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Coping with stress in troubled times

Coping with stress in troubled times

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Coping with stress in troubled times

Stress. We’re told we can’t live with it, and yet we can’t live without it. It’s impossible to have a stress-free life. Good stress gets the job done. It pushes us forward ensuring that we achieve the day to day tasks in our lives, all the way up to accomplishing the greatest of feats.

So, why does stress get such a bad rap? We’ve all heard it, stress kills. Your doctor tells you that you have high blood pressure. Why? Because of stress. Arthritis flaring up… stress. Obesity, depression, diabetes, asthma and Alzheimer’s disease. Stress.

Photo: iStockPhoto.com
Photo: iStockPhoto.com

In our culture, stress is almost a right of passage. We have told ourselves that it proves you are pushing hard and living life to the fullest.

And now stress is pushing the limits more than ever. Since COVID-19, life as we knew it has changed. It is impossible not to be personally affected in some way.

I watched an elderly woman in the grocery store trying to open a plastic bag without being able to lick her fingers. A frustrating experience and for her even more so as she was trying to also hold on to her walker. (I suggested she use the water from the fresh produce.)

The list of possible stress inducing events due to this pandemic is long: You or your children have lost their jobs, your retirement fund decreased in value, you can’t see your loved ones since you’re considered high risk, you scheduled an elective surgery which has since been postponed.

How do we handle all this additional stress?

First, it’s helpful to identify the stress. Remember, stress can be also caused by good things. Changes in our lives may be good, but stressful just the same. With those types of events, however, when they pass, you carry on with your life.

However, when the stress is without a clearly defined ending, as we are now experiencing during the pandemic, we need to develop better coping mechanisms.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but give yourself permission to have some fear. This is normal, given we are all just learning about this disease.

However, manage how much news you expose yourself to. Make sure the media you watch or listen to is informative rather than sensationalistic and relays credible information. Do not let fear control your life. Be mindful of this and find other things to watch and to discuss with your loved ones.

Remind yourself of the skills you’ve used in the past that have helped you through difficult times (and see below for additional ideas). Be kind to yourself and others. New skills can take time to learn.

And make sure that you contact a professional if you are finding that coping mechanisms are not working, and you are feeling overwhelmed.

Ways to cope with stress:

  • Practice mindfulness: Sit in a quiet room with no distractions, take five to 10 deep, slow breaths. Do this daily.
  • Exercise: Get out for walks as much as you are able, do yoga, stretch. There are several great apps for that!
  • Don’t overindulge: In either food or alcohol. If you have more time, use it to create new, healthy recipes.
  • Pick up a new (old) hobby: Cross-stitching, knitting, woodworking… do something with your hands that keeps your mind busy as well.
  • Get enough rest: Go to bed and get up at the same time. Have a pre-sleep routine: Small herbal tea, read a chapter of a book, brush your teeth, wash your face…
  • And stay connected: Make sure you chat with someone every day.
Agnes Ramsay is a Registered Nurse, Personal Trainer and Wellness Coach who specializes in Electric Muscle Stimulation Training.

agnes.ramsay@xbodyworld.com


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Overcome by pandemic worry? Here's how to put an end to the stress

Overcome by pandemic worry? Here’s how to put an end to the stress

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Overcome by pandemic worry? Here’s how to put an end to the stress

Many Canadians are experiencing higher than usual levels of stress and worry during the pandemic – from our own well-being, to that of our loved ones, to the economy. But a new book says that doesn’t have to be the case, and explains how you can control, if not end, the unnecessary angst.

Photo: iStockPhoto.com
Photo: iStockPhoto.com

Karen McGregor, author of The Tao of Influence: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Leaders and Entrepreneurs, due out in September, says not only does all this worry come at a high cost to our health, it’s a symptom of a bigger problem.

“First, worrying drastically suppresses your immune system. You could eat the world’s cleanest diet, but if you worry all the time, you’re basically saying, ‘No, thanks, organic veggies and fruit, I’m choosing the greasy burger joint down the street.’ That’s what the stress of worry does to our bodies.”

