Friday, May 31, 2013

Managing Chronic Stress

If you put a frog in a pot of cool water, then put the pot on the stove and slowly turn up the heat until the water boils does the frog jump out? No! The theory is that the frog stays in the pot of water. The frog, being able to adapt to gradual temperature changes stays in the pot of water as it heats. Unaware of the danger the frog slowly cooks until it dies. Chronic Stress

Now, if you put the pot of water on the stove, turn the heat up until it boils and then place the frog in the water; the frog jumps out immediately realizing the danger. Acute Stress

 70% - 90% of all doctor visits are stress related.

Our sympathetic nervous system is designed to deal with acute stress. It’s our ‘fight or flight’ system. Stress hormones are released helping the body to deal with the immediate ‘threat’ and when the ‘threat’ is over the hormones return to a normal or neutral state. Unfortunately, our bodies are not designed to handle chronic stress effectively. 

When stress is applied slowly, piling on, building, over a period of time without a break or release we may be a prime candidate for chronic stress. 

Chronic stress is the body’s response to ongoing psychological and / or physical stress. A stressful job, a difficult child, problems in your relationship, financial troubles, ongoing health issues can all add up and put the body in a constant state of stress. As a result the stress hormones flood the body for a prolonged period of time having a negative effective on one or more of our body’s systems. 

We often don’t realize the degree of stress in our lives until parts of it start to tumble down around us. Chronic stress may affect us mentally, emotionally, physically and present changes in our behaviour.

 85% of serious illnesses are believed to be stress related.

It’s important we recognize the signs and symptoms of chronic stress early and seek the appropriate help. Signs and symptoms of chronic stress may include but not be limited to: 
  • moodiness, irritability, short-tempered 
  • unhappiness, loneliness 
  • focusing on the negative, pessimistic 
  • inability to concentrate, remember 
  • changes in sleeping patterns changes in eating / drinking habits 
  • pulling away from family & friends 
  • anxiety, fear, feelings of being overwhelmed 
  • unexplained aches and pains 
  • digestive problems 
  • decreased immunity, frequently sick 

10 Tips for Managing Chronic Stress

  1. Recognize stress is a problem. Denial is our worst enemy. It may be unpleasant to admit things are out of control and you help, but this step is essential to move forward and find solutions. 
  2. Relax. Set aside time for yourself and find healthy ways to unwind and relax. 
    • go for a walk spend time in nature 
    • play / pet an animal 
    • have a bubble bath 
    • play relaxing music 
    • watch a something funny 
  3. Learn relaxation techniques: Meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi and other relaxation techniques can help reduce the effect of stress on your mind, body & spirit. Also, consider holistic health treatments such as massage, acupuncture and Reiki to help you relax.
  4. Get more sleep. Lack of sleep contributes to the stress cycle. Sleep helps to restore our bodies physically and mentally. We make better decisions and have more appropriate reactions under stressful situations when we get enough sleep. 
  5. Exercise.
  6. Ask for help. A common mistake many make, is we try to do it all on our own. Ask family and friends for help. Perhaps, you simply need a babysitter so you can relax or go to yoga. Maybe you need a little help with chores around the house, meal preparation or transportation. Ask! No one can help to lighten the burden, unless you ask. 
  7. Say NO! Or scale back. Often we take on too many projects or obligations. Learn to say ‘NO’ to new responsibilities. Take a look at your current commitments; can you take anything off your plate, pass the task onto someone else or get additional help? 
  8. Start a stress journal to help identify what your main stressors are and how you deal with them. Record: 
    • what caused the stress. 
    • what was your reaction 
    • how did it make you feel, emotionally & physically  
    • what did you do to make yourself feel better 
  9. Focus on things you can control. A great deal of stress comes from situations or events beyond our control. Shift your attention and focus on things you CAN control. It may help you to feel more ground and less overwhelmed. 
  10. Express your feelings. Speak to a trusted friend, colleague or family member. Bottling up your emotions may lead to a blow up making matters worse. Ideally, a conversation with the person or individuals contributing to the stress is in order, but you may feel more comfortable sharing your feelings with a 3rd party first. 

Seek professional help as necessary. If you are not managing stress well on your own, consult your family doctor, counsellor or other professional.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Drowning: The Silent Killer

Imagine you are submerged in a lake of cold, murky, green water. You can feel the grit of the sand between your toes and the slim of the weeds rubbing against your feet. You’re wearing blue jeans rolled up to your knees, t-shirt and a spring jacket. The heaviness of the saturated clothing is weighing you down and limiting your movement. You look up and you see the glow of the sun piercing through the surface. The rays dance and reflect off the particles in the water; for a moment it looks beautiful. You extend your arm upwards, but the surface is beyond the reach of your fingers. You are only five years old. You’ve fallen into water above your head. You can’t swim. You can’t breathe. You’re running out air. Only a few seconds ago you were sitting on the dock trying to kick the water with your feet, and then PLOP. You are now at the bottom of a lake unable to swim, unable to surface for air, unable to scream for help.

