Infographic -How Depression Affects Your Body
Infographic –Asthma Attack vs. Panic Attack: What’s the Difference?
Infographic – Understanding mRNA Vaccines
Article – How Do I Thoughtfully Communicate With Someone Struggling With Their Sexuality?
Article –Add Forest Bathing to Your Self-Care List!
Quiz – How Well Do You Know Your Heart?
FAQ – 3 Frequently Asked Questions About Fertility After 35
FAQ – What Does It Mean to Be Sex-Positive?
How Do I Thoughtfully Communicate with Someone Struggling with Their Sexuality?
If you know someone that is struggling with their sexuality – be it your sibling, friend, cousin, or child, and you want to do more to support them, the first step is to familiarize yourself with key terms. A shared use of terms and meanings when it comes to gender and sexuality will facilitate conversation and help frame questions and communicate clearly!
LGQTBA+ individuals are often stigmatized and marginalized, as many communities and cultures can be dismissive or openly hostile. Adolescence is a challenging time for everyone but sexually minoritized youth often experience higher levels of social isolation, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression, and higher levels of suicide.
Key Terminology for Defining Sexuality:
LGBTQIA+: this is an acronym identifying sexually minoritized groups. It stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual/Allies. The acronym is designed to convey that sexuality and gender are fluid and that the language is evolving.
Sex: Sex assigned at birth is only one component of sexuality. This assignment is made depending on the sex organs with which a person is born. Usually this is an assigned “boy” or “girl,” but “intersex” is used to describe a baby with sex organs that may be underdeveloped or appear to resemble both sexes.
Gender: This conveys how people feel about themselves: does one identify as a boy, a girl, or neither? A person’s gender identify is not always the same as their assigned sex at birth. Common ways to describe gender are:
- Cisgender: a person whose gender identity is the same as their sex assigned at birth.
- Transgender: a person whose identity is different from their sex assigned at birth.
- Nonbinary: a person who does not identify with only one gender.
- Genderfluid: a person whose gender identity and expression are fluid and change depending on personal circumstance and desire.
- Gender non-conforming: a person whose gender expression does not conform to what society deems appropriate for a perceived gender.
Sexual orientation: This refers to sexual attraction to other people. Common terms to describe sexual orientation include:
- Straight (heterosexual): being attracted to people of the opposite gender.
- Gay or lesbian (homosexual): being attracted to people of the same gender.
- Bisexual: being attracted to both genders.
- Pansexual: being attracted to any gender identity.
- Asexual: used to describe a feeling of no sexual attraction to people at all.
It is important to know that sexual orientation exists on a continuum. Words such as straight, gay, lesbian, and bisexual assume there are only two genders: male and female. Since certain people do not identify with either of these genders, they may feel as though none of these words describe them.
Sexuality is about more than being biologically male or female, and more than the act of sex. It is a complex idea that also includes how you think about yourself and how you feel about other people in society.
Lack of support for sexually minoritized people can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Family acceptance and social support has led to greater self-esteem and decreased depression and lower rates of self-harm. The first step in helping someone you care about feel accepted and supported, is allowing them to talk about an often-confusing set of feelings. Understanding shared terminology around sexuality can help you find the right words when you’re looking for a place to start!
- Coker, T. R., Austin, S. B., & Schuster, M. A. (2010). The health and health care of lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents. Annual review of public health, 31, 457–477. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.publhealth.012809.103636
- Robertson, S. (2020, April 30). Module 8: Social Identities: Sex, Gender and Sexuality – Foundations in Sociology I. Pressbooks.
- Committee On Adolescence (2013). Office-based care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. Pediatrics, 132(1), 198–203. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2013-1282
- Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (2013). Recommendations for promoting the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents: a position paper of the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. The Journal of adolescent health: official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 52(4), 506–510. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.01.015
Add Forest Bathing to Your Self-Care List!
If you are looking for simple activities throughout the day to improve your self-care, de-stress and practice mindfulness, add forest bathing to your list!
What is forest bathing? Shinrin-yoku as it is known in Japan, translates to “forest” and “bath”, and is as literal as it sounds. It belongs to a new field of medical science called forest medicine. Shinrin-yoku involves spending time in the forest – whether it’s meditative walking, sitting by a tree or simply surrounding yourself among trees and noticing all the scents and sounds around you.
Trees and forests are well known for their role in cleaning the air, but in addition to that, they directly benefit us, humans, as well. As an example, a chemical released by trees and plants, called phytoncides, has been found to boost our immune systems.
