since 2005 when I took my first class in college. I want to become an instructor and started the certification process several years ago, but I was coping with flare-ups before my diagnosis,  so I had to put that on hold. I still want to get certified and will hopefully pick it up again.

Yoga always appealed to me because of the stretching and mindfulness aspects, but also because it was low cardio impact depending on the practice.

Growing up, I dealt with childhood asthma. I loved being active as a child, but there was always the concern of overdoing it and having an asthma attack. Yoga appealed to the desire to stay active and fit because of all the great breathing techniques and the low-stress it put on my lungs.

Likewise, as a child, I hated to run. I would sprint during games of tag on the playground, but I’d get winded pretty quickly and didn’t like the way I felt if I ran for an extended period of time. I was never a particularly strong or fast runner, either. I just figured it wasn’t for me and turned to yoga as a means to stay active.

My mom started running when I moved to Georgia and because I am super competitive, I was not about to be outdone by her. I started training informally and ran a few 5ks and worked myself up to a half-marathon.

I found that I actually enjoyed running, but I still wasn’t particularly good at it. My stamina was always bad: I would start a race really strong but I could never sustain myself past a certain point and the idea of running up hills always got me to walk.

I can’t specifically remember the reason why I dropped running other than I got busy with work, managing my MS, and life. When Ash and I discussed starting a family I wanted to pick it back up before I got pregnant but that never happened.

After speaking with my health coach around this time last year, I decided to get back into running more seriously. I trained with my mother and we ran a half-marathon back in October 2017. I’ve been noticing a lot of health benefits like mood improvement and more energy, so my two primary forms of exercise became yoga and running.

The Routine – In Theory

If I am having a good week: no bad weather, colds, toddler interferences, or MS fatigue symptoms, this is how my routine looks:

  • Monday: Yoga/Crosstraining
  • Tuesday: 30-minute run
  • Wednesday: Yoga/Crosstraining
  • Thursday: 45-minute run
  • Friday: Yoga/Crosstraining
  • Saturday: Distance run (5+ miles)
  • Sunday: Rest

I get 3 days where I have at least 30-minute intense cardio from the run and then 3 days of cross-training of some sort to help strengthen my legs and improve my breathing.

I use the Galloway method for stamina building and hill running. I officially started running back in August 2017 and couldn’t make it more than 5-minutes down the road and balked at hills. Now I am able to run 20-minutes before taking a break and hills are a piece of cake.

All of this is great, but unfortunately most weeks I am not able to adhere to this schedule as much as I would like.

Because we have to take Jai on the weekday runs, I have to be mindful of the weather and how he is feeling.

Continue reading “Checking In: My Exercise Routine”

Parenting

Managing Parental Time

This is the final week in a 3-week series on parenting observations. Week one is based on gentle parenting, week two is about parenting with compassion, and week three is about parenting with a disability.

These posts are based on my personal experiences as a parent and are not meant in any way to judge other parenting styles or decisions. I am offering my personal research and conclusions as possible suggestions for others out there, therefore these posts will be as objective as possible. When it comes to parenting: provided the method isn’t abusive, there really isn’t a wrong way to parent your child. Be secure and do what works best for you and your family and ignore outside judgement.


With my MS, my disability manifestation breaks down into two parts: brain fog and fatigue.

Brain fog makes it difficult to remember to do things, important details, and conversations. Fatigue makes it hard to get through the day, especially after chasing a toddler.

One of my biggest fears during pregnancy was that I would leave the stove on or forget Jai somewhere. That’s how forgetful I can be, “pregnancy brain” aside. Likewise, my MS makes it difficult to make new memories, so I can lose the precious moments that many parents treasure while watching their children grow up.

I have had to reorganize my life to manage my MS and improve my ability to parent. I’ve recognized what I excel at and what my limitations are and changed my routine to better balance the MS and child-rearing.

What works for me may not work for someone else because each case of disability is different, but hopefully it will provide some insight as to how I handle everything. It may not be super efficient, but I am flexible to keep adjusting as needs change.

The main thing that helps me make it through the day with brain fog is managing my time. It’s not a strict adherence to a schedule, but an acknowledgement to the natural flow of the day and accounting for periods of high energy or fatigue.

Managing Time and Priorities

When I feel unproductive, I get depressed. Even before my diagnosis I would get frustrated if I didn’t tick off marks on my checklist. Because I combat daily fatigue, I deal with the reality of not getting everything done which can lead to momentary depression and personal frustration.

