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Holiday Stress

Leah Sarich | posted Friday, Dec 11th, 2015

tree

This time of year can be both filled with joy and filled with stress. So I spoke with Psychiatrist Dr. Michael Trew about how to know when your stress is becoming too much and what to do about it.

Dr. Trew says if you’re all of sudden not sleeping well, you are angry or irritable in ways you are not usually or if you’re more emotional or anxious than normal, there’s a good chance you’re stressed. You may also have physical symptoms like stomach troubles, headaches, tight shoulders or a tense neck. Dr. Trew says it’s really important to ask yourself, “What is my body telling me?” And if it’s stress, then there are a few things you can do.

First off, Dr. Trew recommends lowering expectations and recognize that good enough is better than exceptional. For example, he says no one really cares if you spend 6 hours in the kitchen instead of 3, of if you buy dessert instead of make it by hand. Dr. Trew says it’s also important to take care of yourself. He encourages people to maintain their exercise routine even though it’s a busy time of year. He recommends building in time to do things you enjoy like seeing a movie, or sledding with the kids or simply taking a walk. And he suggests trying as best as you can to maintain the family’s sleep schedule, including the kids naps!

And if you’re stressed about getting together with family members with whom you may not always get along, Dr. Trew recommends avoiding the longstanding argument and scheduling another time to address the issue. It’s also helpful to avoid having that extra cocktail to get through dinner. He says alcohol can lower filters that you have in place for a reason.

As for travelling with young children, Dr. Trew again recommends keeping your expectations in check and recognizing that any travel is a challenge with a child. He suggests parents pay as much attention as they can to their child while they’re travelling and forget trying to do anything else until you’ve arrived at your destination.

Finally, Dr. Trew recommends saying “no.” For example, he says it’s impossible to see everyone on Christmas Day so explain that you need some downtime with your family and that you’ll see others on Boxing Day.

For more information about stress management visit this website. 

Should kids write thank-you cards for holiday gifts?

Sasha Emmons and Chad Sapieha | posted Thursday, Dec 10th, 2015

“Yes”
Sasha Emmons, Mom of two

Ah, the holidays. A time of peace on Earth, good will toward men…and total, unmitigated greed. I love hanging with family and having an excuse to eat cookies, but I could do without the raging case of the gimmes my kids, Chloe, 10, and Julian, 6, come down with every single year, as toy catalogues and TV ads convince them the big guy in red’s there to shower them with whatever their hearts desire. And that’s just the Santa gifts. As the only little kids on my husband’s side of the family, by Christmas morning they’re drowning in packages from relatives.

The antidote to all this stuff-itis is to make them write thank-you notes. Shopping for, wrapping and delivering a present requires effort, and I think it should be acknowledged with a little effort in return. My family is spread across the US, and in some cases this gift and note exchange is the kids’ only tangible touch point with far-flung relatives. I know it’s a bit schoolmarmish of me to cling to this old-fashioned custom, but in this screen-centric world, where it’s hard to get kids to look up long enough to even have a conversation, I worry about my kids losing old-school manners. And recognizing thoughtfulness never goes out of style.

Now before you let years of unwritten thank-you notes haunt you, know that I’m right there with you. We start strong, ticking names off the list and signing adorably scrawly signatures. But a few notes in, the kids and I start to butt heads. They hate sitting and thinking of what to say, and I hate sitting and making them do it. Before long, we’ve lost the list of who gave what, and too much time has passed for my feeble mom brain to piece it back together. (To anyone reading this who’s owed a thank-you note, I want you to know we loved the gift and appreciate you thinking of us.)

So should kids write thank-you notes? Yes. Do mine? A few make it into the post and hopefully make someone’s day. And this year I’ll be asking Santa to give me and them the perseverance to finish them all.

“No”
Chad Sapieha, Dad of one

My wife, Kristy, is a wonderful woman with boundless social grace and the best of intentions. So it came as no surprise when she decided a few years ago that our daughter, then around four or five, ought to send a thank-you card for every Christmas gift she received. Kristy purchased multiple packages of cute cards upon which our little girl was to scrawl her name and whatever semblance of gratefulness she might manage.

This proved challenging. We have a ton of friends and family, so our daughter receives a lot of gifts. Writing notes of thanks for all of them is time-consuming. Getting our daughter to do it required multiple sessions over several days, each one an exercise in frustration.

It hasn’t gotten any easier. Turns out fourth graders have as little interest in sitting down for an hour to write polite missives as kindergartners do. Go figure.

