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March is Nutrition Month!

March is Nutrition Month and the 2017 theme is dedicated to supporting Canadians to stop their struggles with food.  The slogan for the campaign is Take the fight out of food! Spot the problem.  Get the facts. Seek support.  The goal of the campaign is to provide information and guidance to make it a little easier for Canadians to end their fight with food and have a healthier relationship with food.

Check out the Dietitians of Canada website (www.dietitians.ca) for fact sheets on popular topics that highlight some of the struggles Canadians have with their food:

  • Food Fads
  • Digestive Woes
  • Picky Eaters
  • Eating and Stress
  • Managing a Condition (ex. Diabetes)

As well, if you are looking for new recipes that are approved by dietitians, check out Cookspiration – www.cookspiration.com

Part of the campaign slogan is seek support and who better to ask is none other than your local Registered Dietitian.  Did you know Georgian Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic has a resident Dietitian, Jennie McCurdy?  You can self-refer to her as long as you have a valid OHIP card and are either a client of the clinic or Georgian College student.  Her mission is to ease your food frustrations and make eating enjoyable again.

Enjoy your new found food freedom!

Shorter days = less light

As the days become shorter and shorter many people – up to 30% – report noticeable changes in energy.  10% of those with less energy would qualify for a diagnosis of depression between October and March.  Less daylight equals less energy and a lower mood which are symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Worsening of mood as the sun rises later and sets earlier are related to our circadian rhythms.  Circadian rhythms are controlled by our brains and related to exposure to light.

daylight

 

So what can we do to prepare ourselves for October to March without having to move to a warmer climate with longer days?

The “simple” answer is to ensure we are eating well and exercising regularly.  Experts encourage those struggling in the darker months to keep a structured schedule for sleep, exercise and meals.  Wake at the same time daily and go to bed at the same time each evening.  Eat meals at the same time every day, aiming to not have dinner any later than 8pm as this can disrupt sleep.  If you care curious about your own best sleep cycle, the Center for Light has a quick survey you can complete here to clarify when you would benefit most from going to bed and waking up.  I tried it out and it is surprisingly accurate!  Experts also discuss the benefits of Light Therapy: the use of a 10,000 Lux bulb 30 minutes per day to trigger brain chemicals similar to natural light in the Summer months.  By sitting by this light (12-18″ from it) for 30 minutes per day light therapy can treat SAD, depression, jet lag, sleep disorders, shift work struggles and dementia (link).

getty-462294507-light-therapy-rocky89

Taking the time to structure your day including wake time, meals, exercise and bed time can go a long way for reducing the chances you will experience lower energy and possible depressive mood between now and the Spring.  If you continue to struggle with getting out of bed and feeling “blah” or worse, talk to your health care professional about the possible benefits of light therapy, melatonin or the need for other medication to get you through the shorter days.  Starting a routine now of getting outside when the sun is up (perhaps a walk at lunch time?) can make a difference on days when you leave the house AND return in darkness.  Get some light while you can 🙂

Amber Sperling MSW RSW

September 19, 2016

 

Sleep Prep for Back to School

August 22, 2016

Good sleep is important for everyone, but especially youngsters.  In the weeks leading up to that first day back in September it is important to prepare kids by starting their regular sleep routine.  We all know summer can throw things off for everyone!

While the jury is still out on exactly how many hours your child needs, and science does appreciate differences between families and individual needs, studies do show that children under 10 need at least 10 hours of sleep per night.  How do you calculate this for your child?  Determine what time they need to get up in the morning for school and go backward 10 hours.  Find a time that works for your family around that time you calculated.  For example, if little 7 year old Joey needs to be up at 7am to be at school on time, Joey needs to be in bed before 9pm.  For more information click here.  This is also supported by the new Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Youth which encourages children to “sweat, step, sleep and sit”.

