Guest blog by Calgary Counselling Centre
Over the past couple of months, we’ve heard words and phrases like “unprecedented” and “uncertain times” in the news, social media, and all other forms of communication. These words are repeated so much because they are very true – we’ve never experienced anything like what we’re going through right now. We’re experiencing a collective sense of anxiety and unease on a global scale. Our lives have been altered and each of us is struggling in a different way. Whether it’s the person that has lost their job, the parent that is trying to juggle work and home-schooling their child, the person living on their own and feeling lonely, or the person that has lost someone they love. We each have a story of how COVID has impacted our lives.
Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of the pandemic for all of us is the unknown. We don’t know how long this is going to last and when things will go back to normal, go back to what we’re comfortable with. Consistency, routine, predictability – we thrive on these things and right now the things that we can predict are in short supply.
To cope with the uncertain, we need to be deliberate with our thoughts and actions and make choices that prioritize our well-being.
Recognize and accept what you can and can’t control.
There are many things in our lives that we can’t predict and have control over. This is especially true during this time of crisis. We need to make a choice in how we approach these situations. Accepting that what you are feeling is normal can help alleviate some of the discomfort and uneasiness we feel. It can also help to make a list of the things that are and things that aren’t in our control. Here are some examples:
What you can’t control:
• The thoughts and actions of others
• How long the changes the pandemic has brought will last
• How others treat you
What you can control
• Your thoughts
• Your reactions to situations
• How you treat other people
Focusing your time, thoughts, and energy on what is in your control can give you a sense of empowerment, even in the most unpredictable of situations.
Look for the opportunities.
Even in times that seem the darkest, there is hope and there is opportunity for growth. Look for ways to grow and improve your life in this time. Spend time reflecting on the parts of your life that you enjoy and how you can do more of that, and the parts that aren’t working and what you can do to change it.
Find ways to give yourself a feeling of accomplishment, even if it’s small. Check things off your to do list, clean out a room in your house, walk a little farther than you did yesterday. A sense of progress doesn’t have to come from huge tasks to be meaningful.
Be deliberate in looking for the positives.
In times of stress and uncertainty, it can be so easy to fall into negative thought spirals and allow the worry to take over. We need to consciously choose alternative ways of thinking. There is a quote from Fred Rogers where he said:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
We have the ability to choose this attitude and focus on the positive, loving, wonderful things that are still happening around us.
Our current situation may be frightening and frustrating, but if we make the effort to harness our ability to be resilient, we can come out the other side of this, stronger and more at peace.
It’s okay to feel anxious, uneasy, angry, or whatever you’re feeling right now. If you’re struggling, we can help – learn more.
I love our city.
I’m a born and raised Calgarian, so naturally I love the mountains, the Stampede and I love our proud culture of sport and recreation (Go Flames!). I also love our generosity, our kindness, our spirit, and our people.
We miss feeling this at our YMCAs. We miss you.
These last few months have been hard. For many, our livelihoods, purpose and sense of security have been changed in ways none of us could have predicted. At the same time, a rising unrest is passionately and rightfully highlighting the disparities, discrimination and injustice that still impacts too many of our neighbours. The tragic death of George Floyd further amplifies a deep wound in our societies. It reinforces the important role we must all play to foster inclusion, belonging, diversity and community. These demonstrations are a cry for awareness, equity and change.
This is an important moment for us to be leaders in our communities.
Together as a city, we must continue to strive for positive change for every one of us. This moment calls us to listen carefully, to stand up for, and care for our neighbours; and for each other. This moment calls us to deepen our commitment to work together and to find positive steps forward. And, this moment calls us to double-down on developing future leaders who will move us forward with empathy and hope.
June is National Indigenous History Month; an opportunity to recognize and to honour the history, heritage and diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada. It is also an incredible opportunity to recognize the strength of present-day Indigenous communities, to share stories, and to learn from culture and traditions that help keep us all strong, inspired and connected.
Our YMCA work has always called us to create experiences that give every person we serve the opportunity to reach their full potential. We are proud that our YMCA is for everyone. Now and always, that means we must work to make sure not only our YMCA, but our city, is welcoming to all.
I believe in us Calgary, and I look forward to seeing you in person soon. We’re ready to keep doing our part so that everyone feels they belong.
President and CEO, YMCA Calgary
March 14, 2020
Every day, we are reminded of the changing landscape as the world deals with coronavirus (COVID-19.) Throughout this period, YMCA Calgary has closely followed guidance from the World Health Organization, Health Canada and the Government of Alberta.
Our YMCA facilities are gathering places for community life all over Calgary and in the Bow Valley. Our YMCA is guided by the core values of honesty, respect, responsibility and caring. It is through this lens we are approaching this evolving situation and working to ensure the YMCA continues to be safe and welcoming.
