By Miranda Massie on April 2, 2019
Travelling is top of mind for me right now. On spring break, I spent two weeks chaperoning teenagers across Italy and Greece. And though the dust hasn’t even had time to settle on my suitcase, I’m already dreaming of my next adventure and my next destination. Unfortunately, a major barrier to my wanderlust is always the associated costs. Travelling is expensive and requires discipline both prior to and during a trip.
This month, I’m sharing some money-savvy hacks to support your frugal and fruitful travel.
Keep your eye on the deals
Take breakfast to go
Book hotel stays that include breakfast. Start your day with a big meal and pack extra snacks so you can save money on food throughout the day.
Avoid on-the-road prices
Pack your own food on travel days so you can avoid paying for pricey food on flights and trains or in airports. With healthy options on hand, you’ll be able to avoid the drive-through.
Find the free days
Many museums and galleries have free days or visiting times throughout the week. Some also offer discounts for students, children and families. Check their websites in advance.
Double check your coverage
Be sure to check your travel insurance coverage, or the coverage of a spouse or dependent. If you’re already covered through work or a credit card, you can avoid paying additional insurance costs. If you are enrolled in UBC’s extended health befits, be familiar with your coverage while travelling outside BC or Canada. Visit the UBC travel benefits site.
Take a staycation!
A vacation does not always need to involve travel. Take advantage of the amazing sights, eats and activities available locally. This will also allow you to save your dollars for a future trip. Read more about staycation ideas for Metro Vancouver on Daily Hive and Miss604.
Wherever your travels take you, I encourage you to prioritize taking time off. Breaks are important for building resilience and promoting mental and physical health. Allow yourself time to breathe, relax and be present without the threat of an incoming credit card bill looming in your head. Have any savvy travel hacks of your own? Share in the comments below!
All my best,
Photo credit: Miranda Massie
By Miranda Massie on October 3, 2018
Recently, I attended an engaging workshop hosted by a colleague on the topic of resilience. Beyond being a “wellness buzzword”, resilience is the capacity in each of us to draw on multiple sources of strengths, social networks and resources to overcome adversities.1 The great thing about resilience and overall mental health is that we can learn skills, tools and strategies that allow us to effect positive changes on our wellbeing.
One such strategy is social connection. UBC has identified social connection as one of the institution’s top five wellbeing priorities going forward. It is also strongly linked to resilience and is one of seven key strategies for building our ability to bounce back and overcome challenges.
Four ways to build social support:2
- Talk to someone. Use this connection to seek help, gain perspective and insight, or just to vent.
- Reach out. Family members, friends, colleagues or professionals can support you in different ways, depending on what you need and what their strengths are.
- Connect with your community. Try being active in a community-based group or organization. Already a part of a community group? You’re already increasing your social support and building resilience!
- Identify five or more meaningful connections in your life. Evidence shows that having five or more meaningful connections indicates a strong social support network. Try making a list of who you would turn to for different kinds of support (friend, resource, fun, mentor, challenger, appreciator, etc.)3
This month, I invite you to reflect on your social networks both at work and in your personal lives. Within these communities lies a wealth of knowledge and support that can be shared in order to strengthen our wellbeing.
Interested in learning more about the power of social connection? Watch this TEDx Talk “Connect or Die: The Surprising Power of Human Relationships” (12 minutes). Or, consider registering for our Building Resilience Workshop (Nov. 1) to discover more contributing factors to our mental health and resilience. Lastly, I’ll leave you with an infographic of top tips for creating a support system from our EFAP provider Morneau Shepell.
Wishing you a wonderful start to the fall.
All my best,
1Youth Resilience and Protective Factors Associated with Suicide in First Nations Communities, 2014.
2Building Resilience Workshop, UBC HR Health, Wellbeing and Benefits, 2017.
3Adapted from Neilson, M. 2012. Complete Workplace Wellness
Photo credit: UBC Brand & Marketing
By Miranda Massie on August 7, 2018
Did you know that indoor spaces can enhance our wellbeing just as much as the natural outdoor environment?1-2 I learned this first-hand when I embarked on a long overdue spring cleaning of my cubicle recently.
