As the holidays approach, many people become anxious about spending time with family. With COVID, there is the added stress of gathering with more people than you might feel comfortable with, or perhaps you are concerned about new variants, or if everyone at the gathering is vaccinated.
It is so important to set healthy boundaries in our relationships with others, and in order to do so, saying ‘No’ sometimes is imperative. But, saying no is hard for us, since we do not want to disappoint people.
Here’s a handy list of “Nice ways to say no” from WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan):
Sounds nice, but I’m not available.
I am honoured that you asked me, but I can’t do it.
I’m sorry, but I can’t help you out at this time.
Unfortunately, it’s not a good time.
I am not available at the moment, maybe next time.
Unfortunately, this is not something I can do right now.
I really appreciate you asking me, but I can’t commit to that right now.
Sorry, but I can’t make it, maybe another time.
WRAP also mentions that it is also OK to say ‘NO’ not so nicely, when the occasion calls for it!
So, from this point onwards, you can set healthy boundaries with loved ones in your lives, by saying NO, in a nice way (or perhaps not so nicely). It’s important to stay true to ourselves and be clear and honest with others at the same time.
Do you find it hard to say NO?
You can view another one of my posts here, about saying no.
I’ve really been taking note of how incredibly amazing my family members are lately.
They have all been showing up everyday, despite obstacles and times when they were feeling very discouraged.
My oldest daughter has been working hard on her Biology and Chemistry assignments, completing them with an A average, while being a full-time Mom to a newborn. My youngest daughter is studing at university full-time while working to put herself through school and live independently. Ron’s oldest daughter is working full-time and taking a university level course towards completing her degree. And Ron’s youngest daughter is working hard at two jobs, plus some musical gigs on the side, while recovering from an injury.
Things have not been smooth sailing for any of them, and I’m just so very proud of how much they have accomplished through sheer willpower.
I know all of you are working hard towards your goals as well. Just remember to be proud of yourselves for how hard you are trying. And if today all you did was hold yourself together, I’m proud of you!
In December 2013, at the age of 87, my mom passed away from cancer. I was 48 years old. I miss her dearly and often wish I could pick up the phone to share some exciting news. My mom died peacefully, on her own terms. She had a strong faith in God and was anxious to be reunited with her husband, my dad.
I had a wonderful mom and dad. My husband, Ron always says, “you won the adoption lottery”. It is true, I did!
I decided to make a list (certainly not exhaustive) of all the things I remember my mom teaching me. Here they are, in no particular order:
“Be a leader, not a follower.”
“Always say your pleases and thank yous. Be polite.” (How to write thank you notes and address an envelope).
A strong work ethic.
Volunteerism and giving to those in need.
How to knit and sew.
“Patience is a virtue.” (One that I have had to work on my entire life).
“Don’t worry about things beyond your control.” (I’ve only recently got a handle on this one.)
How to entertain (and with that, how to cook and bake)
“Be respectful and honest.”
“Be thrifty.” (always look for the sales)
Always buy a good, new mattress and new, comfortable, and stylish shoes. Never go second hand on these two.
Be stylish on a budget.
“Only spend what you can afford.” (I used to be known for my champagne taste on a beer budget)
“You’ll be lucky if you can count true friends on one hand.”
Sing out loud!
The importance of a daily routine.
Make your bed every morning as soon as you get up.
Brush your teeth and floss regularly.
“You’ve got to give credit where credit is due.”
“Relationships are 50/50. If they don’t work out, it is never only one person’s fault.”
Through my mom’s belief in religion (Catholicism) and God, I became spiritual. (Which I am now told will help me with my recovery– yes, I am still in recovery!)
My mom modeled smiling at strangers.
“Be friendly with neighbours.”
How to be a good, loving, caring and nurturing mom. (Sadly, for many years, due to my illness, I was unable to be all of these things to my two daughters. They do tell me that I am making up for lost time now, though.)
“Where there is a will, there is a way.”
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.”
Recently, I had a dentist appointment. I love my dentist, Dr. Chris Granger, and my dental hygienist, Holly. On this visit, I learned some very interesting and important things about oral hygiene.
