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Archive for category: Solutions For Living

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How Is Your Mood?

Mental illness is the most common cause of lost work and debilitates thousands of Canadians.  Yet, it continues to be a problem not openly discussed.  So, what do you really know about your mental health and the things that can affect it?  Recent studies suggest that eating fast food regularly can increase your chances of developing depression and that stress may be genetic.  Find out more about these and other surprising ways our mental health can be affected in this article from Best Health Magazine.  See how your diet and lifestyle choices may be affecting your mood. 
Best Health– 6 Things You May Not Know About Mental Health

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Will You Choose Wood or Water?

Often people talk about “fighting fires” in trying to manage the day to day events of life.  If this is your life most of the time, how stressful!  But, as with all situations, we have a choice. 

In a fire, do we want to be Wood or Water?  Wood, of course, will burn and burn quickly.  Do we want to grow this fire by providing it with the fuel it needs to be bigger and stronger?  Or, do we want to be water?  Water that can reduce the effects of the fire and bring this under control?  The ultimate choice is ours.

If we are wood we react, blame, accuse, yell, and jump to conclusions.  If we are water we seek to understand, ask questions, and remain calm.  It is not always easy to make a choice, especially when a situation is fraught with urgency and we have other people adding to the fire by being wood themselves.  Perhaps the simple solution is to quickly ask the question:  is my reaction here helping or hindering?  Do I understand?  I have been guilty of sending emails, or making phone calls that were accusing in nature, to only realize I don’t have the entire story.  Whoops, my bad and I have learned my lesson.  Seek to understand so you can later be understood.  I think someone famous said that.  

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Weight Management and Disability – You can’t eat what you don’t buy…

I find that while many of my clients initially lose weight following trauma (hospital food diet); eventually the net impact of a disability is often weight gain.  This is often the result of many factors – most interacting to make the solution difficult to isolate.  Medication side-effects, altered routines, reactive eating, friends and family that provide unhealthy sympathy foods, increased use of fast food because preparing meals is difficult, inactivity, depression, and even hormonal and physiological changes to the body as a result of the trauma.

But we do know that 70% of weight management is diet and assuming this is true, then the solution to weight management should be simple – you can’t eat it if you don’t buy it.  Purchasing unhealthy food is the first step to a weight problem.  And weight problems in disabled people are exponential.  Everything becomes harder – transfers, walking, completion of daily tasks, care giving, and many pieces of equipment have weight limits that when exceeded result in equipment failure. 

What is even more problematic is the role of the care giver in the maintenance of weight in the person they are caring for.  When people cannot shop for food and cannot cook, then helping them to maintain weight becomes the job of the caregiver.  Just buy and prepare healthy foods – perhaps food prescribed by a nutritionist or dietician.  However, often caregivers rely on the disabled person to dictate the food choices but if people are emotionally eating, or eating out of boredom, then the caregiver cannot always rely on the individual to make the best decisions.  Often raising awareness about healthy eating starts with asking people to track what and when they are eating and drinking.  Then, problems can be identified and a list of doable solutions can be developed. 

In one instance, in helping a client with weight loss as a functional goal, we discovered through tracking that she was barely eating breakfast and lunch but was consuming all of her calories from 5-10pm.  We made the goal that, over time, she would consume breakfast, lunch, two snacks and dinner, and would stop eating after 7pm.  Within a few short months she lost 30 pounds and this greatly improved her mobility and tolerances for activity.  Another client discovered through tracking that he was consuming far too many large bottles of pop a day.  By changing his large bottle to a smaller one, and eventually to only one pop per day and the rest water, he was able to drop 20 pounds.  In both cases, the problems, solutions, and commitment to change were made by my clients (with my guidance and support), making the results far more meaningful and lasting.  Further, the client was shown a framework for how to check and modify eating habits should they deteriorate again in the future.
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The Air We Breathe

Did you realize indoor and outdoor air pollution now causes more deaths worldwide than AIDS and Malaria? Check out this article from treehugger.com on the severity of air pollution. Ensuring the air is clean is becoming increasingly important for the health of the Earth and yourself. How can you prevent further air pollution?

Here are some easy ways:

  • car pool or take public transit
  • buy local products
  • don’t idle your vehicle
  • plant, plant, plant: trees and plants, both indoor and outdoor, can help remove the harmful toxins from the air we breathe

treehugger.com: What Kills More People Than AIDS and Malaria Combined?  Air Pollution

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This Earth Day Help the Earth and Yourself

There is a direct connection between the health of our planet and our own personal health. Many changes that benefit the earth, also benefit you and your pocket book.  Today is Earth Day and to celebrate here are some easy tips to “GO GREEN“:

Lights Out — Be sure to turn out lights when you are not in the room.  Rely on natural light during the day. The use of lamps instead of overhead lighting can also reduce energy consumption.

Power Off— Have you ever heard about “phantom power?” The electronics you have plugged in, such as your television, phone chargers, and appliances, utilize energy even when off. Unplug devices and appliances while not in use to reduce this “phantom” energy consumption.

Full Loads— When washing laundry or dishes, in most cases the same amount of power is used if the load is small or large. Ensure you are running a full load to maximize the energy efficiency. 