In addition, she says, worry is just another word for fear, which keeps us from being fully present. “When we’re not fully present, we’re disconnected from our primal power, which is love power, and that means we can’t be our healthiest and happiest selves and have a positive influence on those around us.”

Her book lays out a path – rooted in the ancient wisdom of the 4,000-yearold Tao Te Ching – for identifying and breaking the “power patterns” that undermine your influence, create dysfunctional relationships, and otherwise squelch your potential.

The bottom line: Even right now – especially right now – we need to break the bonds of worry and create a healthier, happier life.

She offers these tips:

First, understand why worry happens.

Worry is a mechanism of the mind that is designed to keep you exactly where you are. By mulling over a situation without a solution, you are not changing and not acting. This is the mind’s nature; its job is to keep you safe from perceived harm. While that can serve its purpose if we are in imminent danger, the reality is that it blocks us from creativity, productivity and following our dreams.

Tune into the channel you’ve been listening to for years.

Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings and see if you start to notice a pattern. At the heart of your worrying could be blame or judgment. It could be your need to be right or your need to be a victim to your circumstance by repeating the same story of injustice to anyone who will listen. It could be your need to withdraw from others and live out a pattern of withdrawal and entitlement in which the world owes you something.

Then… dismantle your channel.

Become more aware of how you worry. Does your victim power pattern take hold, or do you pull away from everyone?

Focus on solutions.

Each time you become aware of a worry-filled thought, ask yourself what you’re going to do about it. You can stay helpless by feeling overpowered by worry, or you can take action. At the very least, your action will help you feel less helpless, and at best it can help you shift into a healthier state of mind.

Create a new language.

Language is powerful, whether we are saying those words out loud to others or simply thinking them to ourselves. Replace your go-to “worry words” with words that empower and generate passion and enthusiasm. You are always influencing yourself and others, so get serious about using empowering, positive language.

“Worrying doesn’t fix what’s going on in the world; it only hurts you,” says McGregor. “We’re all facing challenges due to the pandemic, but we don’t have to let worry make them worse. Be gentle with yourself and start making healthier choices. You’ll immediately notice a shift in your outlook. That’s true now, and it will be true long after the pandemic is over.”


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INDUSTRY EXPERT: Stress Buster

Stress Buster: Avoid needless home improvement stress with these simple steps

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Stress Buster: Avoid needless home improvement stress with these simple steps

Regular communication between you and your renovator is essential and may avoid problems.

Canadians love their homes. So much so that homeowners spent nearly $73 billion in 2017 on renovations, according to the Altus Group. That’s $20 billion more than is spent annually on building new homes across the country.

Unfortunately, everyone has a horror story about a home renovation gone wrong, from losing their deposit, spending more than you anticipated, or a project that took too long to finish. The reality is that the average homeowner doesn’t know all they should know when undertaking a renovation project.

Photography: Bigstock.com
Photography: Bigstock.com

To avoid disappointment and to set you on a path toward a successful renovation, RenoMark has come up with five steps to a worry-free renovation.

  1. Define your project. The more you know what you want out of the renovation, the more accurately the renovators can help you achieve that goal.
  2. Set your budget and expectations on the same path, if they are not realistic or in alignment, then you will be disappointed before you even start.
  3. Select the right renovator, you should look to reputable organizations such as RenoMark as a source of professional companies. Plus, these companies must adhere to the RenoMark code of conduct and the Association’s code of ethics, this alone means that they are a professional and not a fly-by-night company.
  4. Sign a contract. The contract should be reviewed by a lawyer and it will be the basis of understanding for the work moving forward. At a minimum, it should include costs, payment schedule, construction timeline, product-specific details, a communication protocol, warrantee clause, and a close-out plan. Avoid renovators who offer to do work without a contract in an attempt to avoid paying the HST. This type of renovator may also not be paying worker’s compensation or carry adequate insurance, leaving you at financial risk.
  5. Check on Progress. Regular communication between you and your renovator is essential and may avoid problems. During the course of a renovation, it is common for the homeowners to request changes or ask for additional work. These requests may affect the cost and time it takes to complete your project. It is important that you have a signed change order for all changes. Finally, remember to ask questions. The last thing anybody wants is to make an assumption or a guess that may lead to an error and then disappointment.