In order to prevent these low periods, I must figure out ways to manage my time better in consideration with my energy levels.

I have the most energy in the morning right when Jai goes down for his morning nap and that lasts until he goes down for his afternoon nap. On days that I go for a run or exercise, my energy level might be extended an additional 2 hours, but I can’t count on that everytime. If the run was particularly challenging or discouraging, I may not have enough energy to make it through lunch.

Tracking my natural rhythms, a typical day might look like this:

  • 5-6am: Jai wakes up and we snuggle or slightly doze depending on everyone’s tiredness.
  • 6-7am: Ash takes Jai for play time before Ash needs to get ready for work. This gives me an additional hour of sleep.
  • 7-9am: Go for a run some mornings, otherwise make Jai’s breakfast and let him play until naptime. I typically have more energy during this period of time so I am able to do minor chores while Jai is awake.
  • 9-11am: Jai’s morning nap. If I am particularly exhausted I will use this time to nap as well. Otherwise I will write, clean, or organize the house.
  • 11am-2pm: Jai wakes up and we play, I make lunch, and if any errands need to be run, now is the time we do it. By the time 2pm rolls around, if I didn’t rest in the morning I am feeling very fatigued.
  • 2-4pm: Jai’s afternoon nap. I make sure to take at least 30 minutes rest, but some days I will nap for the entire duration of his nap. If he ends up napping in the car because errands or playdates run late – I do not get a period of rest in and I am usually exhausted by 4pm.
  • 4-6pm: More playtime, I make dinner, and when Ash comes home – we switch so he primarily takes care of Jai.
  • 6-7pm: Ash and Jai spend time alone, playing together. I use this time to rest or work on any minor tasks.
  • 7-8pm: Put Jai to bed.
  • 8-10pm: Ash and I spend time together relaxing before heading to bed ourselves.

As you can see, I’ve worked periods of rest when I can, but I am flexible for the days where I have more or less energy.

I will unashamedly admit to this: on my bad days when I have absolutely no energy, I will make sure all of Jai’s needs are met (diaper, food, water, etc) and put him in the crib with some toys and lie down in another room with the monitor on. If he needs me or gets frustrated with being left alone, I will go immediately to him. But I take this time to recharge even a little so I can make it until Ash comes home.

The key to making it through the day is figuring out how to manage my time. I know when I have the most energy – I know when I need to rest. That helps me figure out when I will be the most productive and I attack important tasks during that time.

But as this article points out, time management only gets you so far.  So it’s a bit misleading to say it’s all about time management: it’s really about priority management. Time management comes naturally once priorities are established.

This is how I go about managing my priorities:

  • Each morning I figure out what is the most important thing I must do and add it to my to-do list with a priority assigned to it. “1” is most important, while “3” is least important. I add all other tasks for the day and assign priority.
  • Once I have established importance of priority, I figure out when during my day I am able to achieve that task. Some things must be done in the morning when I have the most amount of energy, while other things wait until later in the day because my energy level is less important to the completion of the task.
  • I do not underestimate the power of checking things off in order to feel productive. There may be days where I write every single detail of a task down on the to-do list because the only thing that keeps me moving forward are the tick-marks indicating “done.”

    I think one of my favorite apps said it best with this tweet:

If time management isn’t working for you, don’t scrap it completely, but adjust your focus to priority management. Once you’ve figured out your priorities, you can manage the time needed to get those priorities done.

And don’t be afraid of rolling those tasks over day-to-day. They will get done eventually.

The Importance of a Calendar

Maintaining a schedule helps keep things straight when it comes to my brain fog. I have tried physical calendars/planners in the past, and while I love the romantic notion (and flexibility) of them, I find that I am less likely to maintain or look at them.

I always have my phone on me and with Google calendar I am able to share my schedule with Ash. I also love how my Google Calendar integrates with my email, so if I am making plans via email I can click a couple of links in order to automatically add something to my calendar.

Because it’s always by my side I am more likely to look at the calendar, add reminders, and add in events. It is the most effective way to keep my time organized and prevent me from forgetting important things.

I have learned to tell people “hold on, let me put this in my calendar otherwise I’ll forget it.”  I still forget to add to my calendar sometimes, and therefore double-book myself or forget about something, but chances are decreased if I am comfortable stopping everything in order to update my calendar.