This is how quickly and silently a drowning can occur. Drowning is the silent killer. Despite popular belief most non-swimmers do NOT stay at the surface and call for help. They can’t swim. Many sink below the surface, unnoticeable within seconds. Some weak swimmers or those with the ability to float, may struggle at the surface, and gasp for air for a short period of time. Many who drown had NO intention of going in the water at all.

Drowning is preventable, however, senseless and needless deaths continue to occur year after year.
  • Drowning is the second leading cause of preventable death in children under 10. 
  • Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional death under the age of 60. 

This 1st video represents what is commonly taught in text books and lifeguard classes. Yes, some drowning persons do look like this, but often it’s an individual with some ability to float or swim, though minimal.

Many resources do not mention how quickly and silently a non-swimmer can sink below the surface of the water, and out of sight in a fraction of a second. This 2nd video demonstrates how quickly a child can vanish below the water’s surface. (start at the 30 second mark)

10 Water Safety Tips For A Safe Summer

  1. Establish rules for play in and around the water. 
  2. Stay WITHIN ARMS’ REACH of toddlers, small children and non-swimmers. This includes the bathtub, and small play pools. It only takes a few inches of water for a drowning to occur. At the pool or lake, WITHIN ARMS’ REACH may mean getting in the water and getting wet. If lifeguards are on duty your responsibility does NOT diminish. Directly supervising your own children is still required. The lifeguards are scanning and supervising ALL the patrons. 
  3. Ensure non-swimmers are wearing a properly fitted lifejacket or PFD. Water wings and swim floaties are NOT suitable personal floatation devices. Look for a device that is "Approved by Department of Transport Canada" or "Approved by Canadian Coast Guard, Department of Fisheries and Oceans". 
  4. Supervise children playing with inflatable toys, pool noodles or mats. This equipment often floats to deeper water without the child realizing it. Children and adults can get caught underneath large mats and go unnoticed. 
  5. Appoint a designated “lifeguard” when family and children are in or around the water. 
  6. Always swim with a buddy. Ensure older children, teens and yourself have a swimming buddy. Don’t enter the water alone. 
  7. Ensure you and your children are wearing a lifejacket or PFD in a boat. Children excel at monkey-see, monkey do. Set an example and wear your PFD. 
  8. Don’t consume alcohol before or during water activities. Strong swimmers and even lifeguards may be in need of rescue when combining both activities.
  9. Avoid diving and unsafe entries in unknown waters. 
  10. Get trained. Become First-Aid / CPR certified and if you’re around open water, consider additional lifesaving training. 

The five year old in the above story was me. It was late spring. My dad and his friend were at the end of the dock prepping the boat for the season. I was playing, unattended, out of arms reach, without a lifejacket or floatation device on. There was no plan to enter the water, but that’s where I ended up. Luckily, my fall into the water created a very, loud splash that drew the attention of my dad. In a few moments a pair of arms emerged through the water and grabbed me.

Finally, here’s Heidi Klum, on The Ellen Show, sharing her experience on saving her son and other adults from a riptide.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Reverse Bucket List

Most of us are familiar with Bucket Lists; a list of all the places you would like to visit and /or things you would like to do before you kick the bucket (die). 

What about the amazing locations you have already traveled to, and previous accomplishments? Have you taken time to recognize and celebrate past expeditions and achievements? 

While we are busy dreaming of the future sometimes we forget, perhaps even take for granted, all the cool things we have already done. You may think, you have not completed anything special, but it’s not true, you have! The purpose of creating a Reverse Bucket List is to identify and acknowledge these items. Until you sit down and make a list, you may not realize how many awesome things you have already experienced. 

The goal is to come up with 50 marvelous things. Think of this list as your personal Highlight Reel. 

If you’re struggling with a list of 50 take a look at other people’s Reverse Bucket Lists and / or Bucket Lists. (Pinterest is excellent for this.) Here are two examples: Rebecca Tracey, Heidi Henry 