I was experiencing higher-than-typical levels of stress this fall and my naturopath suggested that the physical clutter at my cubicle might be creating mental clutter, making it difficult to concentrate and exacerbating my stress. Now, I’m no Marie Kondo, but I decided to try changing my physical space. Here’s the process that I used, and I hope it inspires you to look for ways to enhance your space (work or otherwise).
Start from Scratch
Instead of picking and choosing what I wanted to keep, I started by taking stock of everything at my desk. It created more mess at the start, but it was easier to rebuild my space from scratch.
Be Ruthless (or at least paperless)
By physically removing everything from its place, I had an opportunity to purge. Get rid of those pens that don’t work any longer. Scan paper files to reduce the amount of space needed for storage (in or on your workstation).
Build It Back Up
This step might take some extra time and require a field trip to Staples or an organization supply store. Pick items that are visually pleasing for you without taking up too much surface area. I chose a container for pens, a decorative photo frame and a bamboo tray. Alternatively, save your dollars by reusing or upcycling items your colleagues don’t want anymore.
Make Your Photos Count
Rather than refill my cubicle with endless photos again, I carefully selected a few: some nice travel pictures and family photos. By limiting the number, I was more selective and ended up choosing pictures that are meaningful and that I don’t mind looking at again and again.
Add Something Green
Proximity and visual access to plants are great for boosting mood and reducing stress (check out this Netdoctor article on “5 Ways Office Plants Can Improve Your Health”) 3. Because I don’t have the greenest of thumbs or direct access to natural light, I went with two small, potted succulents. I also changed my computer background to an image of a forest. Photographs of nature can provide the same health benefits as the real thing.4
Give Yourself a Treat
My final touch was adding a bit of preemptive self-care to my new space. I knew there would be times of stress and I wanted to be prepared, so I bought some fancy tea, a new tea mug and a lavender aromatherapy roller. Ideas you can consider include a funny picture, a stress ball, yummy snacks, noise-cancelling headphones or playful magnets. Have fun personalizing this!
I recognize that not everyone’s work environment looks the same (and some of us may have more autonomy over this than others), but even small changes can have a big impact. This month, I invite you to think about small changes that you can make to your workspace (or a space at home) that might help you clear some of that mental clutter.
All my best,
1 Rationale to Address Well-being through Physical Spaces in Post-Secondary Settings (Healthy Campus Community, SFU)
2 Environmentally Smart Design: Designing for Social Wellbeing Across the City and in the Workplace (UBC Library, UBC CWL login required)
3 Creating Wellbeing Through Physical Spaces (Healthy Campus Community, SFU)
4 Grinde, B., & Patil, G. G. (2009). Biophilia: Does Visual Contact with Nature Impact on Health and Well-Being? Int. J. of Environmental Research and Public Health, 6(9), 2332–2343
Photo Credit: UBC Communications & Marketing
By Miranda Massie on July 4, 2018
Emotional intelligence is something that’s been garnering attention in recent years. Magazine articles, research papers and leadership courses continue to emerge, touting the benefits of high EQ (your emotional intelligence score) on work performance, happiness, leadership capabilities and even love .
So what are the key components to emotional intelligence and how might we harness this information to positively impact our relationships with others?
Emotional Intelligence is the “ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” It is made up of the following components:
- Self-awareness: an in-depth knowledge of oneself (tendencies, emotions, behaviours)
- Self-regulation: our ability to manage ourselves (feelings, triggers, reactions)
- Motivation: how and why we reach our goals (values, setting intention, building resilience)
- Empathy: recognizing and understanding emotions in others (as separate from our own)
- Social skills: how we communicate and interact with others 
With this information, how can we build up these skills in ways that enable us to have healthy and satisfying relationships with others? Personally, I feel that it’s a bit of a “chicken or the egg” scenario. What comes first: successful relationships that lead to higher emotional intelligence or increased emotional intelligence that creates healthier relationships? Perhaps it is both.