But Kristy refuses to give up. Each year she buys more cards. And each spring, I reach to the bottom of our overflowing stationary basket, grab the oldest cards and dump them into the recycling bin. It’s like tossing last week’s produce to make room for the new: expensive and wasteful.

Look, thank-you cards are wonderful in principle. They teach kids to express gratitude and they help improve their penmanship. But they’re just not practical. Why not just text the gift giver a picture of your kid opening the present? Better still, Skype or FaceTime the moment. These alternatives are quicker, cheaper and more memorable.

The simple truth is that you can’t dictate gratitude. When you receive a thank-you card from a kid, you have no idea if he was actually grateful. Reading the note, you probably don’t think, What a thoughtful and considerate child! You think, What thoughtful and considerate parents.

I’m not into these social shenanigans. I’d rather spend the time wasted on thank-you cards building a Boxing Day snowman with my daughter.

A version of this article appeared in our December 2015 issue with the headline “Should kids write thank-you cards for holiday gifts?” p. 104.

Read more:
How to raise an appreciative child>
Teach your kids to appear grateful (even if they aren’t)>
How to avoid spoiling kids at Christmas>

Man Up YYC

Leah Sarich | posted Tuesday, Dec 8th, 2015

manup

December is a crazy month for students. They’re dealing with final exams as well as the holiday season. University of Calgary Psychology Professor Keith Dobson says some students cope with stress better than others. Some students just buckle down and do the work and get through the season okay, but others resort to binge drinking, binge eating or isolating themselves from their support systems. But over the last 15 to 20 years, Professor Dobson says support programs have been developed to help students. However, these programs are primarily focused on female students. That’s why, thanks to some funding from Movember, a new program called Man Up For Mental Health is aimed at helping male students cope with stress.

Kiran Grant is one of the peer supporters volunteering with the ManUp program. He says students these days are under a tremendous amount of pressure because they feel they have to excel in order to get ahead in the difficult job market. And he says guys still experience the stigma that comes with seeking help for mental health issues. But Grant really wants male students to reach out and take that first step. He says all the peer supporters are eager to help and they know that just talking to someone else can make a huge difference.

For more information about the Man Up YYC programs around campus and the peer support programs, visit their website.

 

Long QTS

Leah Sarich | posted Thursday, Dec 3rd, 2015

longqt

Curtis Rosenau was 14 years old doing a drill during basketball practice when he fell to the ground. His dad, the basketball coach, rushed to his side and started doing CPR. He yelled for someone to call 911 and to get the AED in the facility. The machine determined Curtis’ heart had stopped beating and shocked him twice. By the time the paramedics arrived during a snowstorm and got him to the Alberta Children’s Hospital, Curtis was put into a medically induced coma for 10 days to let his brain and body recover. His parents were warned he could have brain damage, be unable to walk or function normally, but Curtis was lucky he made a full recovery.

Curtis has Long QT Syndrome, and electrical disorder of the heart. Since that episode, Curtis has had an implantable device in his chest called an ICD which acts as a pacemaker and a defibrillator. And Curtis, now 23, still gets shocked sometimes. His device had to shock his heart just this past spring while Curtis was working out. Curtis says that episode is always in the back of his mind.

Long QTS can be a genetic disorder and it can also be caused by certain medications that disrupt the electrical rhythm of the heart. Cardiologist Dr. Henry Duff of the Heart and Stroke Foundation says people should talk to their families about any potential heart problems. He recommends they ask about things like recurring fainting spells or epilepsy. Curtis’ family has had genetic testing done to see if anyone else has Long QTS. So far, no definitive diagnosis. But Dr. Duff says it’s good to talk to your family about their medical history because many heart problems are genetic. The discussions are also useful because people can then ask their doctor if genetic testing might be a good option for them. Dr. Duff also recommends asking your doctor about getting an ECG done. This test is very inexpensive and has no side effects and might help determine any risk.

With the holidays approaching, many families are getting together. Perhaps it’s a good time to talk about the family medical history.

For more information on Long QTS, genetic testing or any other heart issues visit this website.

 

 

 

Holiday calendar: 31 festive activities

Laura Grande | posted Thursday, Dec 3rd, 2015

December 1: Bring out your advent calendars and deck the halls of your house!

December 2: Have a “crafternoon” making our winter wreath and holiday garland.

December 3: Mail letters to Santa nice and early to ensure he has enough time to respond!

December 4: Start making (and freezing) those early batches of holiday cookies.

December 5: Find a local toy drive and make a holiday donation!

December 6: Today marks the start of Hanukkah. Make our easy DIY menorah.

