Monday, December 09, 2013


Avoid the holiday hype and stress that comes along with it

The holidays are here and friends of mine are already feeling the stress.  One even said, “I can’t wait for the holidays to be over.” 
She said she wishes she could go back to a time when we were children, unaware of the pressure to cook big holiday feasts, host or attend numerous holiday parties, shop for the perfect presents for friends, family, and co-workers, and more.  Many of us can identify with this feeling. 

My primary care provider, Dr. Terry Baksh, recently told me his patients present with an increasing amount of stress, anxiety and depression as the holidays approach, especially his older patients.   He suggests that we look for signs of depression in our family and friends and perhaps spend more time with them. They might also welcome being called more frequently.  

Two things might help us focus our efforts on de-stressing:  prioritizing and simplifying.  Our intentions are good; we tend to want to make everyone happy.

But we need to accept that we can’t do it all. We need to write down the absolute “must do” tasks, and cross off the “nice to do but unnecessary” things off our list.
My colleague Dr. Eric Sandberg of the Backus Center for Mental Health suggests simplifying the gift giving and holiday hype. For example, it doesn’t have to be a Currier and Ives perfect picture with dozens of gifts under the tree. He had a great suggestion, one that worked for his family:  each family member gives one — and only one — meaningful gift to each other. 

Getting the family involved in purchasing and donating gifts to one needy family, identified by the local social service agency, is a good way to recapture the holiday spirit. 

Many workplaces are foregoing the co-worker gift-giving tradition and donating the money to their “adopted” family.  Every day this month, The Day is publishing “Make a Difference” on the front page describing a local person or family needing some assistance for the holidays and how we can help.

With a little less holiday hype and stress, we will be better able to focus on the true meaning of the holiday season: thankfulness and gratitude for the blessings we have been given. 

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

Monday, December 02, 2013


Cinnamon and spice isn’t always so nice

I'm always happy when my kids come home from school excited about something they learned. They asked if we had ground cinnamon. I thought they wanted cinnamon on apple slices.  Silly me. They told me they wanted me to do the “Cinnamon Challenge,” to try and swallow a spoonful of cinnamon in 60 seconds without any water. All the kids at school are trying it and it’s in YouTube videos.

I asked them what happens to the people in the YouTube videos that have tried this challenge.  They explained that they usually gag, cough, and the cinnamon comes flying out of their mouth or nose like dust.  They said many of the people in the videos say it burns. “It’s pretty funny,” they said.

We watched a YouTube video together. I asked them if it looks like he is having fun. He’s gagging, coughing, he looks in pain.

I advised them to please NOT try this challenge/prank or any other. I tried calmly, as calm as a mom who’s a nurse can be, to explain why this challenge is so dangerous. 
Ground cinnamon is made from tree bark and contains cellulose fibers that do not easily break down. When a large amount of cinnamon is placed in the mouth the individual will begin to gag, cough, choke, and even vomit. Cinnamon can cause irritation to the throat and lungs if inhaled. The irritation to the lungs may cause shortness of breath and trouble breathing. Even worse, cinnamon in the lungs could cause pneumonia, a lung to collapse, scar tissue to develop or permanent lung damage.

The “Cinnamon Challenge” is no joking matter. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the number of calls received about kids doing this prank has increased dramatically, from 51 in 2011 to 222 in the last year.

I told my kids I love a good prank, but not one that endangers their life or someone else’s. I asked them to share the truth about this potentially dangerous challenge/prank with their friends who may want to attempt it.  Let’s all spread the word and encourage everyone to “just say no” to the cinnamon challenge. 

Lisa Cook is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Cook or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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