Knowing ourselves, regulating our emotions, understanding what drives us, acknowledging and validating others’ feelings, and engaging in optimal communication are all ways that emotional intelligence can support us in building relationships with others. Sustaining these positive behaviours through healthy habits over time can help raise our EQ.
This month, I encourage you to try and be present in your interactions with others. Experiment with the different components of emotional intelligence to discover what resonates best with you. Hopefully your relationship IQ will get a boost in the process.
All my best,
Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)
 Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (Salovey and Mayer, 1990)
 Emotional intelligence: Why it can Matter more than IQ (Daniel Goleman)
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie | Tagged communication, editorial, emotional intelligence, emotions, EQ, expectation, healthy relationships, IQ, judgement, Miranda Massie, relationships, UBC | 1 Response
By Miranda Massie on May 3, 2018
Sexual and reproductive health are key components of our overall wellbeing, and yet we often consider them as unimportant or embarrassing. Social stigma and lack of education can get in the way of early, appropriate, and non-judgmental access to critical health care and accurate information.
To welcome in the start of spring, and to accompany the inevitable innuendos about ‘the birds and the bees’, I‘m offering up a quick guide for how to “heart your parts”.
Re-imagining the mind as a sexual organ
Sexuality is often considered as being exclusively physical, and yet it has fundamental connections to our mental health. Our thoughts, feelings and emotions linked to gender, sexuality and sexual health can impact our mental wellbeing in both positive and negative ways. The state of our mental health (positive, challenges, illness or diagnosis) can also affect our ability to lead the sexual lives we want.
Recent UBC research has shown the positive impact of regular mindfulness practice on sexual pleasure. The sexual response “really requires this back-and-forth communication between the brain and the body” says Dr. Lori Brotto in a recent article on research linking mindfulness to increased sexual satisfaction.
- Learn more about the connections between mental health and sexual health courtesy of Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights.
Reproductive health regardless of reproduction
Regular checkups are an important part of sexual health maintenance. Even if you’re not sexually active, or planning on conceiving, that doesn’t mean you’re not at risk of certain health problems relating to your reproductive systems.
Often, seeking medical advice on the subject can be intimidating, but there are many resources available to you:
- Find a list of sex-positive sexual health service providers (province-wide).
- Read more about common reproductive system health concerns, including signs and symptoms. Note: Please enter “University of British Columbia” as your organization.
Consent is for everyone
In the immortal words of Marvin Gaye: “Don’t you know how sweet and wonderful life can be? I’m askin’ you, baby, to get it on with me.” He was both ahead of his time in role modeling sexual consent and in creating space for conversations about pleasure (self or partnered – it’s your prerogative). Consent is not something that disappears when we graduate, get married or are in a situation where we have previously consented. Consent is a constant conversation that requires communication, openness and active listening.
- Remember: Consent must be freely given and can be withdrawn at any time.
This month, regardless of what kind of parts you’re working with, I invite you to show them some love.
Want more on this subject?
Photo Credit: Sean McGrath (Flickr)
By Miranda Massie on January 11, 2018
January has arrived and we are back to greet another new year at UBC.
Despite missing my morning sleep-ins and binge-watching true crime dramas on Netflix, I derive a certain satisfaction from returning to a routine. I feel more productive and organized, and I notice an immediate improvement to both my sleeping and eating habits. I even started writing in my Five Minute Journal. (It remains to be seen how long this will last, but I’m cautiously optimistic!)
We are primed for all things new and renewed at this time of year and often start out feeling strong and motivated. But is this sustainable? How long do our resolutions really last? Can our intentions stand the test of time, and should they? How do we avoid feeling like we have failed if things don’t go as planned?