As a precaution to help limit the spread of the virus and support the community’s efforts to promote physical distancing, YMCA Calgary is increasing its response in the following ways:
Membership Hold Option
- Our flexible membership hold option, which allows members to suspend/place memberships on hold for up to 2 months, has been extended to 3 months.
Health, Fitness and Aquatics
- South Health Campus YMCA location ONLY is closed until further notice. This is a request from Alberta Health Services to limit non-essential access to its facilities. Learn more here.
- We will be reducing capacity in all drop-in classes to maintain appropriate physical distancing for participants.
- We have indefinitely closed all YMCA hot tubs, steam rooms and climbing walls as a precaution.
- We have cancelled all AquaFit and Gentle Fitness classes until further notice as these are popular with seniors, a more vulnerable population to the virus.
- Fitness equipment has been managed to maintain physical distancing. This will mean turning off some pieces of equipment, as an example.
- All birthday parties booked at YMCAs have been cancelled until the end of April. We will be in contact with you to schedule a new date or to arrange a refund. No further birthday party bookings will be taken prior to May 1.
Facility Rentals (including ice, pool, gym, theatre, meeting rooms and Camp Chief Hector YMCA)
- All events over 250 participants (including any spectators) are cancelled. We will be in contact with you to schedule a new date or arrange a refund.
- For events under 250 participants, we have relaxed our cancellation policy for March and April. All rentals may be rebooked without penalty, or cancelled with a full refund.
- Rentals for May and beyond remain unchanged at this time (existing rules apply). This will be reviewed in early April and further guidance provided at that time.
Here at the YMCA we are:
- Encouraging frequent hand washing.
- Encouraging cough and sneeze etiquette.
- Cleaning common areas more frequently and deepening our efforts in cleaning and disinfecting surfaces with hospital grade cleaning products.
- Cancelling all domestic and international work-related travel for YMCA staff.
Please help us by:
- Staying home if you or your family members are sick (this includes if you are taking medications to mask symptoms such as fever, coughing or shortness of breath) and calling 8-1-1 (Health Link.) While COVID-19 is mild in most cases, people with underlying medical conditions are at most risk. While you may be okay, others in our YMCA community may not. We ask that you consider the health and well-being of not only yourself, but those around you.
- Washing your hands before and after entering program areas, after using equipment or before sending your child to a program.
- Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your elbow, and disposing of tissues immediately.
- Placing dirty towels in the towel bins.
- Wiping down machines and equipment with disinfectant before and after each use.
If you would like more information on the Coronavirus, please refer to the Government of Alberta website at https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx
Thank you for your commitment and support for our YMCA team members working in our communities every day. We will get through this, and we’ll do it as a community.
Yours in wellness,
President and CEO
We often hear the voice of Michelle Green, YMCA Calgary Fitness Instructor, in the gym at Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA. Michelle has been a part of the YMCA Calgary community for six years and continues to inspire and empower not just the people that take her fitness classes, but everybody around her.
She develops strong relationships with all members and truly pushes them to be the best they can be during their time in her classes. “I watch my participants come into a class and completely shut out the outside world. They work out for that full hour and then they leave almost as different people,” says Green. “They start to see changes in themselves which then causes them to empower everybody around them because people are so impressed by their changes.”
Michelle was a stay-at-home mom and out of work for 15 years. Absolutely terrified to go back to work, she says the instructors and staff at YMCA Calgary made it easier. “The instructors and staff embraced me and welcomed me with open arms. I was able to be myself.”
“The instructors here are the ones that empower me every single day,” says Green. “I get to watch them grow and change; I get to help them become the instructors they want to be. Seeing them grow and become these amazing instructors, and seeing their classes grow just because they are so liked, is truly remarkable. They constantly push and challenge me to work harder and be more creative,” says Green with a smile. “The instructors here are phenomenal, and they truly get me. I have become a better mom and more mindful of people because of them.”
Michelle makes a solid effort to connect with her class participants and gets to know them on a personal level. “I had a gentleman come into a registered class that I taught, and he was very unfit. He was a couch potato and smoker and was unable to get past the warm-up. He ended up lying on the floor laughing since he couldn’t believe how hard the class was,” Michelle recalls.
“I got to know him. I sat down with him and told him to keep pushing as there was a reason why he came to this class. I told him if he wants to see changes, he is going to have to work for it. After that, he came back to every single class for months and months and went from being a very unfit person to a U16 Soccer Referee. He is now a top Canadian Soccer Referee,” says Michelle. “This was a huge accomplishment for him. He wrote me a letter thanking me for all the changes I made for him. To this day, this person is still really close to my heart as I got to see him change so much.”