Did you know that by using whitening toothpaste too often, you can actually make your teeth yellow? No kidding. Holly says that the whitening toothpastes are too abrasive and wear away the enamel (the hard layer of the tooth). Dental enamel covers the softer yellowish dentin layer of the tooth. As the enamel wears away, it will expose the dentin underneath. True story! If you do want to whiten your teeth, Holly recommends Crest Whitening strips. Hydrogen peroxide (its main ingredient) can remove dental stains safely when used as directed.
Did you know that flossing your teeth regulary (every day or every second day) is important– and, not just for the removal of food? I did not! I thought, oh– I don’t have food stuck between my teeth– no need to floss. Not so, says Holly. “You should be flossing regularly to clear your gums from the build-up of harmful bacteria.” I’ve since learned that just brushing often isn’t enough to remove plaque and prevent cavities. Also, floss can get into tight spaces and remove 80% of plaque. (I should tell you that I’ve never had a cavity in my lifetime. I believe that this is the reason I’ve been so lazy about flossing.)
I’ve also learned that, if left untreated, bacteria in an unhealthy mouth can actually harm the rest of your body. Gingivitis (gum disease) can enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body, leading to heart disease, diabetes and respiratory illnesses. (1)
So, since flossing only takes a couple of minutes out of my day, but will have huge benefits for my long-term health– not only my dental health– guess who’s flossing everynight before bed? ME! My goal is to not only make Holly happy at my next appointment, but to improve my dental health as well. Holly says I have several spots of swollen and bleeding gums. She also tells me that with regular brushing and flossing, this can be reversed!
Holly even encouraged me to set up a reminder on my phone. No excuses!
I hope this post encourages you to brush and floss regularly, too. Oh, and I forgot to mention how much money you could save at the dentist!
But wait a minute– you might be saying– what does this post have to do with mental health? Well, many people have anxiety associated with dental appoitnments. For me, I think going to the dentist is so much fun, that I booked my next appointment on my birthday! I get that I’m a little peculiar.
I imagine many of you are way ahead of me in the flossing game. At 56, I’m definitely “late to the party”. Let me know in the comments! I love to hear from you guys.
Finances– it’s an issue that causes a lot of stress and anxiety for many people. Especially when there never seems as though there is enough money to go around. During this pandemic, many people are sadly stretched to the limit. Food banks are being used by people who never required that safety net before.
I’m not one to give financial advice to anyone, so that is why I’m quoting so many others in this post. I’ve just gathered information that I hope you find helpful.
My naturopath, Sue-Anne Hickey (1) says that, financial expert Suze Orman discovered the facinating correlation between financial stress and weight gain over unpaid bills. Generally there was a 2 pound weight gain for every $1,000 of debt.
Finances affect all aspects of our lives, especially our health. Debt can lead to mild to severe health problems including ulcers, migraines, depression and even heart attacks (2).
Have a Plan for Spending and Saving: To reach your financial goals you need to track your spending. Even if you have a high net worth, you may be surprised at how much more you could save if you cut unnecessary purchases. It could potentially equate to thousands more by the time you retire.
Find More Ways to Save: Once your budget is soild, start looking for opportunities to save more money. There are typically two ways to do this: decrease spending or increase income. The most effective way is a combination of both.
Invest with Confidence: …having a strong investment portfolio gets you one step closer to reaching your financial goals– and living the life you want in retirement.
I live by the mantra of “pay yourself first”– advice I received from reading the Wealthy Barber by David Chilton, many years ago. I started doing this very late in life, though– after recovering from losing everything– but I’m so glad I took the baby steps about 6 years ago. I am super thrifty: shopping second hand, getting things for free from my local Buy Nothing Facebook group and buying most things on sale (or recently on senior discount days!). Also, as you know, I’m very fortunate and grateful to have a husband to share expenses with– who also happens to loathe spending money! All of these things make it easier– or even possible— for me to save for my future. It is still very hard work– I must admit. Doing without is often not the most fun. We make do, though!
I do know from experience that your self-esteem will increase as you increase your sense of being financially responsible. Start where you are at, today!
For me, volunteering is a family value. My Mom volunteered several hours a week at our church and at a home for the disabled, while I was in high school. She was committed to volunteering and helping out others. It made her feel useful and gave her a sense of purpose, while helping others at the same time.