When it comes to changing habits or taking action, I truly believe that the most important factor is a deep understanding of the self. “Sticking with it” or having a “can-do attitude” doesn’t work for me personally. I have learned that in order to avoid feeling like a failure, a specific set of factors must be in place if I’m to be successful. It starts with an examination of what gets me excited, what keeps me going and what can derail my good intentions. My musings might help guide your New Year intentions.
If it’s not right in front of me, I won’t do it.
I easily forget (or intentionally avoid) tasks, even when I chose them. For my 2018 workout plan, I wrote it out calendar-style, with colourful markers and check boxes. It will sit on my kitchen table to ensure that I follow it. It makes for a messier home, but also keeps me accountable. Check out some of my inspiration from Pinterest.
I get bored easily.
Times like these I wish I was a runner. I envy people who like to run: it’s so simple and accessible, but I can’t think of anything I’d rather do less. In order to stay interested and involved in my fitness routine, I need to change things up. I incorporate apps and different types of workouts including yoga, and I’m hoping to take up swimming again in our beautiful UBC Aquatic Centre.
I like a challenge.
The competitive streak in me shines when a challenge is thrown down, even when it is with myself. I like to win and want to win, so I turn my resolutions into mini competitions with myself or others. I’ll be joining the UBC Walkabout this month as a way of increasing and tracking my daily steps, and I use the Carrot app to get rewards for my walking because who doesn’t want more Aeroplan or Scene points?
I need a deadline.
The best way for me to fail at a new habit or resolution is to have it last forever. I am fundamentally unmotivated by anything that does not have an end in sight. My New Year fitness plan is currently set for 10 weeks. Once I complete that, I will celebrate, take a few weeks off and then re-assess what I want to do next. I also make sure to write out a list of rules (guidelines or criteria if you prefer) to keep me accountable, one that includes minimum time limits and what types of activity count.
Setting the stage for change has become just as or even more important than what my ultimate goals are. In being more intentional at the start, I find that I’m much more likely to have all the pieces in place to feel successful.
This month, I invite you to leave some room for self-compassion, inspiration and success in whatever form your resolutions might take. Find ways to manage your New Year energy, investigate ways to keep motivated and perhaps even step out of your comfort zone like Professor Ono.
Wishing you a wonderful start to 2018!
All my best,
Photo credit: Miranda Massie
By Miranda Massie on December 7, 2017
In the true spirit of the holiday season, I feel it is important that I not only be honest with myself, but with you as well. This fall was tough: it was probably the most demanding, hectic and draining fall that I have experienced in many years, at work and in my life outside of work. The upside is that I’ve been able to share my wellbeing work with large numbers of the UBC community, and that I’ve handed in my last school paper for the semester. It was a rewarding and meaningful time, both personally and professionally, and I hope the same is true for you. Even so, I’m conscious of the fact that my personal gas tank is hovering on empty as I push myself towards the finish line that is my holiday break. As we find ourselves in the middle of yet another busy season (one that is sometimes overshadowed by consumerism, busyness and all manners of excess), I’m experiencing a lot of internal questions:
Could I be doing more? Should I be doing more? Why do I feel guilty when I’m not working or studying? Have I let others down? Am I capable? What should success look like?
In sharing these vulnerable thoughts and insecurities recently with friends and now with you, I’m reminded of a practice that is often overlooked but one imperative to our survival – especially at this time of year: self-compassion.
Practicing self- compassion
What is self-compassion?
It is taking the time to treat ourselves the same way that we would treat a loved one, whether they’re two-legged, four-legged, winged, etc. It is acknowledging that we, too, deserve care and comfort during stressful and difficult times. It is the act of silencing our inner critic in the hope of accepting that we are entitled to a break.
Why is it important?
Self-compassion has been strongly linked to wellbeing. It can lead to reductions in negative mind states such as anxiety, depression, stress, rumination, thought suppression, perfectionism and shame. It has also been found to increase positive mind states like life satisfaction, happiness, connectedness, self-confidence, optimism, curiosity and gratitude .
How do you start?
