By Miranda Massie on May 5, 2015
I wanted to spend this month’s editorial taking about an aspect of health that is very close to my heart. This particular topic is not often openly discussed, especially among adults and yet, at its core, is strongly linked to both our mental and physical wellbeing.
A lack of open dialogue and access to accurate information on this topic can lead to misinformation, confusion, shame and even illness. Have you guessed it yet?
Let’s talk about sex.
In my life outside of UBC, I am a community sexual health educator. I feel passionately about empowering society (particularly children and youth) with accurate, informative and non-judgmental sexual health information. According to the World Health Organization, sexual health is “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”[Source]
There are myriad of different elements related to sexual health that can impact our overall wellbeing including reproduction, sexuality, infection and disease prevention, intimacy, pleasure, relationships, safety, body image, and more. The presence of a challenge or a decline in one area of our health can impact other areas of our life in ways that we perhaps do not realise.
Sex and sexuality are very personal and discussing them openly can be challenging. Knowing where to access accurate and unbiased information can also be a frustrating task that may lead to additional stress and anxiety.
Like other aspects of our wellbeing, there are valuable benefits that can be had from caring for our sexual health! There are also some interesting facts to be aware of that may normalize (self-imposed or societal) feelings of inadequacy.
Facts about sexual health:
- Emotions can impact libido or levels of sexual desire.
- Levels of sexual desire differ from person to person and from day to day. Do what is right for you, not what you think or hear is ‘normal’.
- Overall sexual satisfaction is linked to overall quality of life.
- Certain medications (particularly those used in treating mental health conditions) can decrease your libido or levels of sexual desire.
- Though some physical functions may diminish over time, sexuality does not disappear with age. Good health has been found to be a strong predictor of being more sexually active later in life.
Health benefits of sex:
- Intimacy (sexual or emotional) fosters wellbeing and its absence may be psychologically and physically harmful to our health.
- Knowing and confirming that you are free of infection or illness can alleviate stress and anxiety.
- Sexual activity has been linked to lower blood pressure.
- The hormone oxytocin is released during orgasm. Oxytocin can result in better sleep, enhanced feelings of optimism and can promote a sense of bonding.
- In men, more frequent ejaculation has been linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
- Experiencing a non-consensual or unwanted sexual experience can have negative impacts on mental health and wellbeing. If you are in need of support, options include counselling, advocacy and support services. Options include your EFAP at 1-800-361-5676 or the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres (604-876-2622).
Have you ever heard the expression that ‘the sexiest body part is the brain’? That is why is it important to keep learning and to remain critical of where you access information. When we don’t know enough about our sexual health or if we are ashamed to talk about it, there is a chance of putting our health (or the health of others) at risk.
Though the physical act of sex occurs behind closed doors, our sexual health needn’t exist surrounded by silence. I am opening the door to a conversation around sexual health today and I invite you to think about the role that it plays in your life. Everyone deserves accurate sexual health information in order to lead safe, pleasurable and fulfilled lives.
All my best,
Looking for trusted and credible information and resources?
Videos, reading lists and websites for youth, adults, parents, seniors and more:
Chao, J-K., Lin,Y-C., Ma, M-C., Lai, C-J., Ku, Y-C. , Kuo, W-H., Chao, I-C. (2011) Relationship Among Sexual Desire, Sexual Satisfaction, and Quality of Life in Middle-Aged and Older Adults. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy 37(5).
Frappier, J., Toupin, I., Levy, J.J., Aubertin-Leheudre, M., Karelis, A.D. (2013). Energy Expenditure during Sexual Activity in Young Healthy Couples. PLoS ONE 8(10): e79342. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079342
Rathus, S.A., Nevid, J.S., Fincher-Rathus, L., Herold, E.D., McKay, A. (2013). Human sexuality in a world of diversity (4th ed.). Toronto, ON: Pearson Education Inc.
Rogers, P. (2014, 07/21) The Health Benefits of Sex. Healthline. Retrieved from: http://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sex-health-benefits#Overview1
By Miranda Massie on April 8, 2015
My partner and I recently met with a financial advisor. We are currently in the midst of planning for our future, feeling caught between student loan debt and an uncertain job market, while looking ahead to home ownership and starting a family.
In a city like Vancouver, the financial prognosis is grim and we have often put off facing our finances due to the stress and overwhelmingly gloomy outlook that comes with it. We have met with advisors at our banks in the past, but often left feeling as though we had sat through a sales pitch instead of a counselling session. Denial was our financial strategy of choice, but that can only work for so long.