For optimal health benefits, children and youth (aged 5–17 years) should achieve high levels of physical activity, low levels of sedentary behaviour, and sufficient sleep each day. A healthy 24 hours includes:

  • Uninterrupted 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night for those aged 5–13 years and 8 to 10 hours per night for those aged 14–17 years, with consistent bed and wake-up times;

Consistent wake and bed times are important at any age.  Not getting enough good sleep can result in increased risk of emotional struggles, physical problems and obesity.  Interestingly, “trying” to sleep can also impact sleeping.  Spending time in bed not sleeping keeps us awake whether it is because you linger in bed after the alarm goes off, or go to bed early to watch TV.  Helping your kids be better sleepers by building good habits early on can help.  Encourage them to do any activities before they get into bed.  No TV watching in bed and if they are up earlier than required in the morning they can play in their rooms – but not in their beds.

For more information about helping your kids get better sleep go to the Canadian Paediatric Society website.

Balance

July 18, 2016

Balance isn’t just for gymnasts and yoga enthusiasts.  Finding balance in your life can reduce stress, improve mental and physical health and help you to achieve your goals.  Sometimes it can help to take a step back and realize that it is not too much of something we are doing, it could be not enough of something else.  For example, if you are a fit and healthy person exercising 4-5 times per week and finding you are tired, perhaps it is not more exercise you need more but more time relaxing, down time reading a book, talking to friends or getting a good night’s sleep.  Maybe you are a social butterfly and are busy every night one week, the next week find a night or two to relax without feeling pressure “to do” and instead “just be”.  phdbalance

Incorporating the Past to find Balance

Think of the last time in your life where you felt more relaxed or not pressured, what was different then? Are there things you can bring back into your life that worked before?  Perhaps learning something new would balance our your need to learn, socialization time and feeling more accomplished.  That could mean altering a weekly coffee date with a friend to going to a local class for painting, yoga or drumming.  Combining goals and tasks for the week can relieve pressure to “get things done”.

Balance can also mean finding time to care for yourself when you feel drained from helping others.  It is ok to say “No” or “I wish I could but I can’t” and schedule time for YOU.  Balancing social time with alone time is a must for those with more introvert type personalities and can also help those that are more social butterflies.  One thing is not bad in and of it self, however when we have an abundance of one thing and are lacking another that is when we notice symptoms of suffering.   If you find yourself feeling drained or overwhelmed take time to not only consider what you have too much of, but what is missing that would balance your body and mind.

Drink Up!

It is summer and it is hot!  It is important to stay hydrated in this heat as fluids help move nutrients and waste through your body, keep your blood pressure normal, protect and cushion your joints and organs, control your body temperature and lower your risk of dehydration and heat stroke.  When thinking about what to drink be careful what you reach for.

Water should be your first choice as it has zero calories and will quench your thirst.  If you do not like to drink water try flavoring it with lemon, lime, oranges or cucumber slices.  Or be more creative and infuse your water with combinations like watermelon and mint or grapefruit and rosemary or grape, strawberry and lime or apple and a cinnamon stick or blueberries, lemon and mint.

Fruit juice and fruit beverages, like fruit punch, lemonades and fruit cocktails, should be limited.  A lot of these beverages contain a high amount of sugar and can lead to weight gain.  If you choose juice make sure it says “100% pure” on the package.  Children should have no more than 125 mL to 175 mL (4 to 6 oz.) per day.  The best choice is whole fruit as it has not been stripped of fiber and other nutrients that are lost when whole fruit is made into juice.

Carbonated beverages, energy drinks and sports drinks should be limited or avoided since they are higher in sugar and can lead to weight gain.  Things to keep in mind are sports drinks are specially designed for people that are exercising and sweating a lot and energy drinks contain caffeine and should not be given to children or women who are breastfeeding or pregnant.

For the adults keep in mind Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.  Women should drink no more than 2 drinks a day most days and no more than 10 drinks a week.  Men should drink no more than 3 drinks a day most days and no more than 15 drinks per week.  Low-risk drinking supports a healthy lifestyle.  For more details about Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines please refer to this link: http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/alcohol/Pages/low_risk_drinking_guidelines.aspx

For more information on staying hydrated please check out Eat Right Ontario website: eatrightontario.ca

Have a healthy and safe summer.

