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Writer-s-Bloc

Not jolly this season?

Tis the season to be jolly, right?

By Nadine Munson

For many, Christmas is the toughest season of the year. Perhaps you can relate.

Contributing factors might be assumptions and expectations that we have to over spend and over work and be with people we might not want to be with. And look happy doing it

If you are depressed, the difficulty is magnified.

Some people are surprised to think they might be depressed. They aren’t sad all the time; they are still functioning – kind of — and think that “flat” feeling is tiredness because they aren’t sleeping well.

But the truth is, they may be depressed if they:

  • have trouble concentrating or making decisions,
  • have low energy levels
  • don’t really find pleasure even in the things they used to enjoy and/or aren’t interested in almost all activities nearly every day
  • sleep too much or too little
  • have appetite changes
  • feel sad, hopeless, guilty or worthless or even have thoughts of dying or suicide.

Here are a few tips for how to navigate the demands and expectations inherent in the season.

First, there is comfort in the familiarity of our daily rhythms and routines. To the extent possible, try to keep up with the activities that you participate in year round.

There will undoubtedly be some additional social expectations such as the work Christmas party or the family gathering that may seem unavoidable, but, it is OK to do them on your terms.

You don’t have to stay long or perhaps you can bring a friend that  supports or distracts you from old patterns that may be hurtful.

It is also OK to say no.

No may be easier with a plan. Is an out of town visit to a friends or a trip to a tropical beach possible? Perhaps, you could plan a smaller gathering with a friend or two of your own choosing.

There seems to be truth in the old adage that it is more blessed to give than to receive, so maybe you could volunteer at a local soup kitchen.

Avoid the Christmas movies that portray the idyllic family enjoying the perfect celebration. Many songs pull at our heart strings, as well, and can highlight the chasm between how you’re feeling and what others are portraying.

You don’t have pull the covers over your head and wait for the season to pass, but acknowledge your vulnerabilities and take control of the circumstances in a way that supports your overall good health.

Choose interactions that nurture you; it’s your holiday, too.

Get some aerobic exercise every day – even if it’s just a 30-minute walk. Aerobic exercise is most beneficial for depression. Thirty minutes to an hour a day for a minimum of 10 days helps reduce depression.

Not even antidepressants work that quickly – or have as few side effects.

If you don’t own a light therapy box, or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) light, you might want to get one.

They simulate outside light with a lux of 10,000 but almost no UV. In an ideal world, you would be outside for your walk by 6 or 7 a.m. and get the natural light of the sun in your eyes and on your forehead that would help set your body clock and assist with adequate serotonin production.

Considering what was discussed earlier re Christmas music, try replacing it with classical music – especially baroque. If possible, listen to it as you are walking in the early morning light.

Classical music relieves stress, anxiety and depression if you pay attention to the music and reflect upon your life and how you want it to be different/better in the future. This benefit is realized whether or not you like the classical style.

There are simple dietary recommendations that may not be as easy to implement because so many people are emotional eaters and reach for comfort foods when they aren’t feeling top notch.

Conversely, some lose their appetites. Either way, they are failing to supply their bodies with the nutrients required for optimal mental function.

It is difficult to avoid  culinary delicacies of the season but recognizing that they affect your blood sugar levels, which affects your ability to perform well, will help you limit the over indulgence.

Shoot for getting a variety of whole, unprocessed food such as nuts (walnuts), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and flax), fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

If I were to make any supplement recommendations it would be for Omega 3s (walnuts, pecans, red bell pepper, avocado, blueberries, romaine lettuce, spinach, flax, chia and hemp are natural sources), the B vitamins  –  especially B12, B6, and Folate, D3 and probiotics.

Go easy on processed food, sugar, alcohol and caffeine, which can disrupt optimal brain function and, if you’re fighting depression, you’ll want to provide every opportunity for optimal function.

These and many more lifestyle interventions have been well documented in the scientific literature to be effective in recovering from anxiety and depression – especially in conjunction with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

They are covered in detail in an eight-week course offered in the New Year at  the Kelowna Lifestyle Centre. For more information call 778.215.4698.

At any time, if it just gets to be too much, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Ideally, there would be a family member, friend, spiritual leader/teacher with whom you have a connection and would feel comfortable reaching out to.

If no one comes to mind, there are many kind people who are available through the Kelowna Crisis Line.

Their 24-hour number is 1-888-353-2273.

There is an international organization that has trained listeners, online counsellors and therapists available for free, anonymous and confidential online text chat that can be found at http://7cups.com.