In last month’s editorial, I wrote about embarking on an emotional cleanse and getting rid of the negative impact that bottling up emotions can have on our health. I think that this same idea applies to finances. We (as a society) tend to not talk about money. We have been socialized to keep financial matters to ourselves, as well as dealing with the myriad of emotions that come along with them. Keeping all of this stress and uncertainty to ourselves can take a toll on our mental health, relationships and overall wellbeing.
What I discovered is that it feels great to talk about money out loud, especially with someone who knows their stuff. Our discussions with the financial advisor were calm, frank and filled with humour and even prompted discussions with friends on the subject. The advice was invaluable, as well-sensitive and honest.
This month, I invite you to talk about money. Say the words out loud, either to yourself, a loved one or a financial professional. Letting someone else in, especially on this topic, can alleviate some of the inevitable financial crunch that we feel we are under.
5 fun facts I learned from financial planning
It’s ok to dream and to say what you want out loud. Do not apologise for lofty goals. You will only have a chance to achieve them if you are realistic in planning for them.
You find out where you are. Knowing where you stand, whether positive or negative will always set you up in a better position for success than not knowing at all.
Financial advisors are not all sales people. I used to fear going into see a financial advisor because I always felt like I was being pushed towards something I didn’t really need. Find someone you trust and stick with them.
It feels great to have a plan. The benefit of seeing professional advice is that you no longer have to guess at whether you are doing the right thing or making the right financial move. The decisions are still yours accompanied with guidance from a professional.
We don’t need it all now. Of course we have dreams and plans for the future but waiting for them is okay. Taking the time to plan and save now will ensure that our goals are all met in the long run.
Looking for free or affordable financial advice?
Financial Support Services from UBC’s EFAP provider Shepell.
Know Your Financial Advisor-online search tool
Posted in Editorial, EFAP, Mental Health, Miranda Massie, Spot Light | Tagged editorial, facts, financial health, fun, mental health, money, money management, planning, resources, Support | Leave a response
By Colin Hearne on April 8, 2015
More than six million Canadians—35% of the Canadian workforce—provides informal care to a family member or friend. The recipients of care are primarily seniors, and most caregivers are 45 or older. 44% of caregivers are ages 45 to 64, ‘sandwiched’ between caregiving and child rearing.
Canada’s aging population means that these pressures and their consequences will only increase. According to the Employment and Social Development Canada Report from the Employer Panel for Caregivers, by 2031 the number of people over the age of 80 requiring care is projected to double. At the same time, older workers will account for an increasing share of the Canadian workforce.
At UBC, we recognize that many demands exist outside of the workplace for staff and faculty, particularly when it comes to looking after our elders. The following resources are available to assist you and your family in navigating elder care and caregiver support.
Senior Care and Caregiving Support Resources
Senior Care Support
Shepell, UBC’s Employee and Family Assistance Program provider, has a service to help you conduct your own customized search for elder care resources. You can search for providers who offer homecare assessments, long-term facilities, assistive care facilities, and facilities geared toward specific health care needs or cultural and language preferences of your family member. For a full list or to access services, click here and search under the Health & Wellbeing tab.
Senior Care Specialist
Faculty and staff can speak to an Elder Care Specialist through Shepells Life Events service. The Eldercare Specialist can point you in the right direction for housing, qualified care and any other questions you may have. Click here for more information.
Senior Care Support Resources
For a range of informative senior care articles, click here. Topics range from: Slowing Down to Help Aging Parents, Nutrition and healthy well-being for elders in your life, Having an older relative move in: making the transition a smooth one; and many more.
Caregiving Support – Counselling
Balancing elder care and/or family care with career responsibilities can feel overwhelming and extremely stressful. Be sure to take care of your own physical, emotional and social needs. Confidential counselling services are available through Shepell. To make an appointment, call 1-800-387-4765.
UBC’s Health, Wellbeing and Benefits Team has also compiled a list of available suggested resources (including leave information) to assist you and your family in navigating elder care and caregiver support.
Eldercare 101 – What You Need to Know to Care for Your Aging Parents
Whether you care for aging parents in your own home, or manage elder care plans from a distance, most of us don’t know where to go for reliable answers. Join Home-to Home, a seniors advisory and assistance business based in Vancouver in this one-hour session and learn all you need to know to care for your aging parents: . Click here for more information or to register.
By Colin Hearne on September 9, 2014
For many people, balancing life at home and at work can have its ups and downs. Those who have children at home while working may find life particularly hectic: scheduling children’s activities, planning for family time, and still allowing some you-time can seem impossible.
For some, life is further complicated by needing to provide care to aging parents or relatives. At UBC, we recognise that many demands exist outside of the workplace for staff and faculty, particularly when it comes to looking after our elders. UBC’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) has resources to assist you and your family in navigating elder care and caregiver support.