Since 2004, Japan has led the way in researching forest medicine, and has conducted several studies on the effects of forest therapy on human health. Many countries have already adopted this practice as a natural way to improve both mental and physical health. In fact, a study of over 150 people in Japan found that even 2 hours spent in a forest had clinically significant benefits, including:
- Lowered blood pressure
- Reduction in the body’s fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system)
- Activation of the body’s rest and digest response (parasympathetic nervous system)
- Improvement in depressive symptoms
- Reduction in stress hormones like cortisol
- Increase NK cells (these cells are an important part of the immune system and have a major role in cancer prevention)
You may even see rapid benefits after spending just 2-3 hours in a forest a few times a week. So leave your phone and camera at home, and adjust to spending time in the wilderness.
Here is a mindfulness exercise you can do while trying forest bathing on your own. This exercise can help you better connect to your environment. It is called the 5 senses exercise:
Begin by taking 2 or 3 deep breaths. Then ask yourself the following questions
What is something I can see? (For example: Take in the colors and patterns of the trees and the sky and branches)
What is something I can hear? (For example: Hear birds chirping, leaves rustling)
What is something I can smell? (For example: Fresh air, bark)
What is something I can taste? (For example: Taste the air)
What is something I can feel? (For example: touch the leaves, flowers, tree trunks)
Tip: You don’t have to have an answer for everything but still ask yourself each question
Think of forest therapy as a natural way to boost your wellbeing. As we are getting used to more time indoors, it is important to remember to still connect with nature and your surroundings. Take this time to quiet your mind and let your body be your guide.
Furuyashiki, A., Tabuchi, K., Norikoshi, K., Kobayashi, T., & Oriyama, S. (2019). A comparative study of the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku) on working age people with and without depressive tendencies. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 24(1), 46. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12199-019-0800-1
Li Q. (2019). Effets des forêts et des bains de forêt (shinrin-yoku) sur la santé humaine : une revue de la littérature [Effect of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) on human health: A review of the literature]. Sante publique (Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy, France), S1(HS), 135–143. https://doi.org/10.3917/spub.190.0135
How Well Do You Know Your Heart? Test Your Knowledge!
Myth or Fact?
1. The sound of your heartbeat is actually the sound of your heart valves opening and closing. (FACT)
The sounds of the heartbeat are the heart valves opening and closing during one cycle. Other heart sounds are created from blood flowing through the heart chambers. The heart has 4 chambers!
2. Every living cell in your body receives blood from the heart. (MYTH)
The cornea in your eye does not receive blood from the heart.
3. On average, a woman’s heart beats faster than a man’s. (FACT)
The human heart beats approximately 70 to 85 times per minute in an average adult. An average adult male heart rate is between 70 and 72 beats per minute, while the average for adult women is between 78 and 82 beats. This difference is mainly due to the size of the heart, which is typically smaller in females than males. The smaller female heart pumps less blood with each beat, and therefore needs to beat at a faster rate!
4. Your heart will still beat even if it’s separated from your body. (FACT)
The heart has its own electrical system which doesn’t rely on the brain. The heart will continue to beat as long as it has oxygen. This is why a heart may continue to beat after brain death or even after being removed from the body.
5. Happiness and positive feelings, such as enthusiasm and hopefulness, reduce your risk of heart disease. (FACT)
A 2007 study that followed more than 6,000 men and women aged 25-74 for 20 years found that having a sense of enthusiasm, hopefulness, engagement in life, and the ability to face life’s stresses with emotional balance does appear to reduce your risk of coronary heart disease.
- Prabhavathi, K., Selvi, K. T., Poornima, K. N., & Sarvanan, A. (2014). Role of biological sex in normal cardiac function and in its disease outcome – a review. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR, 8(8), BE01–BE4. https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2014/9635.4771
- Oberman R, Bhardwaj A. Physiology, Cardiac. [Updated 2020 Jul 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK526089Kubzansky, L. D., & Thurston, R. C. (2007).
- Emotional vitality and incident coronary heart disease: benefits of healthy psychological functioning. Archives of general psychiatry, 64(12), 1393–1401. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.64.12.1393
3 Frequently Asked Questions about Fertility after 35
Nowadays, It is common to have children later in life. This has happened for a variety of reasons, including:
- Choosing to get married later in life, as there are now more opportunities for further education and career advancement.
- Couples often wait until they have achieved certain financial and personal goals before planning for a family.
Here are responses to some common questions about fertility and pregnancy after 35:
Why do we often hear that it is much more difficult to get pregnant after 35?
The chances of getting pregnant decline as we get older, mainly because the number of eggs produced start to decrease with age. After 35, women are also at greater risk of pregnancy complications. Despite these possible challenges, many women in their mid- to late-40s and early 50s still have good pregnancy outcomes, birth healthy children, and cope well with parenting. So, this should alleviate your worries if you are 35 (or older) and wondering if it is possible to have a healthy pregnancy.
Another important consideration is the evolution of science, which has opened up different fertility options and treatments. If you are trying to conceive after 35 but are not having much luck, speak to your doctor. It is reasonable to seek help, even 6 months after trying to conceive, to see what your options are.