- Practice self-kindness instead of self-judgement.This means accepting our imperfections with empathy instead of shame and criticism. The more we cling to aspirations of perfection, the more we judge the end result. Recognize and value the massiveness of what we try to do each day and know there will be situations, histories and events beyond our control and that these are not a reflection of our worth or character.
- Look for common humanity instead of isolation.This involves acknowledging that we may face difficult situations, but we are not alone in doing so. Trials and tribulations are part of the common human experience, and they are ones that we do not have to face alone.
- Try mindfulness instead of over-identification. This is working to process negative emotions in a constructive way in order to avoid emotional reactivity and negative thought patterns. Reflect on how you are more than your external achievements and that internal accomplishments are worth just as much.
Want to learn more?
Watch this two-minute video for tips on practicing self-compassion
Or, listen to this 10-minute guided meditation for self-compassion:
This holiday season, as a reminder of the true meaning and spirit of this time of year, I invite you to give yourself the gift of self-compassion. Take it slow and be kind in your expectations of the self. Cut yourself some slack. Find new ways to silence that internal critic and replace it with a voice of kindness and charity. And I promise to try and do the same for myself as well. As 2017 closes, let’s get ready to meet the New Year with fresh eyes and an open heart.
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie | Tagged editorial, generosity, kindness, Mindfulness, Miranda Massie, patience, recharge, rest, self-care, self-compassion, spiritual health, Support, survival | 3 Responses
By Miranda Massie on July 1, 2017
I recently went to Ottawa for a series of work conferences and was lucky enough to stay in a cute little Airbnb for a week on my own. It was amazing! Coming home to silence at the end of a busy day filled with presentations, networking and social events was a revelation. Perhaps this is because I have never lived alone. I often wonder if this is weird, or if I willingly bypassed one of life’s fundamental experiences.
During the week away, I felt more independent, confident and self-sufficient. I was able to appreciate and better understand the experiences and desires of others who seek refuge in quiet time or choose solo pursuits. As an extrovert, I find strength and energy in the presence of others and have found it more difficult to identify with those who prefer solitude.
The experience in Ottawa helped me to better appreciate those around me and to reflect on a newfound desire for more personal time in my life.
The theme for this month’s newsletter is all about relationships, and I might argue that the one relationship we can sometimes forget about is the one we have with ourselves. I have come to believe that my strong inclination to extroversion, combined with a fear of missing out (FOMO is a real thing!) have held me back from fully understanding and nurturing my relationships with myself.
Here are some suggestions from a self-proclaimed extrovert on how to renew your relationship with yourself:
Sit with your emotions
Don’t be afraid to feel things and to sit in your emotions for a while. There is a difference between experiencing emotions and being able to understand and acknowledge them.
Embrace the quiet
Sometimes it is okay to be alone with our thoughts. We live in a very busy world and periodic silence can be beneficial for our brains. Listen to this TED Talk: 4 Ways Sound Affects Us.
Whether it be feelings, experiences or a nice meal, sharing parts of our lives with others can help us learn more about ourselves and to grow as individuals.
Work your strengths
Learn to understand and appreciate your strengths without minimizing the strengths of others who are different. Watch this video to learn about the individual strengths of both introverts and extroverts.
Living on one’s own can be a luxury and may not be an option for everyone, but it can be invigorating to find quiet places or moments to re-energize and reconnect with the self. This month, I encourage you to reflect on the relationships in your life that you appreciate and value and to look for opportunities to reconnect with yourself. It is self-preservation, not selfishness.
All my best,
By Miranda Massie on June 7, 2017
The sun is out, there is the smell of freshly cut grass around us and it is finally starting to feel like summer. We seem to have skipped right over spring this year, with the cherry blossoms late to the party and a cold chill in the air lasting longer than usual.
Over the past few weeks, I have been amazed at the remarkable influence of weather patterns and the natural elements on human emotions. People seem physically lighter, and they are quicker to smile and laugh. There is a palpable increase in human energy and there is a celebratory feeling in the air. Not only does the city come alive once again, but so do the people within it.