References: The Juicy Story on Drinks, eatrightontario.ca,

Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines; http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/alcohol/Pages/low_risk_drinking_guidelines.aspx

What is Anxiety Anyway?

June 20, 2016

As a Social Worker, I often see people in my office with complaints that they do not want to go out anymore, avoid calling people or answering the phone and would find it easier just to stay in bed all the time.  The first thought people have when hearing these symptoms is that they are depressed.  While depression is a possibility, my job is to talk to the client to figure out what exactly is causing those symptoms and very frequently I find it is a fear of something that is behind the avoidance.

Anxiety is often noted as a cluster of symptoms such as feeling nauseous, increased heart rate, sweaty, shortness of breath etc but is also our bodies way of protecting us from a threat, that isn’t actually there.  When we start to worry about what others will think about us, being judged, doing something wrong which keeps us inside our homes, inside our heads: worrying!  We may notice that our worries do not fit with the real situation or that we spend a lot of time worrying which can impact our sleep, appetite and relationships.

Anxiety is normal. We all feel anxious at some point, anxiety can motivate us to study for a test or can be with us as we head into a job interview.  Worrying about what might happen leads us to feel more anxious, have more symptoms, then worry about feeling anxious!

If you notice you have been avoiding doing things you enjoy out of fear or worry that something will go wrong, try asking yourself: “What is the worst case scenario? Can I survive it? Is it really so bad?”  Take a few deep breaths focusing on what you see and hear around you.  If doing this does not reduce your anxiety at all, maybe its time to take a trip into your health care professional or open Anxiety BC for more information about anxiety and ways to reduce your worry and get back out in the world.

 

Amber Sperling MSW RSW

Refocusing for Spring

This week marks the beginning of Spring 2016 and while many view Spring as a great time for cleaning out our homes, Spring is also a great time to refocus. With the increase in daylight we are often feeling more cheerful and energized.  This is a great time to set some small goals to keep that feeling going as the weather has its ups and downs.

  1. Set a schedule.  If you do not already have regularly scheduled work hours, or even if you do, take the time to sit down and write out a weekly schedule.  First write down the appointments and prescheduled events you are unable to change, then gradually add in the things you want to do such as going to the gym or meeting a friend for coffee.  Include meals and time to wake up/go to sleep.  Schedules are a great way to reduce stress and build confidence in your plans.
  2. Exercise.  Start small if you have not been a regular with exercise lately.  Something as simple as a 20 minute walk three days per week can go a long way for increasing energy and helping your health.  Try to work toward 30 minutes per day or 150 minutes of exercise each week.  Plan it with friends or family, try something new like Yoga or Zumba, or treat your family dog to longer or  more frequent walks.
  3. Make Lists.  Write down what you would like to get done each day or week, crossing off items as you accomplish them.  By writing things down you are more likely to complete the task and feel a burst of happy chemicals in your brain when it is completed.  Small lists can help you to focus on larger goals.   Perhaps this is a great time to think about what you would like to see accomplished by the end of the Summer, break down that larger goal into smaller steps. You may be surprised what you might achieve!
  4. Post goals in a place you can see them.  Using Post-it notes on mirrors or in places you will see them regularly reminds you of what you are working toward and cues action.  You can do this by writing out the goal, the steps along the way or making a visual representation of what you are working toward.
  5. Visualize.  Taking time to build up a visual image of what life is like when the goal is achieved helps to build confidence in the goal, replacing any doubts.  Create a detailed image in your mind of that goal being accomplished using your senses (what will you see, hear, feel, smell or taste?).
  6. Phone a friend.  If you share your goals with others you are more likely to follow through to completion.  Find time for socializing whether it is on a walk, going to the movies or sharing a meal. Perhaps someone you already know is also interested in that new art program through the City of Barrie.

If you find yourself struggling this time of year despite the increased daylight and warmer weather, it may be time to come check in with your Nurse Practitioner or Social Worker for extra support.  We are also running the Living a Healthy Live with Chronic Conditions series starting in April for those that want to meet new people and attend sessions with direct focus to improve your self-management skills.  Click on the April calendar on our home page for more information!