By removing the need to keep track of things in my head and placing them externally, I am taking control over my brain fog. While it won’t ever go away completely, I am doing something that is recommended to people without disability and therefore normalizing my actions (and not allowing the disease have control). This helps bolster my productivity and decrease my frustration.

Keeping Lists

While I love to have a digital calendar, I find that having a physical to-do list for my on-the-fly tasks helps more. I do use a digital to-do list for my repeatable daily activities, but as I am going along, I am more likely to write it down on some paper than enter it on my phone.

But list writing can be boring and cumbersome so to make it interesting for myself, I use Knock Knock pads around the house for my various lists. Below are some of my personal favorites:

*I receive compensation for these links.

Like with a calendar, I am no longer allowing my brain fog take control of my life by creating lists, but I am also making my abstract ideas more concrete. They feel more achievable when I look at them on paper.

The trick is to not lose the paper and remember to recycle them.

Remaining Flexible

I always remember that I need to be flexible throughout my day, no matter how well planned I have it.  Some days will be ideal and I will be able to get a lot done and other days I’ll need to accept that I won’t get everything done. Remember that that is okay is key to not getting depressed by low-productivity.

I make sure to build flexibility into my daily schedule.

I acknowledge my fatigue and brain fog by knowing that I might get over tired or I might forget to do something. I work in an extra 20 minutes for a project or an extra 30 to get Jai ready for a playdate because, well, toddler.

What do you do to help keep you focused and manage your disability (or if you don’t have a disability, yourself)? How do you combat the threat of low-productivity? This is something that interests me, so I would love to hear your suggestions and tips. Comment with them below.


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Parenting

Parenting with a Disability

This is the final week in a 3-week series on parenting observations. Week one is based on gentle parenting, week two is about parenting with compassion, and week three is about parenting with a disability.

These posts are based on my personal experiences as a parent and are not meant in any way to judge other parenting styles or decisions. I am offering my personal research and conclusions as possible suggestions for others out there, therefore these posts will be as objective as possible. When it comes to parenting: provided the method isn’t abusive, there really isn’t a wrong way to parent your child. Be secure and do what works best for you and your family and ignore outside judgment.


For many people, parenthood is fraught with challenges: getting enough sleep, the terrible twos, and the need for independence as children grow older. For a select few, there is the added challenge of balancing parenting and a disability of some sort.

Parenting without a disability is difficult and parenting with one presents its own unique challenges. With some adaptations, parenting with a disability is no harder than parenting without one. Remember: it’s comparing apples and oranges; each type is difficult and easy in their own ways.

The key is to know what the limits are, having a support system of some sort to help manage those limitations, and keeping everything in proper perspective.

In the final week of my parenting series, this week will be based more on observations from my own experience coupled with resources found online. If you are a parent with a disability, you may see some similarities in your own situation or if you know a parent with a disability, hopefully, this will provide some greater insight to what they experience.

Nota bene: This post will be using the universal “you/second person” pronouns throughout, so while it may not speak to your experience directly, it may apply to someone else you know.

Visible versus Invisible

There are two different types of disabilities out there: the ones you can see and the ones you cannot. For people with invisible disabilities, this can lead to a lot of issues, particularly if a person looks “normal” but uses a handicap parking space. A person does not need to be in a wheelchair, despite the universal logo, to be disabled.

Multiple Sclerosis can be both: for those with PPMS and SPMS (and at times, RRMS), it’s a more obvious disability. The person can be a cane, walker, or scooter. It can be abnormal speech patterns, cognitive difficulties, or physical weakness. The outside observer can see the disability.

But many with RRMS don’t display outward symptoms of their diagnosis, yet the disability can still be there: fatigue, mental fog, or pain. Flare-ups can cause limb weakness or numbness which several limits mobility for a short period of time.

When it is hard to see the disability, it is hard for outsiders to understand the extent of the disability. This can lead to feelings of frustration, inadequacy, and self-doubt by the person with the diagnosis.

Parenting with an invisible disability adds an additional layer of complications: sometimes it’s hard to make playdate plans with others because you don’t know how you might feel that day, remembering simple details about another kid’s life that you’ve been told many times before, and seeming more disengaged with the parenting process from the outside. None of these reasons make you less of a parent, it just alters how you parent.

Ultimately, for those with an invisible disability, they can spend part of their day mentally preparing for outside judgment because people might not know or understand the situation. Judgment isn’t a daily occurrence, but when it happens, it stings because you are left feeling inadequate.

Continue reading “Parenting with a Disability”