Managing Stress Surrounding COVID-19

Federal, provincial, and territorial governments in Canada are implementing strict measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Some recent measures have included travel restrictions, school closures, and event cancellations. Governments are urging Canadians to practice social distancing and stay home whenever possible.

These measures are necessary to reduce the pressure on our health care system. When everyone gets sick at the same time, it overloads the capacity of our health care system and we don’t have the resources to treat every person. Community-wide preventative measures can slow the rate of transmission. With less people sick at the same time, our health care system has the capacity to treat everyone who is ill.

However, these preventative measures can be overwhelming, stressful, and anxiety-inducing for individuals with FASD and their families. School and workplace closures can disrupt the routines that help individuals with FASD to navigate their daily lives. Parents are left trying to find childcare options or having to take time off work to care for their children while schools are closed. Workplace closures can interfere with income, causing anxiety surrounding how families will survive into the future. Event cancellations can result in feelings of disappointment and mistrust, and social distancing measures may result in depression, fear, anxiety, and loneliness.

All of these situations can be extremely stressful for caregivers of individuals with FASD. The World Health Organization has provided some strategies for coping with stress during the outbreak, which we’ve have added to:

  • Talk to someone: The feelings of sadness, stress, confusion, fear, and anger that you are experiencing are completely normal in these circumstances. Talk to a friend or family member that you trust about these feelings. Although the government is recommending Canadians stay inside, email, text messages, phone calls, and video messaging are great ways to stay in contact with your support system.
  • Get reliable information: If the source of your stress is originating from fears and concerns surrounding the “unknowns” of COVID-19, arm yourself with the most up-to-date information about the virus from reliable sources like government websites and health agencies.
  • Limit media coverage: If you are upset and stressed by the constant media coverage of COVID-19, limit your media exposure. Seek information from reliable sources such as public health agencies and governments, and limit the time you spend on social media, and listening and watching the news.
  • Practice self-care: Stress reduction is critical in caregivers of individuals with FASD and other disabilities because of their high levels of stress. When you begin to feel overwhelmed, take some time for yourself. Even a few minutes can provide you with a much-needed reset to get you through the rest of the day. Be sure to follow the best practices outlined by the Public Health Agency of Canada and find opportunities for self-care that align with the social distancing recommendations. Researchers have shown that the most-used strategies for self-care include:
    • Quiet time (i.e., yoga, “me-time”, prayer, time in nature)
    • Physical health (i.e., exercise, healthy eating, sleeping better)
    • Social support (i.e., support groups, support networks, counsellors)
    • Hobbies
  • Recognize burnout: Caregiver burnout is a state of stress and fatigue that is caused by increased and sustained levels of stress from caring for an individual without the proper supports in place. Interventions, support groups, and short periods of rest can improve your wellbeing. With recommendations in place that suggest social gatherings be limited or cancelled, physical support groups may be difficult to access. However, there are always opportunities to connect with other caregivers virtually, including:
  • Seek professional help: If you become too overwhelmed to deal with the stress of the situation or find yourself turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs or alcohol, consider connecting with a professional. There are a number of telehealth lines available across Canada that can connect you with the services and resources you need.

Here are some resources that discuss caregiver burnout in more detail:


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This blog post is designed to give you an overview of COVID-19 and how it impacts you. The information in these FAQs was taken from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization.

In light of all the coverage of COVID-19, CanFASD would like to provide you with some information during this difficult time. We will be posting a series of blogs and social media posts throughout the week that we hope are helpful. Remember, you can always get up to date information about COVID-19 from a number of reputable sources, including:

What is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause respiratory infections in humans. COVID-19 is the official name for the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

The most common symptoms are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Other symptoms may include aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, and/or diarrhea. Approximately 80% of people recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Some people become infected but do not experience symptoms and do not feel unwell.

How does COVID-19 spread?

You can catch COVID-19 from other people who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small water droplets from the nose or mouth that are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. You can catch the virus by breathing in droplets from someone with COVID-19 or by touching an infected surface and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. The most recent research suggests that COVID-19 is not spread through the air.

How long does COVID-19 survive on surfaces? 

The length the virus can survive on surfaces depends on environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, or the type of surface. Studies suggest that COVID-19 can persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. If you think a surface has been contaminated, disinfect it with a regular household cleaner or disinfectant.

How does COVID-19 impact individuals with FASD? 

This is a very new disease, so we’re still learning the impact it has on people. Researchers do know that older persons, persons with compromised immune systems, and persons with pre-existing medical conditions, like high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, or diabetes, appear to experience serious illness more often than others. Individuals with FASD may have a weakened immune system, which makes them more susceptible to illness. Individuals with FASD who have these conditions may be at greater risk for COVID-19.