Elder Care Resources at UBC
Homewood Health, UBC’s EFAP provider, has an online database to help you conduct your own customised search for elder care resources – you can search for providers who offer homecare assessments, long-term facilities, assistive care facilities, and facilities geared toward specific health care needs or cultural preferences of your family member. UBC staff and faculty also have access to Homewood Health’s free online Busy Family for Seniors toolkit. The toolkit provides:
- A resource and financial services locator;
- An “ask an expert” function, informative articles and links to research;
- Roadmaps for services based on need (e.g., in home, residential facilities or community based);
- Comprehensive quality of service checklists for hired providers; and
- A family needs inventory to help organize priorities and concerns.
Want to know more?
Come to Healthy UBC’s free workshop “Elder care 101 – What You Need to Know to Care for Your Aging Parents“on Sept. 23, 2014, 12-1pm.(Register online)
New name, same great servicesUBC’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) provider Homewood Human Solutions has changed its name to Homewood Health. While their name has changed, their services and contact information remain the same. The website can still be reached at www.homewoodhumansolutions.com
- The phone number remains 1-800-663-1142 (toll- free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
All Counselling, Plansmart and Online services continue as before.
By Miranda Massie on May 6, 2014
Happy spring everyone! The tulips and daffodils have come out to greet us and UBC’s summer semester is almost in session. Things around campus will gradually slow down over the coming months as preparations begin again for the fall.
In speaking to colleagues in past years, this seems to be a time when staff and faculty feel that they have more time to invest in their own health and self-care. With this in mind, I would like to share a cautionary suggestion for improving our collective health literacy this spring: Just say no to search engine diagnosis: Avoid Dr. Google.
Outside of my role at UBC, I am a volunteer contraception counsellor at a local sexual health clinic. I would describe a large majority of the clients that I meet as “Googlers”. These clients come into the office, their brains overflowing in information, convinced of a diagnosis and terrified by chat rooms filled with side effects and worst-case scenarios.
It is important to know that I whole-heartedly believe in arming ourselves with information and in using the internet as a tool to empower, to learn and as a way to facilitate support networks with respect to health. It is great to do research before meeting with a health care provider or to understand how a type of medication works; however, obtaining this information from a trusted and validated source is paramount.
Reading information from un-validated sources can lead to inaccurate self-diagnosis, and high anxiety provoked by reading horror stories about medication side effects. This anxiety can be further elevated by often frustrated, first-person experiences that are more of a venting opportunity than practical solution. The truth is, everyone’s body is different, and has the possibility of reacting differently depending a myriad of factors.
Research shows that we are far more likely to recover quickly and successfully if we are positive about our outcomes. Turning to Dr. Google can in fact raise our anxieties instead of assuaging them. We read about unsuccessful outcomes and possible eventualities and we convince ourselves we have all of the answers. As humans, we have a tendency to catastrophize (try saying that three times fast). We assume the worst and can become unwilling to take a second opinion, even when it comes from a medical professional. This type of information can actually hurt our recovery time and quality of life through the treatment process.
The best advice that I can suggest to clients and our readers is this: don’t Google when it comes to your health.
- Turn instead to reputable sites run by governmental organizations, well-established non-profits and health authorities.
- Make sure the information presented to you is cited and sourced.
- Look for the number of participants in a drug study instead of the percentage of participants (if 50% of people had side effects, but there were only 10 people in the study, that is not a large enough sample to be conclusive).
There is nothing wrong with wanting a second opinion or to look into a recommended treatment, but turning to specialists, other doctors or trusted sources can assist with confusion, doubt and anxiety.
This month, I invite you to raise your health literacy by finding trusted and well documented sources of health information. When you do, bookmark them so that you can easily find them again without having to ask Dr. Google.
All my best,
Check out this new way to connect with your family physician or GP, online!
Medeo: Wherever you are, you can quickly and easily visit your BC doctor. Connect via computer, iOS or Android devices. Services available in BC with a valid Care Card.
Agarwal, M., Dalal, A., Agarwal, D., et al. (1995). Positive life orientation and recovery from myocardial infarction. Social Science & Medicine, 40 (1), 125-130.
Lench, H. C. (2011). Personality and health outcomes: Making positive expectations a reality. Journal of Happiness Studies,12(3), 493-507.
Scheier, M., Matthews, K., Carver, C., et al. (1989). Dispositional optimism and recovery from coronary artery bypass surgery: The beneficial effects on physical and psychological well-being. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology. 57(6), 1024-1040.