Amber Sperling RSW MSW

Overnight Apple Pie Oatmeal

Start these frosty mornings out right with a hot bowl of delicious oatmeal that takes only 5 minutes to prepare.  The soluble fibre found  in oatmeal helps your body to lower blood sugar levels which is important for diabetics and helps to lower blood cholesterol levels.  Enjoy!

Overnight Apple Pie Oatmeal

Borrowed from EatRight Ontario: www.eatrightontario.ca

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: N/A
Makes: 2 cups (500 mL)
Serving size: 1 cup (250 mL)

Ingredients 

3/4 cup (175 mL) plain 1% yogurt
1/4 cup (60 mL) milk
1 tsp (5 mL) pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp (2 mL) vanilla
1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground cinnamon
1 apple, cored and finely diced
1/2 cup (125 mL) large flake oats


Directions                  

  1. In a bowl, whisk together yogurt, milk, maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon.
    2. Stir in apple and oats until well combined.
    3. Cover and refrigerate overnight.


Nutrition information per serving: Calories: 205 kcal, Protein: 9.5 g, Fat: 3.2 g, Carbohydrate: 35.9 g, Fibre: 3.5 g, Sodium: 83 mg

12 Days of Healthy Holiday Tips!

Count down to a healthy holiday by reading and following any or all of these tips:

12. Plan ahead – Use “Keep it Simple” strategy.  Partially prepare ahead when possible.  Allow yourself to relax and enjoy time with friends and family.

11.  When possible, organize and delegate – Make a list, have a family meeting and commit to each others’ mental health.  Ask for help and focus on what is really important.

10.  Don’t let the cold weather keep you from being active – spend time outside skating, snowshoeing or playing with your kids.  If you’re going holiday shopping, do a couple laps around the mall!

9.   Remember that calories from drinks add up quickly.  Limit to 2 alcoholic drinks per occasion and alternate with a low-calorie drink such as lemon water.  Enjoy a small glass of eggnog as dessert.

8.  Stay within budget – finances are a major stressor.  Set a budget and stick to it.

7.  Connect with your Community – attend events with family and friends.  Help at a local food bank or other organization.  Giving is a great way to cope with stress.

6.  Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables to balance your holiday meal.

5.  Enjoy a small amount of your favorite holiday treats – choose to limit your favorite holiday indulgences.  Aim to make healthy choices the rest of the time.

4.  Weather and hours of daylight play a part in low mood.  Pay attention to nutrition, exercise and sleep to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

3.  Choose healthy appetizers more often.  Try veggies, whole grain pita wedges or crackers with hummus or low-fat dip, fruits, or a small amount of cheese.

2.  Eat every 4-5 hours – skipping meals can lead to overeating later in the day.

1.  Eat the pear, not the partridge in a pear tree!!

Happy Holidays!

World Suicide Prevention Day – September 10th

World Suicide Prevention Day: Share Your Message
From Mental Health Commission of Canada

Reaching Out and Saving Lives Across Canada

Each year on September 10, a commitment to saving lives brings together communities from across Canada and around the world. Since 2003, World Suicide Prevention Day has served as a call to action to individuals and organizations to prevent suicide. This year, the theme —Reaching Out and Saving Lives Across Canada — encourages us all to consider the role that offering support may play in combating suicide.

Showing care and concern to someone who may be thinking about suicide can make all the difference. Asking them whether they are OK, listening to what they have to say in a non-judgmental way, and letting them know you care, can all have a significant impact. Asking about suicidal thoughts or intent does not result in suicide. Isolation increases the risk of suicide, so being there for someone can be life-saving.

To reach out to Canadians and help save lives, the Mental Health Commission of Canada created on online “wall” that will collect personal messages of hope and recovery to raise awareness that suicide is preventable and help is available. Users will be able to click on an “Add One” button and share their personal message. Reach out and raise awareness about recovery, help-seeking behaviours, and community resources available to those at risk of suicide.

Watch for the “wall” coming September 10!
http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/issues/suicide-prevention/world-suicide-prevention-day

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