Health and Safety Report
December 2010 - Volume 8, Issue 12

On Topic

Cope and Enjoyprint this article

Don't Let Stress And Depression Derail Your Holidays

Tis the season to be jolly - or so the song goes. The holidays can be a special time of year, with lots of socializing, family gatherings, and time honoured traditions. However for some, the financial, emotional and physical demands of the season can be stressful, cause anxiety and even trigger depression.

The pressure to create the perfect holiday and the seemingly endless "to do" list - shopping, cleaning, cooking and entertaining - can be overwhelming. Being realistic, planning ahead and asking for support can help prevent stress and depression from derailing your holiday.

Here are some tips to help you cope with the stress and anxieties of the season and enjoy the holiday festivities.

Be realistic about your expectations for the holidays and what you can accomplish. In your efforts to create the perfect holiday you can take on too much and end up feeling overwhelmed. As your family changes and grows, you may have to be flexible with some of your traditions and be open to creating new ones, such as holding your family feast on a different day to accommodate your adult children.

Plan and pre-empt stress. Get organized by planning your menus and making shopping and "to do" lists well ahead of time. Designate specific days for shopping, cleaning, baking, visiting friends and other activities to avoid last minute rushing around.

Stay on track with your budget. Decide how much money you can afford to spend before you go shopping. If you overspend now, it could create financial worries for months to come. If money is tight, consider creative alternatives for gift giving such as donating to a charity in someone's name, buying for the kids only, giving homemade gifts or drawing names to reduce the number of gifts you have to give.

Ask for help. Don't think you have to go it alone when you are entertaining. To ease the load, invite your friends and family to bring a dish or a dessert. Make sure to get help with the party clean up. Many hands lighten the load.

Don't fret the family. Emotions often run high during the holidays and family conflicts can intensify - especially if you're in close quarters for several days. Try to get enough sleep to help you cope with any potential tensions and avoid experiencing feelings of depression, irritability, and frustration. If spending time with family is stressful for you, limit the amount you spend with them. Be sensitive to others who may also be feeling the stress and depression of the holidays.

Reach out. Spending the holidays alone can be hard and may leave you feeling lonely and sad, with a sense of being disconnected. Make an effort to spend some time with a friend, or connect with a friend or your family by phone. Find community, religious or other social events to attend that can provide good opportunities for you to talk with and meet new people.

Volunteer. Lend a hand and lift your spirits. Food banks and other charitable organizations often need extra help this time of year and volunteering is a good way to meet new friends while helping those in need.

Get real with your feelings. If you have recently lost someone close to you or you are missing loved ones, it's normal to feel sadness and grief. Allow yourself to feel and express any emotions you may experience during the holiday season.

Maintain your healthy habits. How well you take care of yourself will have a big impact on how you manage emotionally. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.

Resist the urge to overdo holiday food and alcoholic drinks which will likely only add to your stress and guilt. Try eating a healthy snack or some soup before the holiday gatherings to take the edge off your hunger. It may help prevent you from going overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.

During the holidays it can be tempting to overuse alcohol and other substances to help you relax. If you have a substance use problem, all of the socializing and the alcoholic drinks that accompany them can make this a particularly difficult time. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has put together some low risk drinking guidelines to help.

Relax and recharge. When you are exhausted, you get run down and increase your risk for stress. Take care of yourself by carving out some down time each day to do something you enjoy that will help you clear your mind and relax. Even a few minutes of time for yourself can help refresh and calm you. Take a walk, listen to calming music, watch a holiday movie or delve into a good book. Taking control of your time helps you feel empowered and can help prevent you from feeling melancholy.

Get professional help if you are continually

  • feeling sad or anxious;

  • physically ill;

  • unable to sleep;

  • feeling irritable and hopeless, and

  • can't face your daily tasks.

Contact your doctor or visit your local hospital emergency room - especially if these feelings last for a while.

With a plan and a strategy for coping with the challenges of the holiday season you can replace stress and distress with fun and festivities.

Other holiday tips

Tips & Tools

10 Scoops of Snow Shovelling Safetyprint this article

As Canadians weathering cold, snowy winters, most of us are all too familiar with the arduous, strenuous job of shovelling snow. It can be hard work and whether you shovel at work or at home, there are some tips you should consider to protect yourself from the hazards that can go along with the task: cold exposure; fatigue; muscular strains; back injury and more serious injury such as a heart attack.

1. Fit for the job? If you are unaccustomed to shovelling, or if you're not in good physical shape, shovelling snow can be a strain on your heart and back. If you are older, overweight, or have a history of back or heart problems, you should avoid the task altogether and delegate it to someone else, or use a snow-blower to clear the snow.

2. Warm up. As with any exercise, consult with your doctor to ensure you are fit enough for this physically demanding activity. Before you begin shovelling, do warm-up stretches and flexing exercises to loosen up the muscles and prepare them for the job ahead.