Wash Smarter— When doing laundry ensure you use cold water and hang to dry whenever possible.

Green your Commute— Help to reduce air pollution by carpooling, taking public transportation, or walk or bike when possible.  Or, if permitted, see if you can work from home.

Buy Local— Support the local economy while reducing pollution caused by large factory production and transport.

Say Goodbye to Harmful Chemicals — A simple mix of vinegar and water can clean almost anything! Try using 50/50 mix to reduce the chemicals you release into the air and water supply.


Meatless Mondays— Try going meatless at least once a week. The production of meat is one of the top emitters of greenhouse gasses. You’ll notice a benefit for your health, the health of the earth and your bottom (and bottom line)!

Plant Something… Anything— By planting trees, flowers, plants or vegetables inside or out, you can help to purify the air you breathe.

BYOB… bag that is— Ensure you always have a reusable shopping bag in your car or purse so you are always prepared. Reducing unnecessary plastic waste can go a long way to greening the earth!

Why Buy Bottles When you Have a Tap—  Consider filling a reusable water bottle to save money and garbage. 

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Spring Cleaning and Your Weight Loss Goals

Spring has arrived!  Are you feeling the itch to clean and refresh your home?  Are you also frantically starting to diet and exercise to be ready for summer?    Did you know that cleaning burns calories?   By simply rearranging your closets you can burn up to 85 calories—not to mention the calories burned by mopping, vacuuming, and just spending a few hours on your feet moving about the house.  Check out this article featured in the Huffington Post to find out other ways to burn calories while cleaning.

The Huffington Post: Spring Cleaning: How Many Calories Do You Burn Doing Chores?

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The Rehabilitation of Organization

Previously I outlined the importance of organization in helping people with limited energy reserves to make sure their energy is spent on enjoyable or purposeful tasks and is not wasted looking for things that should be easy to find. 

Helping clients to become more organized can take many forms, depending on the client, the nature of their problems, and how they previously organized their stuff and their time.  What I tend to witness is the time lost and sheer frustration that clients experience looking for cell phones, wallets and keys.  Often, cell phones become used as a “second brain” assisting people to maintain a schedule and make appointments (calendar), remember things (task lists), have access to support systems (contacts, calls, text, email), and negotiate their environment (maps and GPS).  If this gadget is so important, it is even more important that people know where it is.  Having a catch tray by the front door, in their room, or a standard docking station can be helpful.  Wallets and keys should also be left in a consistent location.  I am sure we can all relate to that feeling of looking for our keys in their usual spot to find they are missing.  But if you lack the ability to efficiently look for these, or the energy, it could completely derail your plans.  After the day to day items have a place, then as a therapist we can work with our clients to simplify other spaces that are barriers to function.  Perhaps the kitchen has become too cluttered to allow for efficient meal preparation, or the bills are piling up because these become forgotten in a stack of papers.  In the world of insurance I find that clients become overwhelmed by the paperwork and this results in them missing appointments, not responding to time sensitive material, or failing to submit for expense reimbursement.  Slowly, over time and with suggestions and tools (filing cabinets, labels, folders) clients will be able to more efficiently spend their units of energy on things that are more important, or more fun.

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You Can’t Afford to be Disorganized

We all have different levels of energy, tolerance and mental attention.  If suffering from chronic pain, brain injury, or another chronic condition, chances are the DD battery that you used to have has been replaced with some AAA’s.  This means that daily activities will take more time, more energy, and you will need to recharge sooner.  So, considering this, do you really want to spend your valuable energy looking for stuff? 


Consider that you have 10 units of energy when you wake in the morning.  Every activity you have on your “to do” list takes one unit.  Going for a walk, preparing supper, managing the laundry, responding to emails, attending an appointment, completing personal care, and having coffee with a friend all drain your battery.  Some of these activities are necessary, some can be put off, and others are enjoyable.  So what if you spend one unit of energy looking for your phone, that bill that needs to be paid, your agenda, or those new runners you bought yesterday?  What activity will come off your list when you have spent your energy to find something that with some organization would have taken you no time at all?  Maybe you will call your friend to cancel, or order supper in again.  Maybe the laundry will wait to tomorrow, or those emails will just keep accumulating. But this is unnecessary because you had the energy, it just became misdirected.

Often the focus of occupational therapy becomes helping people to organize their activities, their stuff or their time.  Schedules and consistency are keys to helping people to understand the size of their battery and the amount of units each activity takes.  This can be difficult when working with clients who did not need to be organized before an injury or illness, but the necessity of this following cannot be ignored.   Even small steps to help people to be more organized can have a huge impact.

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Forgiveness

Forgiveness is vital to mental health.  Perhaps you remember what it feels like to forgive and to be forgiven.  The result is often a reduction in worry, anger, stress, anxiety and upset.  Check out this article from Real Simple Magazine on the scientific importance of forgiveness.  The article also shares some amazing stories of those who have been able to let go. 

Bury the hatchet. Let bygones be bygones. Kiss and make up. We have so many ways of describing forgiveness—but so few strategies for actually achieving it. The key to letting go for good is understanding the psychology and the science behind your feelings. The grudge stops here.”  by Kim Tingley for Real Simple Magazine.

How to Forgive and Forget– Real Simple Magazine