My Reverse Bucket List 
  1. Went back to high school in my early 20’s & graduated (I was kicked out of high school final year with an “A” average due to lack of attendance) 
  2. Went to college in my late 20’s and graduated 
  3. Became a Registered Massage Therapist 
  4. Started my own business 
  5. Have been self employed for 9 years 
  6. First Aid / CPR & Lifeguard certified for 24 years 
  7. Hold Instructor Trainer certification with Lifesaving Society in 4 areas 
  8. Attended RESCUE 2002 with the Canadian Lifesaving Team 
  9. Earned multiple volunteer awards 
  10. Saved a life (many) 
  11. Bought coffee for a stranger 
  12. Paid the restaurant bill for Veteran 
  13. Bought a meal for a homeless person 
  14. Swam in the Pacific & Atlantic Oceans 
  15. Went to Hawaii 
  16. Attended a Luau 
  17. Saw a volcano 
  18. Volunteered in the Medical Tent at the Ironman World Championships 
  19. Ran a full marathon (42km) 
  20. Experienced dark, deep depression and overcame it 
  21. Experienced various forms of abuse; got out and flourished 
  22. Visited New York City at Christmas 
  23. Saw the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Square 
  24. Went to the Rockettes Christmas Show 
  25. Attended a Christmas play in Harlem through a church outreach program 
  26. Had Brunch in Central Park at The Loeb Boathouse 
  27. Visited the Empire State Building 
  28. Attended a destination wedding (Domincan Republic) 
  29. Learned to snorkel 
  30. Visited both the West & East coast of Canada 
  31. Saw the dinosaurs in Drumheuller 
  32. Shopped in West Edmonton Mall 
  33. Played in West Edmonton Mall (Water Park, Fantasy Land & Ice rink) 
  34. Went to a Grey Cup game 
  35. Skated the Rideau Canal in Ottawa & ate a BeaverTail 
  36. Went to the top of the CN tower in Toronto 
  37. Had dinner in the revolving restaurant at the top of the CN Tower 
  38. Visited Niagara Falls (US & Canadian side & Maid of the Mist) 
  39. Gone interior camping in Algonquin park 
  40. Have been spelunking & cliff jumping 
  41. Took a spur of the moment trip, out of province (one of the best trips) 
  42. Traveled through the Rocky Mountains (Banff, Lake Louise & Jasper) 
  43. Have visited or driven through 23 of the 50 US states (maybe more) 
  44. Visited Mount Rushmore 
  45. Went to Disney World & Universal Studios 
  46. Toured Kennedy Space Centre (Loved it, way better than Disney) 
  47. I can eat with chopsticks 
  48. I know how to crochet, knit & needle point 
  49. I’ve watched meteor showers & saw the Northern Lights 
  50.  A LOT of *FUN* things I can’t tell you about, such as running naked around the perimeter of a friend’s cottage :) 

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wake Up & Be Awesome!

To a child everything is a new, exciting adventure: whether it’s in a different city, down the street or in their own backyard. Children are filled with enthusiasm and a natural curiosity to discover the world around them. They are active, take risks, fall, get back up and keep exploring.  When a child looks in the mirror they see a superhero or perhaps an astronaut reflected back at them. They dream, reach for the stars and see a world full of excitement and possibilities. A child’s innate being is one of joy, discovery & activity.

On the journey to adulthood, children are taught to sit still, to be idle and inactive. They are discouraged from taking chances as they might get hurt, and are put in a box forced to conform.  A child’s natural desire to search is squashed. Their dreams of being a superhero are crushed much too early and taught being an astronaut is not possible: it’s hard work, they’re not smart enough, only a few lucky people become astronauts. Parameters are put on a child’s future and abilities based on what adults think are possible and achievable.  Adults who may have given up on their own dreams are now limiting the ideas and possibilities of next generation.

Some lucky adults are living their dreams. They have escaped conventionality and limiting beliefs, and are following their own unique path. Are you one of them? 

Unfortunately, many of us have buried our dreams and desires thinking they aren’t possible, or perhaps we are too old to pursue them. We aren’t happy. We put on a fake smile every day, and do the best we can. Is this any way to live? Is that the example you want to set for your children?

We can take lessons from children, and relearn the joy of play, activity and adventure. If we change our outlook, take a few risks, and spend a little more time doing things we love, we may find a person inside of us who we thought was lost. Wouldn’t it be nice to look in the mirror, and see an amazing person reflected back at you; not extra pounds, grey hair, wrinkles or sagging skin? How would life change if we saw the day ahead as an adventure; one to be explored and discovered?

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Race Report: Waterloo Half Marathon

Wow! Wow! Wow, another personal best! 2:10:47

To be honest, I have NO idea how I pulled off personal bests 2 races in a row. Yes, my short and long training runs are getting faster but nothing that indicates I can pull off a 2:11 on race day; especially considering Waterloo isn’t a flat course (it’s a little hilly) and there was a headwind for the first half of the race. But hey, I’ll take it! 

 This was my first time running the Waterloo Half Marathon and I loved it. I would highly recommend it! It’s a small race, only a few hundred in the Half and even less in the Full. The course for most part is an open course; you share the road with vehicles. Unlike Mississauga or any Toronto race there were very few, angry motorists; a very pleasant change. The course is scenic along country roads with a quiet, peaceful quaintness throughout. The Scottish pipers at parts of the route were a unique touch as was the hand-made clay medal. Call me cheesy, but I really like the medal. It’s unique and embraces the Mennonite heritage of the area. Race kit pick-up morning of was also a plus. The logistics and organization of the event overall was fabulous! Waterloo might be a bit of a drive, which meant a very early morning, but it was definitely worth it! 

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