Our Fitness Instructors, like Michelle, try their best every single class to empower their participants to be the best they can be. They truly care about helping their members meet their fitness goals and will support them as best they can. If you have a Fitness Instructor that has empowered you, please share it with us by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about our fitness programs here: https://www.ymcacalgary.org/program-descriptions/
Self-care tips: Why yoga can help you unwind.
By: Alix W.
“Relaxing” and “parenting” are oxymorons when you think about it. When your kids are little, you are solving never-ending problems – when your kids are older, you are scared witless about how they are solving their never-ending problems. The older your kids get, the more time you have to relax, but it can still take a concerted effort to get it rolling. Like with any skill, relaxation comes more naturally, the more regularly you practice it–, the more disciplined you are building up a relaxation routine, the easier it gets. Here are some self-care tips for you! Yoga classes are the perfect opportunity to unwind – the calm, dim environment means your senses aren’t assaulted as they might be at the kitchen table or in the car. When you register for a yoga class you can start building in a regular relaxation practice around the rest of your schedule, setting a solid boundary that you are taking time specifically for yourself.
Not convinced? Here are three ways that even the most casual yoga can help you unwind.
Forces You To Take Time For Yourself – even if you don’t love yoga, even if you just lay on your mat and savasana for 75 minutes, what it gives you is permission to be uninterrupted, and permission to relax. No little minds are asking you rapid-fire questions, no emails are lighting up your phone, and there are no crumbs to sweep from under the kitchen table (again.) You have 75 minutes, trapped in a room with nothing to do but think about yourself.
Forces You To Be Aware Of Your Breath – trust me, there is no judgment here. As a mom of three kids I have taken a nap in a yoga class, even if you’re laying there barely participating, you can’t help but hear the instructor (no matter how much practice you have tuning your kids out.) Following the instructor’s rhythm with your breath will bring you a different awareness, allowing you to feel how your breath flows through your body and subtly releases tension. As the class goes on, you might find yourself starting to savor those moments where the breath is the focus of your practice, and those moments might begin to make their way into your everyday life.
Forces You To Shower After – or not, whatever! But if you do choose to take a shower after yoga class, try to do it at the gym where you can enjoy it by yourself. How many times a week do you try and shower, only to be interrupted by little ones who need to use the potty, something crashing and breaking or your phone ringing. Showering is a significant part of self-care– a shower is a physical and mental chance to refresh and start anew. If you’ve had a tough day, or if you’ve had a tough week, a shower, clean soap and even blow-drying your hair, if you’ve got the extra few minutes, can set you up for a better start.
#30day30challenge (February 1 – March 1)
It’s time to break free from your screen (and yes, we totally get the irony that you are reading this on a screen!) For the month of February, we are challenging you and your family to participate in our 30 minutes a day challenge (screen free!), the perfect opportunity to reconnect with yourself and your family. We’re doing our part by providing you with daily prompts and challenges to keep you on track and motivated on our social media channels.
Keep us up to date with how the challenge is going for you – what your struggles are, what your successes are, and what you’re surprised to feel as the challenge moves forward. Join our YMCA Calgary Parent Group to connect with other people doing the challenge: https://www.facebook.com/groups/YMCACalgaryParents
#NoPhoneFamilyDay (February 17, 2020)
With the help of our friends at Parenting Power, we are encouraging you and your family to put away your cell phones on Family Day (February 17, 2020) and spend more quality family time for #NoPhoneFamilyDay.
#NoPhoneFamilyDay is a one-day movement in which families unplug and spend more quality time with each other without the constant distraction of a smart phone. Most of our locations will be holding special activities throughout the day in honour of #NoPhoneFamilyDay. The activities will be open to anyone (members or non-members) but admission will apply. ‘No Phone Zone’ playing cards with 52 different family activities on them will be given out at each of our locations (while supplies last).
Schedule of activities:
Remington YMCA in Quarry Park: 1:00-3:00pm
• Crafts: Penguin Family, Family Tree, and Paper House
• Activities: Obstacle course, Elephant Soccer, Gaga Ball, Family Playground corner
Shawnessy YMCA: 1:00-3:00pm
• Family Open Gym Activities
• Supervised Open Family time on the Climbing wall
Saddletowne YMCA: 10 am – 12 pm
• Craft Table
• Obstacle Course
• Possible Open Youth Room time
Brookfield Residential YMCA: 10am -12pm
• Crafts in the Family Centre
Melcor YMCA at Crowfoot: 10am-11:30am
• Crafts and obstacle course
Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge: 12 pm – 2 pm
• Crafts in the Family Centre
This week a plane crash in Tehran, Iran killed 176 people, including 63 from Canada.
YMCA Calgary has since learned that one of the victims, a 19-year-old Western Canada High School student named Arshia Arbabbahrami, was a member of the YMCA Calgary family.