Many organizations, such as The Royal, simply could not run without the assistance of volunteers. During the 2019/20 fiscal year, 409 volunteers put in 31,884 hours to help the mental health centre run smoothly. I think everyone realizes that volunteering is important to help out worthy causes and people/animals in need. But, what about the benefits for the person doing the volunteering?
Firstly, it helps build social connections. Getting out and meeting people with common interests helps so much with feelings of isolation or loneliness (especially during a pandemic). Since starting my volunteer work at The Royal, 9 years ago, I have made so many friends. These friends are fellow volunteers, staff and peers and I lovingly refer to them as “my Royal Family”.
Second, volunteering helps to improve health…both mentally and physically. It has certainly helped me counteract the effects of stress, depression and anxiety. Volunteering gets my mind off of my own issues as I am there to help others, who have more serious problems than mine. The fact that I’m in regular contact with others in my support system really helps to combat depression and feelings of isolation. Also, research shows that “people who give their time to others might benefit from lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan”.*
Another huge benefit I’ve found with volunteering, is how it has boosted my self-confidence and self-esteem. By helping others, I’m helping myself, through learning new skills, taking on new challenges and working towards goals and deadlines. By accomplishing all of these things, I feel a sense of pride, and have a feel-good attitude, of “I do have value– I can do this, and I can do this well!”
Probably the biggest intitial difference for me with volunteering, right off the bat, was how it gave me a sense of purpose. A reason to get out of bed in the morning. I would look forward to getting on the bus, and showing up at my volunteer job to see all those amazing faces and to share a few laughs. I have a big sense of connection to mental health (as you all know) and being able to give back to The Royal in particular, when they helped to transform my life, makes me feel so good.
In addition, volunteering can help out with your career. From teenagers looking for their first job, or adults wanting to change direction or get promoted. Volunteer experience always looks great on the resume and can help you build skills and gather experience in areas that you’ve never worked in before.
This past Christmas, 2020, I volunteered serving dinner to the women of Cornerstone Housing for Women. It made me feel wonderful to be helping those less fortunate than myself. It got me out of my ho-hum mood (by forgetting my own problems) about spending Christmas without family (due to COVID). These women were so happy to see me (with my Santa hat on). I was also pleased to see them. A happy Christmas for all of us!
For all of these reasons, I would suggest finding a volunteer opportunity that interests you.
I’m sure many of you are spending several hours a day, or more, attached to your computer screen; attending Zoom meetings, responding to emails, etc. It is so important, now during this pandemic–more than ever–to keep active for your physical and mental wellbeing.
Despite the pandemic, I recently had an annual physical, for which I am very grateful. I have a wonderful family physician who takes a lot of time talking to me about my overall health. This year was no different. Every year, she gives me notes to take home with me–my homework! This is what she told me to focus on this year.
First, take vitamin D supplements daily all year round –1,000 UI (with food). Everyone in our climate is vitamin D deficient, unless they take supplements. Also, my doctor explained to me that there has been some very preliminary research done which seems to indicate that those deficient in vitamin D have worse outcomes if they get COVID than those who are not vitamin D deficient. Guess what I’m taking every morning with breakfast?
My doctor also wants me to enjoy my golden years. I’m 55–getting to the age where my children might soon have children of their own. My doctor said that so many people get out there and throw a ball to their grandkids and pull a muscle in their shoulder, or go cross country skiing and fall due to loss of balance. Therefore, next on the list of homework is:
1) I have found a great YouTube video “Real Time Full Body Stretching Routine – Ask Dr Jo” – which gives you just that – a full body stretch. I now follow this 2-3 times a week.
2) Balance: My doctor said to practice standing on one foot for as long as possible and keep extending that period of time. Alternate feet. This will help with strengthening the muscles to gain balance. I do this after my stretching routine.
3) Weights: Women in their 50’s start to lose upper body strength, if they don’t work at it. So, she recommended I do a series of arm strengthening exercises using just a light 2 pound weight to begin with. I do a series of weight lifting after my balancing exercises.
And finally, EVERY year, my doctor advises me to get at least 10,000 steps in a day. She wants me walking as much as possible every single day to keep the weight off and to stay fit. I average about 8,000 steps a day, so I’m not far off, but need to increase my steps for sure. This will be difficult once winter comes along, so I’ve purchased some cross-country skis to keep active throughout this Ottawa winter.
What will you be doing to stay active and healthy this winter?