Author: Upopolis Team

How to Give and Receive Compliments: Part 2

Complimenting someone seems like such a simple and easy thing to do. What’s surprising is the effect it has not only on the person receiving the compliment, but also the person giving it. Who knew feeling good could be so easy?!

Research shows that everyone from giving and receiving compliments because they contribute to your overall well-being. Compliments help to build relationships with one another, encourage motivation, improve communication and boost self-esteem and self-confidence. 

It’s also been said that the need to be seen, recognized and appreciated by others is critical to a positive well-being, which makes the act of complimenting that much more important! 

Did you know there are 4 types of compliments that you can give or receive?  

  • How people look:               “I really love your new hair cut” 
  • Things people have:          “Wow… that’s a cool new iPhone.” 
  • Things people do:              “You are such a great hockey player.” 
  • Ways people behave:        “You are such a good friend to me…” 

Now that we have the “giving” part down, lets focus on receiving compliments. Are we the only ones who find accepting compliments a little… awkward? If you do too, you’ve come to the right place! It’s not uncommon for people to feel awkward about what to say back to a compliment. Why does it seem so hard just to say “thank you”?!

Here are some tips to help you accept this form of praise well:

  • You guessed it… just say “thank you!” – these are two powerful words! 
  • Be aware of your body language – smile and show your appreciation 
  • Be humble 
  • Be genuine and not fake 
  • Repay with a compliment to them 
  • Match their level of enthusiasm 
  • Don’t attack or undermine the compliment

Self-esteem is vital to our well-being. With part 1 and part 2 of our self-esteem blog series, we’re sure you’re on the right track to improving your own! 

Other Upopolis blogs on this subject include:

How to Build Confidence in Teen (October 26, 2022). How to: Build Confidence in Teens – Upopolis

A Prescription for Self-Love (February 7, 2022). A Prescription for Self-Love – Upopolis

Written by Sophie, a post-graduate student from University of Guelph-Humber.

With references from Boothby’s “A Simple compliment can make a big difference”, Case Western Reserve University “5 Reasons why you should give compliments”, Penn State College “The power of compliments” and Kumar’s “10 tips of self-esteem to boost yourself easily”.

All About Self-Esteem (and how to have more of it!): Part 1

Imagine this: your friend compliments you about your new outfit. You felt so good, and flattered! However, you found that feeling starting to disappear when you realized you were unsure how to respond.

A few replies swirl around in your head….

Did you know, the type of response you give to your friend is related to your self-esteem? Self-esteem is your opinion of yourself – your qualities and characteristics.

A person’s self-esteem is described as “high” or “low” and can be a range in between. There is no “right or wrong” amount of self-esteem. However, higher levels tend to improve mental health, and lower levels can lead to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Using the above example, someone with high self-esteem would likely say “thank you so much” after receiving a compliment from their friend. People with high self-esteem often feel good about themselves. They have a positive outlook, feel happy, understand their strengths, and don’t rely on the approval of others to feel good.

However, someone with low self-esteem may shrug off the compliment and focus on what they think are the negatives instead of the positives. They might answer with something like, “oh, I hate how these jeans look on me!” People with low self-esteem may not have confidence. They may focus on negative qualities about themselves, feel they are not good enough, and often rely on the approval of others as a way to feel good about themselves.

Self-esteem is always with us. It’s that little voice in the back of our head, sometimes giving us “good thoughts” about ourselves and sometimes “bad thoughts” about ourselves. This is why self-esteem is an important part of our overall health and well-being.

Signs of Low Self-Esteem

Are you experiencing any of these? Do you…..

• Have an inner voice of self-talk that is negative?
• Find it difficult to accept or respond to compliments from other people?
• Find it difficult to accept or respond to constructive criticism or feedback?
• Have unhealthy coping methods such as overeating, drinking, or smoking?
• Avoid social gatherings or situations?
• Avoid challenges or difficult situations?
• Focus on what is unwanted more than what is wanted?
• Hesitate to try new things?
• Have a low level of confidence
• Find you are super sensitive?
• Focus intensely on personal problems?

Tips to Increase Your Self-Esteem

Self-esteem influences so many things, such as how we act, who we spend time with, whether we will try new things, and how hard we may try at work or in school.

Try these tips to boost your self-esteem and help you feel better about yourself:

Focus on Effort and Accomplishment: Make a list of all the things you are good at. Give yourself credit for your strengths and talents.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others: It’s easy to do. However, it’s a fast way to lower your self-esteem. Be proud of what makes you the unique person you are.

Do What You Love: Are you most happy reading a book, going to the gym, or shopping? Make time for these activities.