A participant in the YMCA Achievement Program (YMAP), Arshia was a valued and loved member of the program that provides leadership and teamwork opportunities for newcomer youth in our community.
For two years, Arshia faithfully attended every YMAP session and was known as a young man that always made an impact with his smile and positive attitude.
Since learning of this loss, YMCA has provided Arshia’s fellow YMAP youth, volunteers and staff with resources to help them cope with this difficult news.
YMCA Calgary extends our deepest condolences to Arshia’s family and friends and everyone affected by this profound tragedy.
President and CEO
We are excited to announce that starting January 10, Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge will be launching a weekly Teen Night! Our Teen Night was created to provide an opportunity for youth to interact with others similar in age, in a safe place. The program is a free drop-in program with a YMCA Calgary membership, and each evening will feature different activities.
Schedule for Teen Night
Multi-Purpose Room #2 (Meet-up spot for Teen Night)
• 5:00 pm – 5:30 pm: Youth aged 12-14 may gather in multi-purpose room #2 for snacks, icebreakers and short games.
• 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm: Organized sports activity for youth aged 12-14. Each week will feature a different sport, including but not limited to: Soccer, Basketball, Floor Hockey, Gaga Ball,
Bocce Ball, Dodgeball, Kickball, Capture the Flag and more.
• 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm: Youth aged 12-14 Open Gym*
• 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm: Youth aged 12-17 Open Gym*
• 7:00 pm – 9:30 pm: Open Youth Centre for youth aged 12-17. In the Youth Centre, youth will have the chance to socialize, enjoy some free food, play board games/ card games, ping-pong, air hockey, foosball, and listen to music. The activities offered will be changed from week to week and will include time for the youth to plan activities on their own.
If you or your teen have any further questions, please contact Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge directly at: 403-351-6673.
*Open Gym time provides an opportunity for youth to have their own space without skilled/intimidating adults and younger children.
Warm-up with free hot chocolate at one – or all – of our locations to kick off the month of Joy!
Connect with others in the YMCA community, learn about our annual giving campaign and what you can do to share that warm Y feeling with others!
Our Hot Chocolate Warm-up Schedule is below:
Gray Family Eau Claire YMCA
- 6:30 – 8:30 am
- 11:30 – 1:30 pm
- 8 am – 10 am
- 4 pm – 6 pm
Remington YMCA in Quarry Park
- 9 am – 11 am
- 11:30 am – 1:30 pm
- 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm
South Health Campus YMCA
- 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
- 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
- 9 am – 10:30 am
- 12 pm – 1:30 pm
- 5:00 pm – 7 pm
Melcor YMCA at Crowfoot
- 6:30 am – 8 am
- 10:30 am – 12 pm
- 4:30 pm – 6 pm
Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge
- 9 am – 11 am
- 4 pm – 6 pm
- 6 pm – 8 pm
Brookfield Residential YMCA at Seton
- 8 am – 9:30 am
- 4 pm – 6:30 pm
Written by: Alix W.
For most parents, back to school has a bittersweetness to it. The long, lazy days of summer are amazing. Water fights, sunshine, bubbles, watermelon for lunch, there’s a relaxed feeling in the air. Kids read books upside down on the couch, the only gear you need is flip flops and hats, and no one needs a bath, they’re running through the sprinkler every day. There’s no rushing from place to place, the sun boosts everyone’s mood, and you have the chance to create some real memories together as a family. But by the end of August, kids get bored, parents run out of ideas – everyone is ready for new company and the school year to begin.
While the transition back to school is welcome, it can also be challenging for some families – mixed emotions, routine defiance, a decline in connectiveness and more.
For families where both parents work, maybe your routine wasn’t all that disrupted by summer. Your kids might have had a blast at our YMCA Calgary Summer Camps and are used to the morning hustle, bagged lunch and full days. In that case, your family might be ready to tackle the long days of school, after school care and the routine that comes with it. For other families who just went with the summer flow, the transition may not be that easy.
Every family, every kid is different, and there is no fix-all solution to make the transition easier. For my kids, I try to add a little closure to summer, which can allow them to process the idea that we’re moving on to the school year. Create a summer photo album, and print off all your favourite photos from the last few months. Every evening spend a few minutes looking at your summer pictures and talking about what you liked best about summer. It’s an excellent way to relive some memories and then branch into talking about what they are most excited about for the school year. It also is a great routine to keep their mind off heading to bed a little early.
Once you are back in the swing of school, freshen up your regular routine:
- Find new lunch options and switch them up often
- Build a fresh play list to sing along to on the way to school
- Listen to some new podcasts on the way home
Our annual “transition routine” has helped my family keep our fun summer memories alive, easily transition back to the school and continue to develop those important family connections we build over the summer months.
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