December 2010

Wellness Tip:

During the winter, indoor air quality can become dry and stale. Indoor plants can be a great solution. They will help improve the humidity balance the air, and will emit oxygen improving the overall quality. Boston Ferns, English Ivy and Spider Plants are known to have great air purifying elements.  It may be cold and dry outside, but a little greenery in your office or home you will make your indoor air more comfortable.

Morrow, Crossdale & Associates Inc.
445 Apple Creek Blvd.
Suite 219
Markham, Ontario
E.G (Ted) Morrow:
Paul Crossdale:
Sean Ross:


The festival season is just around the corner. Again, we will be provided with a host of options and choices as to how we will spend our time and likely, how we will spend our money. We need to understand and appreciate that in tough and in good times, it’s the thought that counts and that people who care about us would prefer our affection and our time. We need to get back to the basics and the simple things.

At various times in our lives, we may be unable to avoid the increased holiday demands. Some of us will exclude ourselves from the pleasures of the festive season by dwelling on the negative aspects of the holidays, rather than on the positive ones. Others may miss out because we are overburden with endless preparations for the holiday season. And still others will spoil the holidays by the all-too-common trait of overindulgence – too much eating, drinking or spending. Some of us tend to get caught up in the season overlook that we don’t have to be overwhelmed by the holiday celebrations.

Difficult as it may seem, avoid self defeating attitudes by trying to focus on the many pleasant aspects of the holidays. It’s more than about spending too much money. You may even find that a less materialistic view of the holiday season is a more satisfying and meaningful one. Think of the traditional holidays that you have enjoyed in the past and try to view this festive season as an adventure. This may mean throwing a small get-together for neighbours or co-workers or reaching out to those who are less fortunate.

Did you realize that you and those around you maybe increasing stress each other’s stress  level by having unrealistic expectations? Unfortunately, many people are genuinely unaware that they are causing their own unhappiness. There are a number of things we can do to make ourselves happier during the upcoming holiday season:

1.    Be aware of your needs. Most of us carry on pretty much as we always have during the holidays, regardless of what is going on in our lives. If you have been experiencing a lot of stress at work, for instance, this may be the holiday season for you and your family to take a vacation or simply to rest up at home.

2.    Perhaps your stress has been triggered by a divorce, a career disappointment or a health problem. You may want to opt out of the usual “fun celebrations” and use the holidays as a time for reflection. You may benefit from some form of spiritual nourishment, from reading a few meaningful books or even from visiting a fitness spa.

3.    Realize that you don’t have to do everything yourself. If you’re one of those long-suffering people who get very little enjoyment out of the holiday season because you’re overburdened with the chores of the festival season, stop waiting for things to change. Take charge and delegate tasks to family members.