3. Lighten the load with the right shovel. A snow shovel should be lightweight, about 1.5 kg or a little over 3 lbs, and the blade shouldn't be too large. Otherwise your load will be too heavy, putting too much stress on your heart and back. The handle should be long enough so that you don't have to stoop to shovel and the grip should be made of plastic or wood - metal gets too cold. As a general guideline, the shovel (blade plus handle) should be elbow height when standing upright.

4. Bundle up. Wear several layers of warm lightweight clothing that is easy and comfortable to move in. The inner layer should be fishnet or thermal underwear that allows perspiration to escape from the skin surface. Make sure your head (especially your ears), feet and hands are well covered. Your winter boots should be warm, water-resistant and high-cut, and provide good traction. Gloves should be light and flexible and give you a good grip. If it is really cold, wear something over your mouth. And do not shovel at all if the temperature drops below -40°C, or below -25° to -30°C when it is windy.

5. Pace - don't race. Shovelling snow in heavy-duty clothing can be as strenuous as weightlifting. You may want to get the job over with as fast as you can, but it is better to keep moving and work at a steady pace. A good recommended rate for continuous shovelling is usually considered to be around 15 scoops per minute. Shovelling is going to make you sweat and, if you stop, you could get a chill. The trick is to shovel efficiently without becoming fatigued.

6. Push - don't lift. Push the snow rather than lift it. If you must throw it, take only as much snow as you can easily lift. And remember, the wetter the snow, the heavier it is.

7. Face - don't twist. Turn your feet to the direction you're throwing - don't twist at the waist. Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side.

8. Get the scoop. Consider using a snow scoop to push the snow instead of lifting. The scoop helps you to move snow with less effort by riding up over the snow to allow you to move it without ever having to lift it.

9. Rest and recover. Take frequent breaks and drink some warm non-alcoholic fluids. In extreme conditions, such as very cold and windy weather, 15 minutes of shovelling should be followed by 15 minutes of rest.

10. Find out more about safe shovelling

CCOHS' OSH Answers has more information about shovelling snow in general, the ergonomics of shovelling snow and working in the cold.

Want to check the forecast? Go to Environment Canada's Weatheroffice website.


Manual Materials Handling - It's Risky Businessprint this article

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a major pain - in the muscles, tendons or nerves in the lower back, shoulders, neck, elbows, wrists or hands. They are also the number one type of work-related lost-time claim reported to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) in Ontario. MSDs cause suffering for thousands of workers every year, and manual materials handling is a large contributor.

To offer a better understanding of the risk factors associated with manual materials handling that contribute to MSD injuries, and how you can prevent injuries at your workplace, CCOHS is presenting a webinar:

Manual Materials Handling: Risky Business

Quantifying Risks Associated with Manual Materials Handling in the Workplace

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

1:00 pm - 2:30 pm EST

Presenter: Dhananjai Borwankar, CCOHS Technical Specialist

The webinar will outline the five major factors that contribute to MSD injuries as a result of manual materials handling (MMH) activities. The presentation will focus on quantifying these factors in order to understand how to identify which tasks are particularly harmful at a workplace, and what parts of the body are most at risk while performing these tasks.

Using these five factors as the basis, you will be shown how to identify problems in real-life workplace situations and how to create and use a strategic workplace MSD reduction program.

Webinar presenter Dhananjai Borwankar, CCOHS' Technical Specialist and resident expert on musculoskeletal disorders prevention, will provide relevant case studies to show how you can apply these practical processes in your workplace. The presentation will help you get your ergonomic program focused on reducing the physical demands associated with manual materials handling activities.

As a webinar participant you will receive CCOHS' customizable tools and checklists to help you identify and address your particular workplace MSD issues. You'll also have the opportunity to submit questions to the speaker, from the comfort of your computer or meeting room, during the live session.

This webinar will benefit anyone with an interest in learning how to recognize and reduce injuries associated with MMH and will be especially useful to employers, supervisors and managers, health and safety professionals and representatives and healthcare professionals.

Earn points

Continuing education points have been applied for and are pending.

Learn more about the webinar or register online.

More information

Learn more about MSDs and MMH from related CCOHS ecourses:

Warehouse Workers Safety Guide, CCOHS

Download the free pick up tips poster, CCOHS

Last Word

Student in Search of Scholarships? Look No Furtherprint this article

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) is calling for entries for the annual Dick Martin Scholarship Award. If you are enrolled in an occupational health and safety programme (that leads to an occupational health and safety certificate, diploma or degree) in a Canadian college or university - you qualify! If you aren't a student yourself, pass this along to someone who is. This year CCOHS will award three scholarships of $3,000 each.

How to apply

All you have to do is submit a 1000-1200 word essay on a topic related to your area of study in occupational health and safety. Essays will be judged on the intellectual content, the practical and theoretical value and the presentation and style.

So get busy - the entry deadline is January 31, 2011.

Learn more and apply for the scholarship.

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