RenoMark.ca is a great resource to help you find the right renovator. RenoMark was established by the GTA-based Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) to identify professional contractors that have agreed to abide by a renovation-specific Code of Conduct. The RenoMark program has been endorsed by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association and the Ontario Home Builders’ Association.

David Wilkes is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD), the voice of the home building, land development and professional renovation industry in the GTA.

For the latest industry news and new home data, follow BILD on Twitter, Facebook, BILD’s official blog, and bildgta.ca.


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BODY & SOUL: Creative Therapies

BODY & SOUL: Creative Therapies

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BODY & SOUL: Creative Therapies

by Jayne Hobbs

Develop natural coping mechanisms

Stress is a normal response to life’s demands, and it’s not limited to specific ages. Although a small amount of stress can, in fact, motivate us, constant pressure can push us beyond our natural means of coping – physically and psychologically. The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that 75 to 90 per cent of physician visits are for stress-related ailments.

It’s important that we find a way to release stress from our daily life. Natural creative pursuits, like art, music and pet therapy are proven to be effective.

PET THERAPY

Any pet owner will tout the benefits and therapeutic joy that they experience with their pets – even Cleopatra found solace in her snake. The Dog’s Guide to Your Happiness: Seven Secrets for a Better Life from a Man’s Best Friend by Gary McDaniel, talks about what we can learn from our pets, as it relates to loyalty, playfulness and unconditional love. Playing with, and petting, pets can help to relieve stress.

Animal therapy is used to treat PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), behavioural problems, anxiety, depression, loneliness and isolation. Medical patients often experience a speedier recovery from serious health issues when in contact with a pet (mayoclinic.org). Freud often kept his pet dog present when he treated his patients, as he noticed that they became more relaxed.

The Pet Therapy Program has been so successful at CAMH (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), they are looking to increase the number of therapy dogs with the help of grants from PetSmart Charities of Canada.

Photo: bigstock.com
Photo: bigstock.com

ART THERAPY

Often held in professional settings, art therapy encourages self-discovery and emotional growth by using a dual process of creating art, which includes painting, writing, sculpting, etc., combined with interpreting its meaning. (medical-dictionary.com, arttherapy.org)

As a natural, therapeutic way to relieve stress, people of all ages are enrolling in recreational art programs. The Art Gallery of Ontario, the Gardner Museum and adult learning programs offer a variety of classes.

We all know that self-expression and listening to music within our own environment are wonderful ways to relax, but in this fast-paced, technological world, we have to take conscious steps to slow down – and to heal.

Anne Sophie Roy, creator of Motion Reflexion Photo: courtesy of Angela Kourtes
Anne Sophie Roy, creator of Motion Reflexion Photo: courtesy of Angela Kourtes

MUSIC THERAPY

To purposely use music within therapeutic relationships helps to support health, development, and physical and emotional well-being. Music Therapy is an accredited profession, and it can benefit people of all ages living with such issues as emotional trauma, substance abuse and visual impairments, as well as mental and developmental disabilities.

Music can also be used on a daily basis as a natural, therapeutic means to relieve stress and to help with physical, emotional and psychological healing. Some drop-in centres in Toronto, such as the one at St. James Cathedral, include a version of music therapy, where guests listen to a variety of musical renditions on the piano, and often gather around for a sing-a-long.

Canadian music composer and pianist, Anne Sophie Roy, not only donates her time at St. James, but is the creator and founder of Motion Reflexion, providing motion reflexion and music healing sessions at Gilda’s Cancer Support Centre. An innovative exercise program, Motion Reflexion promotes relaxation by way of soft, creative exercise routines that don’t require previous training or excessive effort, and are based on fundamental music principles.


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