Finally, the First United Church is having a “Blue Christmas” service on Sunday, Dec. 23 at 5 p.m. in Room 14, which is accessible from the parking lot via the hall.It is a comfortable and comforting place that doesn’t look for perfection just connection.

For more information on the “Blue Christmas” service call 250.762.3311.

Wishing you a happy holiday season may be a stretch, but I wish for you the strength to make the conscious decision as many times per day, per hour, per minute as needed to take the next step toward wholeness and healing.

You aren’t alone. There is hope. Life is worth the effort.

Nadine Munson is the director of Nedley Anxiety and Depression Recovery Program. Call 778.215.4698.



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Changes for your waistline

By PJ Henri

In our early history, we didn’t have gyms or fitness programs to help maintain a somewhat healthy lifestyle and we didn’t have the trendiest diets to keep the fat off.

We were survivors, built to run and hunt and tend to the land for food and shelter. Being constantly active was necessary for survival and we ate whole, natural foods that came from the earth. 

Unfortunately, times have dramatically changed. Being active has become an unpopular choice rather than a necessity and our diet has become more manufactured than natural.

We are becoming even less active and our food sources are becoming even more manufactured.

This combination of inactivity and unhealthy food choices are a recipe for disaster, leading to record high numbers of physical health problems such as:

  • obesity
  • diseases such as diabetes and cancer
  • mental issues such as depression and low self esteem.

We have unknowingly cursed ourselves with an unhealthy lifestyle.

How do we lift this self-imposed curse of an unhealthy lifestyle?

This lifestyle we have come to accept as the norm is merely a matter of poor choices or a lack of good choices and can be easily rectified with awareness and the desire to start making better choices.

We can lift this curse by becoming aware of what is going on in our lives and paying attention to the choices we make.

For example, when you are about to eat, take a moment to ask yourself if the food is the best choice for you.

Even if you don’t know the answer, you can at least begin by trying to make the best decisions about the foods you eat.

tMost people can appreciate that processed foods and fast foods are unhealthy, so you can choose to eat these foods less often and add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. 

When it comes to your activity level, there are so many ways you can choose to be even a little more active. You can  choose to park farther away from your destination point and walk the rest of the way.

We live in an beautiful place, you can get out and go for walks and/or hikes. A great one would be to get your kids away from whatever screen they are attached to and go outside and play with them. 

You don’t have to worry about changing your life completely overnight. You can make small changes and take small steps at first. With every step you take and change you make, you will make progress.

You will start to see and feel a difference in the way you look and feel.

If you decide to get really serious, you can join a fitness class or hire a personal trainer. If you don’t have the answers, get them from a qualified professional so you can get real sustainable results and avoid injury.

There is so much more information about the negative effects of living an unhealthy lifestyle versus the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle as well as steps to take to start living a healthier lifestyle.

The main goal of this article is for you to become more aware of the choices you're making and consciously start making better ones. 

Remember, the moment you decide to start changing your life, life changes.

Stay strong and dream on.

PJ Henri, a certified personal trainer of 30 years, is the owner of PJ Henri Fitness. He can be reached at 778-363-5979 or [email protected]



Is it yin, or is it yang?

By Michael Côté

As an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner, I am frequently asked,:

  • how does it work?
  • will it work for my condition?
  • how long will it last?”

There are different ways of looking at “It” and I’ll attempt to explain the Chinese medicine point of view.

The key to understanding Chinese medicine is that rather than treat disease, the goal is to restore homeostasis. Homeostasis, put simply, is our body’s sophisticated method of maintaining equilibrium and health.

The ancient Chinese described this phenomenon as harmony between yin and yang. Yang is the presence of the sun and all that it represents and Yin is the absence of the sun and all that represents.

If the sun stopped rising and setting each day we couldn’t live. The same is true of our body; it needs to go through cycles like being awake and asleep.

Therefore, treatments in Chinese medicine focus on restoring homeostasis and all the tools we use (acupuncture, herbs, diet, exercise, lifestyle changes) are employed with that goal in mind.

When you have a health issue, we want to determine if it is a yin problem or a yang problem and what organ systems are involved. Then, based on that diagnosis we recommend a course of action.

Whether Chinese medicine will help your particular health problem depends a number of factors; especially on the ability of the practitioner of Chinese medicine to make a correct diagnosis and to utilize the proper tools correctly.

If I’m not certain of the diagnosis, or if I lack the right tools, I refer to someone who I think can help. If you crash while riding your bike, get a concussion and a broken collarbone, which what happened to my wife two years ago, I’m sending you to the emergency room.

