Eighth Edition: Assist in Your Community

This edition of Assist in Your Community will focus on healthy habits during the holiday season, promoting self-care, and offer insight into building a healthy lifestyle from experts in the field: Dr. Matthew Spencer, Ph.D, a postdoctorate research fellow at the University of Calgary who specializes in cardiovascular exercise physiology, and Dr. Brian Forbes, Ph.D., R.Psych., a prominent psychologist and key supporter of Assist.


Take the First Step & Find Your Stride

According to Dr. Matthew Spencer, Ph.D.
Eyes High Postdoctoral Fellow, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary
Fitness is the ability to perform physical work. As we age, however, our fitness abilities decline dramatically. This decline is influenced by other lifestyle factors, such as diet, substance consumption (e.g. tobacco and/or alcohol), and genetic predispositions.

But, there is hope. According to Dr. M. Spencer, Ph.D., regular exercise can attenuate and/or reverse the declines in cardiovascular function normally associated with aging, improving health and quality of life. While there are many known health benefits of exercise, perhaps one of the most beneficial results is the reduced likelihood of depression, anxiety, and stress. 

In order to benefit from physical activity, you do not have to be an Olympian. These benefits can be achieved through incremental changes to your daily routine. A recent study shows that even a slight increase in physical activity (e.g. taking the stairs, using a standing desk, or taking an evening walk after dinner) per day can decrease the risk of depression by a staggering 8% (Bäckmand et al, Int J Sports Med, 2003). 

Changing your routine and forming new habits can prove to be onerous. The golden nugget of advice is: start small. Begin by forming small goals that are easy to achieve. Identify activities that you enjoy. Bolster motivation by finding an exercise buddy with similar goals to keep you accountable. Diarize a specific time for physical activity; the earlier in the day you exercise, the less time you have to procrastinate about it. But most importantly, just take the first step.


Building Resilience with Positive Thinking

Adapted from Dr. Brian Forbes, Ph.D., R.Psych. 
Presentation to the Assist Board Meeting and Winter Retreat, November 22, 2014.

How you think determines how you feel at work and leisure. In order to reap the benefits of a positive perspective, do not get caught up in irrational thinking and catastrophizing. A negative perspective manifests itself in eight limited-thinking patterns:
1.  Filtering: You focus on the negative details while ignoring all the positive aspects of a situation.
2.  Polarized Thinking: Things are black or white, good or bad. You have to be perfect or you're a failure. There's no middle ground, no room for mistakes.
3.  Overgeneralization: You reach a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. You exaggerate the frequency of problems and use negative global labels.
4.  Mind Reading: Without their saying so, you know what people are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, you have certain knowledge of how people think and feel about you.
5.  Catastrophizing: You expect, even visualize, disaster. you notice or hear about a problem and start asking, 'What if?' What if tragedy strikes? What if it happens to you? 
6.  Magnifying: You exaggerate the degree or intensity of a problem. You turn up the volume on anything bad, making it loud, large, and overwhelming.
7.  Personalization: You assume that everything people do or say is some kind of reaction to you. You also compare yourself to others. Trying to determine who is smarter, more competent, better looking, and so on.
8.  Shoulds: You have a list of ironclad rules about how you and other people should act. People who break the rules anger you, and you feel guilty when you violate the rules.
Often times, a negative perspective limits the ability to think critically. But breaking these patterns of limited, habitual thought will free you to realize your full potential and build resilience for a successful legal career.


Promoting Self-Care over the Holidays

The holiday season can be  period of emotional highs and lows for many people. Good self-care is vital to well-being, and can be achieved in a number of ways:

-  Don't over indulge. Be aware of your caffeine, sugar, nicotine, and alcohol intake.
-  Make a conscious effort to get 7 - 8 house of sleep per night. Several late-night parties can be draining, magnifying stress.
-  Find new ways to celebrate. Create new traditions that redefine a joyful holiday season. 
-  Enhance your social support network by spending time with those you have meaningful relationships with, such as family and friends. 

For more steps on self-care, see 'Managing Holiday Stress.'


6 New Year's Resolutions for a Better Practice

What are your New Year's resolutions for 2015? here are some suggestions to encourage a healthy and more balanced 2015:

1.  I will book my vacation. 
2.  I will book a medical appointment for a regular check-up.
3.  I will give more priority to exercise this year by diarizing it in my calendar and taking the first step.
4.  I will tackle that file I have been avoiding.
5.  I will connect with my spouse/partner/friend.
6.  I will connect with a few of my best clients.

For more law practice resolutions, click here.


What has Assist been up to?

November 7 & 8: Assist joined delegates at the 2014 Law & Practice Update, hosted by the Legal Education Society of Alberta in Calgary, to raise awareness and encourage counter participation with Assist. 
November 13: Executive Director, Marian De Souza, Q.C., Chief Commissioner Robert Philp, and Steve Mandziuk, Q.C., were the guest lecturers in Professor Shannon Gullberg's "Professional Responsibilities" course at the University of Alberta.
November 14: Executive Director, Marian De Souza, Q.C., provided a lecture at the University of Alberta's "Healthy Habits Lunch."
November 20: Executive Director, Marian De Souza, Q.C., attended the ProBono Stakeholders Round Table at the University of Calgary.



If you found this content helpful, please consider donating to Assist. 

Upcoming Awareness Events

December 7: A 'Charity Spin Ride,' to raise money and awareness for Assist, will take place at the YYC Cycle Spin Studio on 1117B Kensington Road NW.

January 20: Assist will speak at the University of Calgary's "Healthy Habits Lunch" with Dr. Bev Frizzell, Ph.D., R.Psych. 

January 29 - 31: Assist will join delegates at the 2015 Alberta Law Conference at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald in Edmonton. 
Early February: Assist will host a Peer Support volunteer training session in early February. For those who are interested in becoming Peer Support volunteers, please contact Assist. Date TBD. 

February 20 - 22: Executive Director, Marian De Souza, Q.C., will attend the CBA National Council Meeting in Ottawa. 
Wishing you Happy Holidays and a joyful New Year!
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