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Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First – The Importance of Self-Care

At this time of year, many of Alberta’s frontline service organizations are experiencing huge demand. Even with the holiday rush over, the financial burden of the holiday season means that many people are still looking to Alberta’s nonprofit sector for affordable services and ways to meet their basic needs. Counselling, crisis support, and family and sexual violence organizations know all too well that the holidays are not always a happy time. As well, winter conditions mean that it is peak season for organizations serving the homeless.

Thank goodness for the volunteers and staff who work tirelessly at these organizations to support Alberta’s most vulnerable, especially at this time of year! For them, seeing the demand for their work, can mean that it’s hard to take a break. Stress and burnout are common in any field, but they are particularly impactful for those providing the most needed care and support. Having both accessed and provided frontline services, I know the toll the work can take, and I want to encourage staff and volunteers in high stress situations to remember to take care of yourself as well.

Remember the airplane instructions: in case of an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. It isn’t selfish to take care of yourself, even when others need help. It is necessary!

Self-care doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. Not everyone can book a spa retreat or take a week off during the busy season, but you can be attentive to your needs and carve out time for yourself. Self-care is deeply personal, but there are lots of resources to give you some inspiration. A quick Google search gives hundreds of self-care ideas, from a hot bath complete with candles to a delicious and healthy smoothie. Even volunteering can be self-care!

Psychology Today breaks down self-care into seven categories:

  • Sensory: cozy blankets, furry animals, the sound of running water, scented candles, or the sun on your face.
  • Pleasure: a meal out, good movies, playing with your dog, gardening, or a delicious hot beverage.
  • Mental: a new activity, cleaning and organizing, a challenging crossword puzzle, or reading an interesting article.
  • Spiritual: meditation, prayer, reading poetry, visiting nature, or attending church.
  • Emotional: a good cry, writing in a journal, or laughing out loud.
  • Physical: yoga, dancing, a good night’s sleep or an afternoon nap, or going for a stroll.
  • Social: calling a friend, joining a club or support group, or surrounding yourself with family.

In short, you can take care of yourself by doing what you love, connecting to yourself, and living in the moment, even just for a moment! What that looks like for you is your choice.

What do you do for self-care? My favourite self-care methods are getting some fresh air, cuddling with my cats, arts and crafts, and yoga or meditation. Please share your ideas in the comment section below!

Sam Kriviak, Program Coordinator



Guest Blog: Happy (Healthy) Holidays!


The Holidays are upon us and as our calendars fill with social gatherings it may seem impossible to maintain a normal schedule. Our partners at OASSIS have provided some helpful tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle during the festive season. 

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to get caught up and lose track of the things you normally have control of, like healthy eating habits, regular exercise and a standard schedule. Contrary to popular belief, holiday weight gain is actually less of a threat than we perceive, with the average person gaining just one additional pound. And it’s the parties we go to and the people we are around that contribute to over-eating. It’s natural to lose track of what we are consuming when socializing, and it’s the distractions that make us eat more than we should. Mindful eating is the key to maintaining balance during the busy season. Whether you are hosting or attending a holiday party, try these tips to have a healthy and happy holiday!

Be the Host to Toast

Be the Best Guest

Plan healthy, yet tempting, substitutes for holiday favourites Indulge in moderation, avoid guilty pleasures you can have any time of year
Chew gum while cooking to prevent snacking Plan your holidays to include healthy meals and exercise
Stock the bar with tall, highball glasses vs. short, wide tumblers Have a healthy snack before going to a party
Downsize serving bowls and keep them off the table Let your eyes feast first
Create a food-free space for mingling Move away from the buffet
Stock 50% of the buffet with fruits and veggies Hold your drink in your dominant hand
Soften lights and music – research reveals relaxed environments decrease consumption by 18% Notify the host of any allergies/sensitivities in advance and offer to bring your own food
Offer low-calorie foods first so guests will eat less fatty foods later Bring the host a gift other than food (ex. plant, homemade gift, serving dish, vase)
Pre-portion served food and skip second servings Stay standing and mingle
Encourage guests to get moving after dinner with dancing, skating or a walk around the neighbourhood Engage in conversation during dinner to help you eat slower and consume less
Freeze leftover cookies Don’t drink your calories
Send leftovers home with guests Offer to be the designated driver

Give guilt a vacation!

Sources: http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/holiday_entertaining/5_party_planning_tips_for_hosting_a_healthy_holiday_party




Jennifer Truman, OASSIS Employee Benefit Plans

Volunteer Recognition: Good & Cheap

Volunteer-HandshakeIn order for volunteer-run nonprofit organizations to be sustainable they often need to retain volunteers. The most important retention strategy (aside from safe working conditions) is volunteer recognition. Over the past few years the sector has begun to really stress the importance of volunteer recognition; not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because organizations likely stand to benefit from making their volunteers feel appreciated.

Last week, Volunteer Canada released their Volunteer Recognition Tool.  It is a 9-question survey for volunteers to identify how they prefer to be recognized. Volunteer managers can use this information to recognize their hard working volunteers in ways meaningful to those volunteers. Survey data published in Volunteer Canada’s 2013 Volunteer Recognition Study indicates an overwhelming 80% of volunteers simply want to know how their efforts have made a difference.