The biggest bonus of this recent shift in weather? The health benefits that come along with it.
Six ways to use nature to boost your health
1. Take a brain break: Being surrounded by nature provides a much-needed break for the brain. The natural environment reduces overstimulation and allows your mind to rest, recover and re-focus.
Try stepping outside, taking five long deep breaths and then returning to work.
2. Get dirty: Exposure to soil bacteria can act as a natural antidepressant, activating brain cells that improve mood, reduce anxiety and facilitate learning.
Try planting a patio herb garden.
3. Move more, sit less: Better weather leads to more time spent outdoors, which leads to increased activity. By moving more, we boost heart, joint and bone health.
Try taking a 30-minute walk outside this week.
4. Learn who’s who in the zoo: The presence of animals in nature not only enhances social connections between people, but can have a therapeutic effect on mental health.
Try to find five different insects or animals the next time you are outside.
5. Use nature as a gym: Studies show that people who exercise outside have a lower risk of poor mental health.
Try taking your regular workout to a nearby park.
6. Ask an expert: Evidence shows that learning about our natural environment makes us more empathetic towards both humans and animals.
Visit the Beaty Biodiversity Museum.
*A special note given the mention of empathy*:
I want to take a quick moment to acknowledge our many colleagues who are celebrating Ramadan this month. The long sunny days that many of us find so appealing can prove challenging, particularly for those fasting during this religious holiday. This month, I encourage you to offer words of support and encouragement. Read more about Ramadan and one author’s suggestions for how best to support friends and colleagues.
Have fun outside!
All my best,
This is Your Brain on Nature: National Geographic
Go Play Outside: Healthy UBC Newsletter, August 2015
Nurture Your Relationship with Nature: Healthy UBC Newsletter, June 2016
Vitamin Nature: Healthy UBC Newsletter, July 2015
Cheng, J. C. -H. Environment and Behavior: Connection to Nature: Children’s Affective Attitude Toward Nature. 44 Vol. Sage Publications, 01/2012. Web. 26 May 2017.
By Miranda Massie on May 4, 2017
If someone had told me a few years ago that I would eventually be writing articles about sex for work, I probably wouldn’t have believed them! It was a common belief at the time (and for many still is), that it was okay to talk about certain aspects of health at work, but sex was definitely not one of them.
Personally, I don’t see how I can honestly and authentically do my job without acknowledging all of the facets of wellbeing that contribute to overall health. I may be biased by the fact that I have a background as a sexual health educator, but I like to dedicate at least one editorial a year to my often underrated, overlooked and sometimes stigmatized friend: sexual health. (Bonus: I get to come up with catchy, tongue-in-cheek titles!)
My top tips for getting re-acquainted with your sexual health
If you don’t use it, you might lose it.
As comical as it sounds, when it comes to sexual health, research says it’s true. Regular use and care for our reproductive parts and sexual organs helps to keep them, and their owners, healthy. Click here to learn more about the health benefits of keeping sexually active.
Parents: It’s going to be ok!
When you’re a parent, talking about sexual health with your kids can add another layer to a tricky topic, one that can provoke both anxiety and stress. For any parents or guardians out there looking for tips on how to talk about this topic with your kids, consider registering for our upcoming workshop:
Find study buddies
There’s a lot of research going on at UBC that relates to sexual health. One example is the UBC Sexual Health Laboratory. Consider signing up to take part in a study – the topics are varied and there are a range of participation options (online, in person, solo, with a partner, etc.). These are often wonderful opportunities to contribute to learning and research while discovering new things about yourself and your sexual health.
Avoid Dr. Google
When it comes to a topic like sexual health, my advice is avoid Google. Not only is there a lot of misinformation on the Internet, but search results can often be unreliable. Learn more about the dangers of Dr. Google here and see the suggestions below for more accurate online sources.
Seek out the right sources
As an alternative to Google, I recommend checking out the following resources for unbiased, non-judgmental sexual health information:
- SexandU: Rated one of the top 10 health websites in Canada, this site is run by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
- Options for Sexual Health: Educational resources for all ages and services available for free to all residents of BC.