Let’s look at a case I observed in 2009 at the Chengdu University Hospital in China:

A 45-year-old woman I’ll call April, complained of wheezing. She had shortness of breath, was constantly thirsty, and had thick copious yellow difficult to expectorate sputum.

April’s tongue had a greasy yellow coating, and her radial (wrist) pulses were rapid, slippery, and floating. She was therefore diagnosed with Ding Chuan, which roughly translates to a type of asthma.

April was prescribed a course of acupuncture, cupping, and the herbal formula Ding Chuan Tang, which contains ephedra among other herbs, to dissolve sputum and improve lung function.

April was also asked to get tested for tuberculosis and cancer to rule out other things that can cause breathing problems. She chose not to get acupuncture and preferred to only use herbal medicine.

The results of the TB testing came in later that day and was negative. The cancer screening took a bit longer and was also negative.

One week later, after taking the herbs appropriately, she no longer had wheezing, her tongue looked normal, her pulses were slippery, and she had some cramping with her bowel movements.

April was told to do some breathing exercises and to avoid spicy and rich foods so the bowels problems could clear up without the need for further medical intervention.

That’s how we approach health problems from a Chinese medicine perspective. We like to keep it simple and logical.

If your body lacks harmony, we need to restore it. If you’re too cold we need to warm you up; if you’re too hot, we need to cool you down.

The time required to feel better depends on a number of factors including the nature of the problem and what type of treatment plan you choose to follow.

For more information about current research in Chinese medicine check out: The Acupuncture Evidence ProjectAcupuncture Now Foundation or the British Acupuncture Council.

Michael Côté, R.TCM.P, is a registered practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He can be reached at the Okanagan Acupuncture Centre at 1625 Ellis St. in Kelowna — 250-861-8863, [email protected]



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No kindness too small

By Kate Dalton

I’m looking for a new job.

I could write numerous columns about the job seeker journey but for now I want to share about the big impact that small acts of kindness can have on those who do them and those who receive them.   

When I resigned my last position it was a decision I considered carefully. It is unnerving to leave what is familiar and to step into the unknown. As I wrapped up my final two weeks with my employer, a beautiful display of succulent plants was delivered to my desk.

I thought maybe my husband was feeling romantic that day but when I looked at the card attached it was from a vendor I had worked with on a few projects who wished me luck as I sought a new opportunity.

I was blown away by the thoughtfulness.   

As I began to share the news of my resignation with my circle, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the responses I received from both close and distant friends and peers.

They sent me job postings they thought I might be interested in. They offered to provide glowing references for me. They suggested people they could connect me to or volunteered to pass along my resume.

They offered gigs to help provide income while I worked towards finding permanent work. They gave me words of encouragement and pointed out my strengths. Furthermore, the new connections I made through my circle of contacts took the time to meet with me, share advice, and brainstorm other people they knew who may be of assistance.

Many of these people had nothing tangible to gain by offering to help me. They did it with no strings attached, much of the time without me even asking for their help.

One person who really stands out was a former employer who went out of his way to find out what type of role I was looking for and to immediately send emails to people he knew who may be good connections for me — all because he noticed on LinkedIn I was looking for a new opportunity.

That type of kindness is refreshing.

The level of support I have received in this season of change has been a lifesaver and I have immense gratitude for the people in my life who have rallied around me.

In the same token, I strive to be this type of person myself. It’s easy to focus on yourself and get wrapped up in your own needs, but it is so important to continually look beyond yourself and find ways to serve others. And it’s rewarding. It takes the laser focus from what you hope to obtain for yourself and it brings balance to your life.

Kindness ideally comes without ulterior motives or expectations but I have found that many times when I do something good for others, it still ends up benefiting me.

As I continue to apply and interview for jobs, I try to consider those in a similar situation and what I can do to help them. If a job posting is not a fit for me, I pass it along to someone else who may be interested.

I did this for someone I came across online. I had never met her but noticed she was job hunting and gave her a tip on a job that was not yet publicly posted.

She was shocked yet pleased that I would reach out to help someone I didn’t even know.

The point of this is not to brag about what a great person I am, it’s to underscore how a simple kindness can make a difference.

As one of my favourite quotes states:

“If you are all wrapped up in yourself, you are overdressed.”

Kate Dalton believes in the power of investing in people. She has a growth-mindset that drives her to continually pursue personal and professional development, hoping to encourage others along the way.
Email: [email protected]



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About the Author

Welcome to Writer’s Bloc, an opinion column for guest writers to share their experiences and viewpoints with our readers.

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