December 7: Decorate the outside of your house and warm up afterwards with hot chocolate.

December 8: Bake (and decorate!) a gingerbread house!

December 9: Choose the perfect Christmas tree and decorate it!

December 10: Watch a holiday flick with the family.

December 11: Stay on budget! Make sure you’re tracking all your holiday purchases.

December 12: After dinner, bundle up the family and go for a mini-hike.

December 13: Get your Christmas cards written and stamped.

December 14: Hop in the car or go for a walk and take a Christmas-light tour with your family. Hanukkah ends.

December 15: Get your kids feeling festive by making your own holiday wrapping paper.

December 16: Schedule a date night with your partner before the holiday madness kicks in.

December 17: Today is the cut-off for out-of-province holiday mail delivery.

December 18: Go skating!

December 19: Take some “me time” today, even if just for an hour.

December 20: Have a screen-free evening. Read your family’s favourite holiday books.

December 21: Today is the cut-off for local holiday mail delivery.

December 22: Schedule a date night with your partner before the holiday madness kicks in.

December 23: Take a deep breath (and avoid the mall!). The Christmas madness is about to begin!

December 24: Put on a holiday playlist, hang up those stockings and listen for Santa’s sleigh.

December 25: Merry Christmas!

December 26: Boxing Day. Kwanzaa begins.

December 27: Play your favourite board game!

December 28: Declare today National Pajama Day. Play games, watch movies and stay cozy in your PJs!

December 29: For those eager to get their house back to normal, set some time aside to start taking down Christmas decor.

December 30: Make your New Year’s resolution and stock up on anything you need, the stores will be crazy tomorrow.

December 31: Prepare to ring in the new year! Host a family-style NYE bash.

Read more:
10 tips for baking with kids
Craft: No-sew Advent calendar
3 tips to getting a great picture with Santa

World AIDS Day

Leah Sarich | posted Monday, Nov 30th, 2015

68px-World_Aids_Day_Ribbon.svg

World AIDS Day is December first… a good time to look at numbers locally and it new cases continue to climb in Calgary. Dr. Stephen Vaughn, and Infectious Diseases Specialist, says the latest numbers are from 2013 and they show there was an increase in the number of new HIV cases in Calgary from 200 to 255 from 2011 to 2013.

Dr. Vaughn thinks young people are being complacent about safe sex because the numbers also show a dramatic increase in the number of Sexually Transmitted Infections in Calgary. This increase, says Dr,Vaughn, suggests people are having unprotected sex which leaves them at risk for contracting an HIV infection.

Dr. Vaughn explains there are two populations with HIV. One population is identified early, engages in medical care and takes their medication properly. This group will live an average life expectancy with HIV. The other population does not engage in care because they have other issues with which they’re struggling like drug addiction or poverty. This group of patients is still dying from HIV.

That said, treatments for HIV are far better now than ever. In the past, patients would have to take a handful of pills several times a day. Now, a patient can take one pill once a day. And if they’re on the appropriate treatment and taking their medication appropriately their risk of transmitting the infection is very low. Dr. Vaughn says treatment of HIV is prevention of HIV. However, there is no cure for HIV, it remains a chronic illness that patients will have to deal with for a lifetime.

Dr. Vaughn says when celebrities like Charlie Sheen admit they’re HIV position it’s helpful for raising awareness, but it can also imply that living with HIV is no big deal. In fact, if a person is HIV positive, Dr. Vaughn says they’re coming to the clinic every 4 months for a check up, they’re getting blood work done every four months and they’re taking medication every day for the rest of their life. So yes, people with HIV are living longer and better lives but they are still living with a chronic illness. Dr. Vaughn says if anyone with HIV were to go off their medication, that virus will once again build up in their system and make them very sick.

So Dr. Vaughn recommends everyone get tested for HIV at least once in their lives. He explains the sooner a patient receives treatment, the better they’ll do with the disease. And of course, a diagnosis will help prevent the transmission of the disease.

For more information on HIV/AIDS visit this website.

How to simplify your holiday wrapping

Cityline | posted Thursday, Nov 26th, 2015

Love holiday shopping but dread the wrapping part? Chatelaine‘s design expert Samantha Pynn helps us make gift wrapping easy!

Before you get started, Samantha says you need to have 5 key things to make a simple yet elegant wrapped gift:

  1. Neutral wrapping paper
  2. Ribbon
  3. Tags
  4. Stamp
  5. Accessories

Got your essentials? Now watch Samantha’s video below for all of her wrapping tips!

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