What can be done to increase chances of pregnancy after 35?
As we age, our lifestyle habits become more important – some bad habits from your younger days may not be helpful to conceiving. Here are some things to consider to increase your chance of pregnancy:
- Maintain a healthy diet: For females, this is important for both fertility and ovulation. This involves reducing coffee and caffeine consumption, as well as reducing sugar and alcohol intake. For men, eating a balanced diet, high both in vegetables and fruit can improve the quality of semen.
- Maintain a healthy body weight: For females, being underweight or overweight can increase risk of infertility.
- Reduce stress: High levels of stress in both males and females, along with anxiety and depression has been associated with infertility.
- Quit smoking: Smoking can reduce sperm count in men and overall fertility in women.
Does the male’s age and health status matter?
Yes. Often, there is much focus on a women’s age and health status when in fact the male partner plays an equally important role. Fertility and miscarriage rates increase with age for both the males and females. In addition, male lifestyle habits can impact fertility as well – smoking, alcohol and recreational drugs have also been shown to reduce chances of fertility.
It is often difficult to time your life perfectly!
If you wanted to have children early but had to wait for the right pieces to fall into place, be kind to yourself. Try not to add stress by feeling upset or regretful. Remember you are on your own journey, and starting a family at a time that is right for you is more important than having kids when you are not ready.
- Wallace, W. H., & Kelsey, T. W. (2010). Human ovarian reserve from conception to the menopause. PloS one, 5(1), e8772. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0008772
- Simchen, M. J., Yinon, Y., Moran, O., Schiff, E., & Sivan, E. (2006). Pregnancy outcome after age 50. Obstetrics and gynecology, 108(5), 1084–1088. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.AOG.0000240139.46018.bd
- Sharma, R., Biedenharn, K. R., Fedor, J. M., & Agarwal, A. (2013). Lifestyle factors and reproductive health: taking control of your fertility. Reproductive biology and endocrinology : RB&E, 11, 66. https://doi.org/10.1186/1477-7827-11-66
How to Embrace Sex-Positivity this Valentine’s Day
A negative or uncomfortable relationship with sex and sexual health is something that shapes so many of our life experiences. We most often hear about the risks of spreading sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS, the risk of unplanned pregnancies, and the shame of having sex in certain cultures. Furthermore, women are raised to think about sex as only for child-bearing and not for pleasure. In fact, a global survey on sexual attitudes and behaviors in 2005 indicated that the most common problems among women worldwide were a lack of sexual desire and an inability to orgasm.
To flip the script for Valentine’s Day, it is a great opportunity to openly talk to your partner about your desires and pleasures. There is now a growing discussion around how we understand ourselves sexually, how the interactions we have with the world and with our partners shape our messages and understanding of sex, and what are the benefits of sexual satisfaction, sexual self-esteem, and sexual pleasure.
What is sex-positivity?
Being sex-positive celebrates sexual diversity, differing desires, relationship structures, and individual choices based on consent. It is the idea that each person has the right to experience sex, and express their sexuality without shame or judgement. A sex-positive approach is about embracing human sexuality and looking at it as something that can be valued and celebrated.
Can it increase your well-being?
Embracing your sexuality can have positive effects on both physical and mental health and our overall well-being. It can also be fun, increase your happiness, and be pleasurable. Pleasure will not be the same for everyone, so it is important to learn about your own sexual preferences, as well as your boundaries. Sex-positivity removes the shame and judgement from sex, sensuality, and sexual experiences. Often, these same judgements create a miserable experience for people instead of viewing it as healthy, natural, and healing.
Does being sex-positive have to involve sex?
No, not everyone derives pleasure from sex, and not everyone is interested in having sex. Rather, being sex-positive empowers you to be more open and proactive around your understanding about sex and sexuality, rather than carrying shame or secrecy around.
This Valentine’s Day challenge yourself to do the work to accept your own sexual identity and sexual desires, you may realize you want sex or a certain type of sex. This does not mean that you are bad or that you are wrong – it is okay! It gives you the opportunity to choose to communicate more openly and proactively about sex, rather than carry shame or secrecy. Having conversations about sex with your partner will enable you to have open, proactive, and mature conversations around sex.
- Anderson R. M. (2013). Positive sexuality and its impact on overall well-being. Bundesgesundheitsblatt, Gesundheitsforschung, Gesundheitsschutz, 56(2), 208–214. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00103-012-1607-z
- E.O. Laumann, A. Nicolosi, D.B.Glasser, A. Paik, C. Gingell, E. Moreira, T. Wang. (2005). Sexual problems among women and men aged 40–80 y: Prevalence and correlates identified in the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors. International Journal of Impotence Research, 17(1), 39-57. https://www.scopus.com/record/display.uri?eid=2-s2.0-14544281524&origin=inward&txGid=e71c09784edee64aae05cc8c4bb2c69b