Here are a few observations we had about this statistic:

  • It is incredibly obvious. Research by Imagine Canada indicates that 95% of people chose “believe in the cause” as a primary motivation for volunteering. Of course, they want to see how their efforts made a difference – That’s why they volunteered in the first place!
  • This is good news. It’s good news because of all the ways to recognize volunteers this is among the least costly. For nonprofit organizations that often face funding challenges, it means they can adequately recognize volunteers without breaking the bank.

The Volunteer Recognition Study results are encouraging because it means volunteers generally prefer volunteer recognition methods that happen to be cheaper than others. Alberta’s nonprofits might not all have big budgets, but it’s safe to say they have lots of heart. A sincere heartfelt ‘thank-you’, whether in the form of a cup of coffee, phone call, letter, post-it note, or Volunteerville post, might be just what they are looking for.

Please keep in mind that volunteer appreciation events do have value and some people enjoy being recognized publicly. But, the survey results show that volunteers don’t necessarily volunteer their time expecting a public thank you along with a free burger. National Volunteer Week is an important opportunity for our sector to recognize volunteers. NVW Enhancement Funding, which is available to Volunteer Alberta members, can go a long way in helping communities rally around their volunteers without stretching their budgets. But volunteer recognition is a year-round activity and different approaches, whether formal or informal, are valuable. The important thing is that recognition efforts are personal and help connect the volunteer with the value of their role.

How do your volunteers prefer to be recognized? Have them use the Volunteer Recognition Tool and find out!


Tim Henderson, Program and Communications Coordinator

The Art of Volunteering

Slow - Marcia Harris

Slow – Marcia Harris

In November, I will become the proud new owner of the beautiful painting ‘Slow’ by Alberta artist Marcia Harris, all because I volunteered for 100 hrs this year!

Let me explain. In November 2013, I attended the 5th annual Edmonton Timeraiser, an innovative event with a unique approach to volunteer recruitment. Timeraiser is a volunteer fair and art auction combined into one fantastic night out – the twist is that participants bid on the artwork with volunteer hours, not money.

The event creates a win-win-win scenario:

  • Art is purchased for market value from local emerging artists, and put on display to a crowd of art lovers
  • Nonprofit organizations are able to meet with a captive audience of potential volunteers
  • Participants enjoy a great evening of art, company, and food as well as access to a wide range of volunteer opportunities. Winning a piece of art is an added bonus!

While this sounds wonderful, looking at Timeraiser simply in terms of dollars, it may beg the question of why volunteers are being paid so well (beautiful art at market value doesn’t come cheaply) when volunteering is supposed to come from the heart. But there is much more happening.

Through Timeraiser people are brought together around art and community, connecting with organizations in need of helping hands (and minds) while enjoying art they may never have seen otherwise. Through these connections an emerging artist may gain new admirers and an organization can share their cause with potential volunteers. Most participants will make a connection with an organization that leads to a rewarding experience, offering the volunteers knowledge, skills, community, and fulfillment. Participants might also win a piece of art that they may not have been able to afford in dollars but will enjoy as much as any art collector.

While this was the first year I won art, I have found volunteer opportunities through Timeraiser many times now! After placing a winning bid this year I started volunteering with two of the organizations I met at the event, helping to achieve the ultimate goal of Timeraiser – creating volunteer impact in my community. For me, the art piece was a catalyst. While I will certainly be thrilled to get it on my wall, the real benefit was in the value of volunteering, both personally and for my community.

So far, Timeraiser has been a huge success. They have opened the door to innovative volunteer recruitment, adding elements of community building, and appreciation for arts and culture, proving sometimes all it takes to make an impact is an innovative idea.

Edmonton’s 6th Timeraiser is on November 8th. Nonprofit applications are now closed, however tickets are still available – enjoy a fancy night out surrounded by art and awesome volunteer opportunities!

Sam Kriviak, Program Coordinator

Guest Blog: Does our employee benefit plan cover that?

OASSIS logo 2014A critical element in the formula for a meaningful employee benefit plan is its value, as experienced by the organization’s employees.

For most people, delving into the coverage details of any insurance policy booklet is an activity best left for a night with insomnia or until the time of a claim. Generally, the details of insurance coverage are only of interest when there is an immediate need to use it.\

Timely communications can really help employees get the most from their benefit plan and can drive the value of this employer sponsored benefit way up.

A majority of nonprofits simply don’t have a dedicated plan administrator or human resources person to provide ongoing plan education to members; so it’s easy to miss great features.

Plan members are often surprised and pleased to hear about some of the lesser-known coverages typically included in employer-sponsored group benefit plans like:

• Pre-trip travel assistance – information about required vaccinations, VISA/document requirements for entry, travel advisories, etc.

• Travel Medical Insurance – this coverage can save employees $100’s of dollars per trip on the cost of out of country travel medical insurance.

• EAP legal and financial consulting services – with items including a completely legal, self-serve, fill-in-the-blanks Canadian will kit.

• Home nursing services

• Mobility aid cost reimbursement – for amounts over the government Assistive Devices Program

A benefit plan partner can help members get the most out of their benefit plans; OASSIS provides monthly Employee & Employer Benefit Connector Newsletters chock full of great-to-know plan information.


Jennifer Truman, OASSIS Employee Benefit Plans

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