1.    Are you the one who prepares the holiday dinner for a large gathering of family and friends. Maybe you could cook the turkey and ask the guests to bring the trimmings One person could bring the appetizers, another vegetable casseroles and others the dessert. You can avoid the bother of serving a hot dinner to a large crowd by setting up a buffet and letting the guests help themselves.2.    Limit your spending. Here are two simple solutions to the problem of gift giving for the many families who are more budget conscious this holiday season: Draw names. This means that each person buys and receives one gift. In fact, the element of surprise – wondering who drew your name – can make gift giving more fun. It’s important, however that everyone plays by the rules. If there is a limit to the cost of the gift, don’t be tempted to show off by spending more money. Agree on spending limits for gifts. Talk with those persons in your life to whom you give gifts and from whom you receive gifts, well in advance. Explain your point of view and you may well be pleasantly surprised that they express relief because they are feeling the same way. Those who want to give a more expensive gift can wait until another special occasion such as Valentine’s day or the person’s birthday.3.    Don’t overindulge in food and drink. The round of holiday parties can be especially difficult for those recovering from dependence on some substance. If overindulgence is your problem and you think the temptations might be too great, politely decline invitations to parties. But don’t think this means you must miss out on the festivities. Throw your own small party and invite your favourite people. You can serve lowcalorie foods that are nourishing and satisfying as well as non-alcoholic drinks4.    HELP OTHERS. One of the best ways to celebrate the holiday season is to be charitable. Giving time, affection and care to others, especially those in need is the most rewarding experience of all. One couple whose small business had been adversely affected by the economic downturn last year found that working with other volunteers to serve a holiday dinner to the homeless took their minds off their own troubles. Some of as may know of at least one elderly person who would value a special friendly visit. Many organizations rely on volunteer help at this time of year.5.    Recognize when holiday rituals become a burden, not a pleasure. Perhaps some of your fondest memories are of decorating the tree when your children were small. Now that they are teenagers however, it’s just a big hassle to get them to help. Realize that times have changed and that your family may no longer find this ritual meaningful. Put up a few decorations or lights, if you want, but forget about a tree – at least for this year. Who knows, you may find the tree trimming ritual welcomed back by popular demand next year. Try to develop a positive attitude toward the holiday season. All too often, we tend to focus on the negative aspects of the holidays – the commercialism, the holiday crush at shopping malls and the unending chores. This year make the effort to see the magic that is part of the holiday celebrations.6.    Regardless of your religious background, you can enjoy the music, the lights and the decorations in the store windows.7.    Be realistic. Think for a moment. Do you expect too much of the holidays? All of us have to learn to accept reality – life isn’t perfect. And seldom are holiday celebrations like the glossy photographs we see in magazines this time of year. A focus on impossible expectations may be harmful in that it results in disappointment and unhappiness.If we can’t have a perfect holiday season, we can have many happy moments. Let these suggestions help you to create a very special gift for yourself – your best holiday season ever!Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Work For You!The type of resolution we set for ourselves is a good indication of where we want to see changes in our lives. But too often, we’re enthusiastic about making that change in the first few weeks of a new year, then the resolve fades away. If you’re serious about wanting to make positive changes, you can be successful. Here are some guidelines that may help:Be realistic.Before you set your goals, think about whether they are really achievable, and what small steps can be put into place to make them more achievable. Be clear about what you want to gain out of sticking to the resolution: Is it a permanent lifestyle change? A temporary modification? A new attitude or approach? Be flexible.Rather than giving up on your resolution and then being disappointed with yourself, consider making some adjustments that will help you modify your resolution and stick to it. For example, consider another method of quitting smoking if cold turkey’s not working for you; arrange to go to the gym with a friend instead of alone; start your quest again February 1 or 15 after more planning. Prepare for roadblocks.Think hard about what may get in your way of success, then plan on how you’ll overcome those challenges. You may not be able to anticipate all the roadblocks, so also be prepared to note them as they come up and give them some thought at a later time. Don’t feel you need to respond immediately and successfully to all roadblocks. Take it slowly. Change is a process. Get help.There is such a great deal of information and support available today that it just doesn’t make sense to try to ’go it alone’. Pick up a book, check out a website, sign up for a course, join a support group, make an appointment for counselling, ask a friend to help. Your chances of success are increased dramatically when you seek out the kind of help you’re most comfortable with. When we connect with others, or acquire knowledge through others, we’re strengthened, and so is our resolve. Listen. Listen to your body, your thoughts, your instincts, your dreams. In a fast-paced world, it’s easy to lose touch with ourselves and our motivations. Take the time to experience how you’re feeling, how you’re reacting to people, places and things. If it’s painful to alter your ways or to give something up, what does the pain mean for you individually? How can it help you know yourself better? Very often, those who have emerged through a difficult time (overcoming an addiction, changing old behaviors) not only feel great pride and a sense of accomplishment, but feel the experience has made them more confident, secure and content.Moving Forward Through Change They say that change is constant. Whether experiencing a lot or a little of it, change in our lives can create opportunities, as well as a sense of insecurity, loss and confusion. To stay strong and positive, the most important thing we can do in the face of major change is take one step at a time. There has beenmuch written on the important topics of change and stress and there are many resources available tohelp respond to change and stress in the most positive, constructive way possible. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support if feeling burdened with change in your work or home life. Here are a few helpful tips.

  • Expect change to be stressful.
  • Examine how you are feeling. Don’t deny the emotional effects of change, accept and express your sense of loss and pain.
  • Be aware of expectations you place on yourself and others. Be patient with yourself.
  • Slow down your regular routine so that you can adjust to the change with less pressure.
  • Times of reorganization and change can provide opportunity for creative energy. Now, or in time, you can find ways to put it to use.
  • Change is inevitable, but how you react to it is within your control. Being positive in the way you respond to change can help you move through it successfully.
  • Adopt active coping strategies: talk or write about your stress; use music, art or humour to diffuse it; reach out to others to give or receive support.
  • Examine what gives you satisfaction at work, then pursue those areas. Reflect on what matters most to you, then build it into your life.

Seasonal Affective Disorder….”More Then Winter Blahs” Most people are as excited about winter’s arrival as they are about getting root canal. In only a few months, we go from basking in the warmth of 14 hours of sun during summer holidays, to battling snow and slush in near darkness on the commute to and from work. It’s not hard to see why many people feel more sluggish and have less of a ‘spark’ than they do in the summer.Signs of SADMost SAD sufferers have similar symptoms. Starting in October or November and trailing off in March or April (depending on how far north you live), these can include:

  • feeling uninterested in doing usually fun things;
  • craving foods with starch (like potatoes and bread) and eating considerably more;
  • gaining weight;
  • suffering from joint or stomach problems often;
  • having trouble getting up in the morning and often wanting an afternoon nap;
  • feeling tired and slowed down much of the time; having lower sexual desire and function;
  • having trouble concentrating;
  • If you are a woman, worsened premenstrual syndrome symptoms.