Detox from Social Media or Internet: Are you comparing yourself to online perfection? Take a break from those unrealistic and often fake images of people. Be mindful of the type of content you are looking at and if it impacts how you feel about yourself.

Hang Out with Positive People: Are your friends putting you down? Do you feel bad about yourself when you are with them? They are not likely your friends, and it could be time to get some new ones. Look for people who appreciate you and boost you when you need it.

Take Care of Your Body: Get active, exercise, eat well, and get lots of sleep!

Remember, being positive about yourself isn’t about bragging; it’s about liking “you” even though you know you’re not perfect!

Written by Sophie, a post-graduate student from University of Guelph-Humber.

With references from Kumar’s “10 tips of self-esteem to boost yourself easily” and Olivine’s “What is self esteem? A personal perception of self-concept, which can vary from positive to negative”.

Creating a world for all ages: Youth Takeover for International Youth Day 2022

Have you ever experienced ageism? It’s not something we often think about, but it’s a very common stereotype.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines ageism as “the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age.” And on this day, August 12th, also known as International Youth Day 2022, we’re joining the masses in speaking out about ageism!

We wanted to learn how to leverage the youth in our lives for a better tomorrow. Thanks to Jenna, a youth on our website, who sent us her perspective and opinions on how ageism has affected her life (see below). She also offers advice from personal experience about what other youth can do to make the world a better place, even from a young age. This is just another reminder that there is so much value in youth sharing their experiences for others to learn from!

“As a youth myself, I think International Youth Day is very important. In my opinion, the most critical point in one’s life is the time of his or her youth. Society should focus on youth because they determine the future.

I think ageism is a very important topic and it’s so prevalent in our society. I have witnessed and experienced ageism against teens by adults. For instance, we are sometimes called “snowflakes” for raising our voices and having opinions on certain subjects. During school, [my classmates and I] were made fun of for our inability to read cursive (even though it wasn’t taught to most of us), but our ability to navigate technology (something we learned in elementary school, so it’s so natural for most of us now!)

I believe ageism is more engrained in society than other forms of discrimination. People don’t even think they’re stereotyping based on age. For example, when it comes to employment, I have found that employers often believe people my age are inexperienced. In my experience, providing the opportunity for young people to gain valuable on-the-job training is often used to justify unjust practices such as low wages (that are sometimes not even livable), or unpaid internships. These types of experiences are inaccessible to young people who have to support themselves but can’t do so when they take on unpaid work. Not to mention, then they try to access social protection which can also be hindered by age-based criteria.

I’ve also really felt the effects of ageism when it comes to being involved in decisions that directly affect young people. We are often viewed as too young, too immature or too apathetic to meaningfully participate in democratic processes, which limit our ability to help make important societal decisions. Ageism is definitely an underlying barrier that people my age face.

However, I truly believe youth can help change the world if we get the chance. Here are my tips on how to help change the world as a young person and to help reduce the ageism stereotype:

  1. Volunteer or donate to charity. Contact the local volunteer organizations in your area and discover a cause that you feel passionate about to work on!
  2. Shop carefully. In my opinion, businesses are some of the most important and influential organizations in the world today.
  3. Become an advocate. Speak up about injustices in the world and get your friends involved, too.
  4. If you can’t do anything major, focus on the little things. For instance, recycle! Anyone can recycle and these days just about anything can be recycled! From newspapers to plastic to computers and old mobile phones!”

Written by Jenna, a Upopolis member. All views and opinions are her own.

Happy International Youth Day to all the amazing youth we know!

Self-Care debunked: 3 Myths about the trendy topic

This isn’t like your regular blog post about self-care. 

It seems as though self-care has been all over social media, especially because of the uncertainty over the last 2 years. Yes, we entirely support the idea of consciously adding self-care to your everyday routine, but we know you already know the benefits.  

Even though we are bombarded with information about self-care, it’s hard not to make our own assumptions about it. For instance, we might think it’s time consuming, difficult to access without resources, or that engaging in it means we’re selfish. 

These 3 myths about self-care will hopefully debunk some preconceived ideas you may have, and will encourage you to go from just reading about this trendy topic to actually taking part!