- Scarleteen:Don’t be fooled by the teen/20’s label: This site has accessible information and advice for all ages.
- Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights:Like the World Health Organization, but for sexual health in Canada. Policy, research, advocacy and information.
- Experiencing a non-consensual or unwanted sexual experience can have negative impacts on your mental health and physical health and wellbeing. If you need to speak with someone, you can contact your EFAP at 1-800-361-5676 or learn about sexual assault resources at UBC. Information related to UBC’s new Policy on Sexual Assault and Other Sexual Misconduct will be disseminated in the coming weeks.
Sexual health is a broad and diverse realm of our wellbeing that can include intimacy, relationships, sexuality, gender, safety, reproduction and personal values. This month, I encourage you to have fun exploring what sexual health means to you.
All my best,
By Miranda Massie on March 2, 2017
A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. Although she was not experiencing any symptoms, she was tested based on the diagnosis of a close relative. The results came back positive – and from that point on she has had to make significant changes to her life.
Even if someone is not experiencing physical symptoms, celiac disease can damage the intestinal lining, which increases the risk of future health problems. According to the Canadian Celiac Association, treating the disease requires a “strict adherence to a GLUTEN FREE DIET FOR LIFE.” Their website literally spells it out in ALL CAPS.
Before my friend’s diagnosis, I had an idea of what a gluten free diet looked like: avoid bread and pasta, order bun-less burgers and use a substitute for wheat-based flour when baking. I was very wrong. Over the last few months, I have learned so much about the challenges of living with a food allergy or intolerance. It is not simply choosing the “GF” menu item at a restaurant.
Living gluten-free means:
- having to check ingredient labels on everything from salad dressing to Tylenol,
- needing a separate cutting board, knife and cooking equipment when sharing a kitchen with gluten eaters,
- bringing your own pre-prepared food to parties and dinners with friends, and
- being the only person with nothing but water in front of them when out at a restaurant.
It requires a complete lifestyle overhaul that, sadly, those who don’t have food allergies will have a hard time understanding. Eating and meal preparation are communal events in many cultures, and a diagnosis like this can lead to both physical and social isolation.
Research shows that rates of depression are more common in adults diagnosed with celiac disease and that these rates are similar to those of people living with other chronic physical illnesses. Food sensitivities or allergies in general are associated with higher levels of psychological distress (including depression and anxiety) in both children and adults.
Through my friend’s diagnosis, I have learned to be more tolerant, and I have learned to be more patient and empathetic. I have a greater understanding of just how tough it is to maintain a specialized diet – it’s a lifestyle commitment that requires tremendous dedication, strength and vigilance. One I doubt that I would have the strength for.
In honour of Nutrition Month, and in a spirit of humanity and understanding, I invite you to be kind to those around you living with food allergies. We exist in a world that is not typically designed to make their lives easy. And since we require food for survival, these folks could probably use some thoughtful support and understanding.
For more information about food allergies and how to provide support, visit the Newly Diagnosed Support Centre created by Food Allergy Canada.
All my best,
Canadian Celiac Association: http://www.celiac.ca/
Cummings, A. J., Knibb, R. C., King, R. M. and Lucas, J. S. (2010). The psychosocial impact of food allergy and food hypersensitivity in children, adolescents and their families: a review. Allergy 65: 933–945. doi:10.1111/j.1398-9995.2010.02342.x
Lieberman, J. A. & Sicherer, S. H. (2011). Quality of life in food allergy. Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology 11(3): 236–242. doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e3283464cf0
Smith, D. F. and Gerdes, L. U. (2012). Meta-analysis on anxiety and depression in adult celiac disease. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 125: 189–193. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2011.01795.x
Posted in Editorial, Miranda Massie, Nutrition | Tagged allergies, compassion, Diet, eating, editorial, education, food, food intolerance, gluten, gluten-free, health, Miranda Massie, nutrition month | 7 Responses