Individuals experiencing feelings of sadness or any of the other symptoms noted above are encouraged to seek the assistance of a physician or a professional counsellor. There is excellent treatment available for SAD.Why does it happen?While researchers haven’t completely pinned down the reasons for SAD, they believe winter’s long nights are a major contributor. That’s because we use sunlight to maintain circadian rhythms, the internal clock that regulates mood and feelings. When it’s sunny and light outside, the brain releases serotonin, a chemical which wakes the body up and is linked to positive emotions or ‘happy’ feelings. At night, on the other hand, the brain gets a surge in melatonin, causing a drowsy sensation.Because the nights are much longer in wintertime, though, the brain usually produces less serotonin than it does in the summer. For those afflicted with SAD the amount of serotonin manufactured becomes drastically lower during the winter, resulting in feelings of depression.Who gets it?Since darkness is a major factor in the illness, it’s no surprise that SAD is more common in northern regions where nights are longer, and that the number of SAD cases increases the further north you go. Overall, between two and three per cent of the general population suffers from full-blown SAD, while an estimated 15 to 20 per cent of the population experience the ‘winter blues’ or mood changes associated with SAD. Scientists haven’t found any cultural or ethnic group more likely to have the disorder, but women are four times more likely than men to suffer from the illness.SAD MythsMyth: “The ‘winter blues’ are the same as SAD.” While the ‘winter blues’ often share characteristics with SAD, SAD is actually a form of clinical depression. Symptoms are generally far more severe and can include strong feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, severe insomnia and suicidal thoughts or behaviours. Anyone who suspects themselves or a loved one of having SAD should seek professional help immediately.Myth: “The disorder hits you suddenly, without warning.” SAD tends to creep up slowly, increasing as fall progresses into winter, and the days become shorter. As spring approaches, the symptoms lessen very quickly.TreatmentSAD can be hard to live with, but it’s also highly treatable. A few options include:Light Therapy: Because SAD results from a lack of light, one of the most effective treatments is phototherapy, which exposes your body to very bright artificial light for extended periods of time. This generally means lying in front of a specially designed fluorescent “light box” between 20 minutes and two hours a day, usually right after waking up. The equipment is available for home use, although it’s also possible to receive treatment in a clinic.Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT): This type of therapy works by trying to discover the negative feelings and beliefs that cause depression, and the replacing them with more positive thoughts. CBT can be used in conjunction with light therapy, and according to some research, is the most effective way of treating the disorder.Antidepressants: In cases of moderate to severe SAD, when other forms of therapy are not effective, doctors will sometimes prescribe antidepressant medication. However, this form of treatment comes with side effects that can range from insomnia to decreased sex drive.St. John’s Wort: This herbal medicine, found in health food stores, is a natural alternative for relieving the symptoms of mild depression. It may cause side effects, including nausea and headaches, as well as negative reactions with other types of SAD therapy. Consult a physician before taking St. John’s wort as problems can arise if mixed with other medications.Winter Mood Boosters: If you suffer from SAD or the milder symptoms of the ‘winter blues,” there are also several simple steps you can take every day to brighten up both your body and mind.Exercise: Regular exercise not only helps lift the negative feelings commonly experienced by SAD sufferers, it also prevents the weight gain associated with the illness. You don’t need to run a triathlon to have an effective workout: just taking a twenty minute walk or jog every day can help you feel better.Let the sun shine in: Because SAD results from a lack of sunshine, getting as much as you can during the winter months can help in reducing the feelings of depression. Make sure your blinds are open during the day and try to remove any obstacles out of sunlight’s path.Regulate your body clock: In the old days it was simple: you were awake when the sun was out, and in bed when it got dark. Today, you’re inundated with artificial light at all of times of day, making in difficult for your body clock to do its job. By turning the lights down – or off – at night, you’ll help control the circadian rhythms that naturally govern mood.Watch what you eat: If you’ve got SAD, chances are you’ve developed a craving for pasta or pancakes. But one of the best things you can do is stick to high nutrient, balanced meals.Cut down on alcohol and caffeine: Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages disrupt your body’s internal clock, resulting in a worsening of SAD symptoms. Try cutting down, or even cutting out, your daily intake of these drinks.

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