  1. Myth: self-care is anything that brings you comfort and joy. 
    • While yes, self-care should bring you these things, there is a difference between engaging in activities that support your health and wellness, and activities that are used to destress and unwind. Watching TV marathons, turning to substance use, or binge eating foods that aren’t a good source of nutrients are habits that many people turn to at the end of a long day, but may be addictive or harmful to your mind or body. While these activities may help you unwind, they don’t support you. Self-care should be adding to your mental and physical well-being. 
  2. Myth: self-care can only happen in large chunks of time. 
    • You certainly need to be mindful about adding self-care into your day, but it doesn’t need to be a whole day of pampering. Self-care can be taking a few minutes to reflect on your daily wins right before you hop into bed at night, or realizing you’re feeling stressed and taking a moment to stretch your arms and legs while breathing deeply. Self-care doesn’t need to consume your day – the little things add up! 
  3. Myth: self-care should only be done as a reward. 
    • I don’t deserve a trip to the beach because I haven’t done the laundry yet.” Sound familiar? Thinking this way creates the belief that we only deserve to take care of ourselves after we have accomplished something. When in fact, if we take care of ourselves, we have more energy to focus on completing greater things and being successful in other aspects of our life. Take care of yourself first, and the great things will follow. 

Are you ready to start your self-care habits? What’s one thing you can add to your day that takes less than 5 minutes? These few minutes every day will start to add up to a healthier you!

Summer fun while grieving… how do I do this?

Warmer days, longer nights and the excitement of school coming to a close. Summer is right around the corner, and with that comes barbecues, pool parties, celebrations and more. For many, this is what summer is all about, but for those who are navigating a death and are grieving, the idea of a social experience or celebratory event can be daunting. Am I ready? Will people ask me questions? Will I feel overwhelmed? Will my emotions take over?

These are all very normal thoughts and feelings to have while entering unchartered territory. To support you in this transition we thought we would share some helpful tips for participating in social spaces.

  • No need to go from zero to hero this summer. Setting expectations for yourself that feel safe and supportive can help in the transition. Perhaps your goal is simply to stop by the event for thirty minutes. Maybe you create a check-in with a caregiver at a determined time to evaluate your coping.
  • If you’re worried that people will ask about your grief, or the person who has died, come up with a one-liner or script that you’re comfortable sharing. This will take the pressure off in the moment and ease your anxiety.
  • Know that it’s OK to take breaks; do some deep breathing in a washroom, go for a walk, or simply step outside for a breath of fresh air. Taking care of yourself is important.
  • Identify a safe person you can speak with or call if you get overwhelmed and want to talk, or even leave.

Being surrounded by others having fun and being joyful can feel like a sharp contrast to what you’re feeling inside, and may trigger strong and maybe even unexpected emotions. It may feel lonely or isolating to be grieving while surrounded by celebration. Know that you are not alone and that there are people who can relate.

Upopolis is here to support you and is a safe space to connect with others and feel heard and understood. Let us know about your experiences this summer on Upopolis! To join, e-mail support@upopolis.com.

Positivity vs. flexibility: why one over the other?

It’s hard to avoid the “be positive” culture we see all over social media. It seems as though the key to happiness is to be positive 24/7. But for our children and youth (and ourselves!), trying to focus on happiness and positivity all the time can actually prevent us from being happy. A fitting name for this phenomenon… toxic positivity. Because it can be just that, toxic.

What is toxic positivity? It’s defined as a dysfunctional approach to managing our emotions that happens when people do not fully acknowledge other emotions such as sadness or anger, and instead preach the idea that everyone should be happy, positive and joyful.

As child life specialists, we absolutely believe in the power of positivity; on a daily basis, we work with children and youth to reframe negative experiences into positive experiences to help reduce stress and anxiety. However, before the reframing begins, we always take some time to acknowledge whatever a child or youth may be feeling, even if it’s “negative”.

We use that word negative lightly, though – emotions such as sadness, anger or frustration really aren’t negative at all since we know acknowledging our feelings helps with emotional regulation, feeling more in control, and making better decisions. That’s why we really do need them. A spectrum of emotions helps teach us, even if it makes us feel uncomfortable at the time. That’s why instead of preaching “be positive!” we should encourage the mindset of “be flexible!”. Studies show that people who practiced a more flexible mindset found better ways to deal with negative moods and experienced less depression.

So next time your or your children are experiencing negative emotions, think about them. Why are you feeling this way? What can you do next time to feel better? What are you learning from this? Once you start looking at these moments of discomfort as learning opportunities and really thinking about how it affects you, you will learn you can handle anything.

Our youth members weigh in: 4 reasons why Upopolis is the place to be!

Upopolis is a safe, secure, social platform for youth living with medical needs and other stressful life challenges to connect with other youth in similar situations. Research says that youth who are able to meet others and share similar experiences have less feelings of guilt, loneliness, stress and anxiety; they are able to share their feelings and have them validated, helping to provide them with a sense of normalcy and feelings of empowerment. While we think Upopolis is a great platform for youth to connect and help each other safely navigate life’s stressful events, we wanted the youth members themselves weigh in.

We asked our Upopolis members why they love the platform, and why they think other youth should join our Upopolis family! Here’s what they had to say:

  1. Access to Information: “Upopolis has amazing resources.” Through our experienced child life specialists, Upopolis offers a place where children can safely ask questions and access accurate and age-appropriate medical information through our medical library. Through this information, youth are able to be prepared for and understand their medical journey at their own pace. 
  2. A Safe Space for Expression: “I love Upopolis because, here, there are others who understand what you are going through.” Upopolis offers youth a safe space to express themselves. Upopolis youth are able to express their thoughts and feelings through blogging, posts, photos, the creation of ‘spaces’ and more with the support and supervision of mentors and healthcare professionals who understand their unique struggles and experiences; their feelings are validated and normalized as other youth respond and interact with one another.   
  3. Easy Access: “Through Upopolis I was able to have a safe line of communication when my immune system was compromised.” Upopolis can be accessed from anywhere in the world, 24/7. Youth can continue to access the platform during their hospitalizations so they can continue to feel a sense of connectedness. Child life specialists monitor the space and address posts, concerns, and questions in a timely and safe manner.
  4. Connecting to Other Youth: “I have met so many friends.” On Upopolis, youth are able to connect with other youth who are going through medical needs, just like themselves! There is a whole community of youth who understand the unique struggles that each other are going through; they are there for support, comfort, advice, and friendship. 

Written by Sophia, an Intern at Upopolis who just completed an internship towards becoming a certified child life specialist.

Celebrating Child Life Month with our favourite tips and tricks

We love celebrating, don’t you?

Let’s celebrate March, because it’s Child Life Month! Child life specialists are professionals who are specially trained in children’s development and work to support the positive coping of patients and families during stressful life events they may face such as illness, injury, hospitalization, loss and bereavement. 

To celebrate Child Life Month, Upopolis’ child life team wanted to share some of their favourite child life tips and tricks with you – whether you’ve been in the profession for 2 or 22 years, are a parent who has a child or youth with a medical illness, or a parent who simply visits the doctor with their child once a year, we’re sure you’ll find these quick tips helpful!

Krista, National Program Manager: Know your local community resources and supports for patients and families. Inpatient stays are now fairly short and clinic visits are quick; make sure you know about, and share, community resources, programs and virtual options to provide your patients with ongoing support and options that fit their needs.  

Melissa, Grief Island Lead: Try to provide children and youth with a sense of control when you can. Medical encounters typically leave them feeling helpless; knocking on their door, introducing yourself and asking permission to enter the room gives them back a sense of control over their environment and supports their control of autonomy. This goes for parents, too!

Nancy, Grief Island Lead: Keep it simple when it comes to rapport building tools. Markers, blank paper and a small bin of figurines are small but mighty tools that can be used to build rapport and introduce therapeutic activities with patients. The figurines may also serve as a transitional object for in-between visits. The child can borrow a special toy and use it as a touchstone to remind them of the skills learned in the therapeutic activity. The child may also exchange figurines at each appointment, building that rapport between yourself and the patient. 

Tija, Sibling Island Lead and Social Media Coordinator: When having difficult conversations with youth, such as conversations about death and dying, bring along a small item that can act as a “fidget” toy. It may seem juvenile for a teen, but playdough or a squishy ball helps to keep their hands busy during a difficult conversation; you’d be surprised how quickly they engage with them to fill those awkward silences.

Jes, Program Coordinator: Try and build rapport with the child or youth right from the first meeting with them. Scan the room for anything that can connect you to them; look at their outfit, backpack, comfort item… anything that you can use to make a connection. Finding those connections can help to enable conversation and therapeutic rapport which will help you reach the them in that moment.

Sophia, Intern: Give children and youth the information they are seeking, and be truthful about what is going to happen. Children and youth cope well when they have all the appropriate information presented to them in a developmentally appropriate language. Rather than ‘hiding’ information from them because it feels like too much, word it in a way that is simple enough for them to understand. 

Jordan, Program Support: Learning a new skill under stress is incredibly difficult, especially coping skills. Spend time exploring and practice coping skills with children and youth when there is no imminent stressor. Identify and practice a favourite breathing technique, establish a relaxing visualization routine, or even dabble in some meditation. Building mastery and confidence in these areas during times of calm helps children and youth pull upon them with success during times of stress. 

Happy Child Life Month to all the wonderful child life specialists out there, from our team to yours! For more information on how our child life team operates on Upopolis, check out our past blog: https://www.upopolis.com/2021/03/the-role-of-child-life-online-what-does-a-child-life-specialist-do-on-upopolis/

Photo credit to Hamilton Health Sciences.