How serious is COVID-19?

The Public Health Agency of Canada has assessed the public health risk associated with COVID-19 to be low for the general population. However, this could change rapidly. Approximately 80% of the people who are infected by COVID-19 recover. Those who are 65 years and older, those with compromised immune systems, and those with underlying medical conditions are at the highest risk.

How do I protect myself? 

  • Practice good hygiene
    • Regularly wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or clean them with an alcohol-based disinfectant
    • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces with household cleaners or disinfectant, including:
    • Toys
    • Phones
    • Toilets
    • Electronics
    • Door handles
    • Television remotes
    • Bedside tables
  • Self isolate if you begin to experience symptoms; if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19; or if you have just returned from travel abroad.
  • Self-monitor if you have come into close contact with someone with COVID-19. This means monitoring yourself for symptoms such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.
  • Practice social distancing. Stay home if you are able to and avoid crowds and large gatherings. Try to maintain a space of at least 6 feet between yourself and others.

What do I do if I feel unwell? 

Stay home if you begin to feel unwell, even if you experience mild symptoms like a headache or runny nose. If you start to experience more severe symptoms such as a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, contact your local health agency. Be sure to call prior to going to a health care facility to reduce the chance of exposure and transmission. Many local and provincial health agencies have free 24/7 phone lines to help you get the advice you need. By connecting with medical care early you can reduce the risk of developing a more severe infection.

Why is everything shutting down? 

The Canadian Government is implementing community measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. These measures include public gathering cancellations, school closures, workplace measures and closures, and avoiding crowding. These cancellations and closures may be disappointing, overwhelming, and stressful, but they are necessary steps to protecting the health of Canadians.

Credit: Huffington Post

You may have seen the term #FlattenTheCurve spread through social media. This term refers to the above graph. Without public health interventions, the speed and severity of the disease can spread quite quickly through the community, overloading our health care systems. When we put protective measures in place, the virus spreads more slowly through the community, which means that the number of people impacted at one given time does not overload the capacity of our health care system. This means that we have the doctors, nurses, and health care resources we need to take care of everyone who is sick.

Remember: there is a lot of false information spreading around social media regarding COVID-19. Stay up to date with evidence-based information from your local government or health agency. Avoid repeating information if you are unsure of its source. Do not perpetuate stigma or stereotypes.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!


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Thinking of all of you at this uneasy time!

As I am sure that you are all following the CO-VID – 19 Situation, I wanted to touch base.  Thanks for those who have already contacted our office stating their  service plan ideas during this time.

In the light of the uncertainty of the COVID-19 virus and the new recommendations made by the Chief Medical Officer of Alberta Dr. Deena Hinshaw yesterday we as a FASD Network have installed some preventive measures to keep staff and our clients safe.

  • Staff are now working remotely and all meetings are now being held by phone or video conferencing.
  • All trainings for the next 30 days have been cancelled and may be offered through Skype or teleconference in the coming months.
  • All group support meetings have been cancelled at this time.
  • Updates to staff on prevention and safe practices based on information provided by Alberta Health.

We would like to work with all of our agencies as you develop your own critical  service plans and are addressing program preparedness, natural supports and community resources, staff support, etc.

Please consider ways of working less directly with clients , if you yourself feel sick please self- isolate and rest at home.

We are here for support if you need anything from us.  We realize that this is a uneasy time for all of us and we want to continue to stay connected!


Keep in mind:

The symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough or other cold or influenza-like symptoms. Use this online screening tool to determine whether you need to call 811 to get tested.


06-fruit-smoothies-mango-12PISCATAWAY, NJ – The marketing of alcoholic beverages is one cause of underage drinking, public health experts conclude. Because of this, countries should abandon what are often piecemeal and voluntary codes to restrict alcohol marketing and construct government-enforced laws designed to limit alcohol-marketing exposure and message appeal to youth.

These conclusions stem form a series of eight review articles published as a supplement to the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, which synthesized the results of 163 studies on alcohol advertising and youth alcohol consumption.

“[T]here is persuasive evidence that exposure to alcohol marketing is one cause of drinking onset during adolescence and also one cause of binge drinking,” write James D. Sargent, M.D., of the C. Everett Koop Institute at Dartmouth, and Thomas F. Babor, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of Connecticut, in a conclusion to the supplement.

Each of the eight review articles in the supplement evaluated a different aspect of alcohol marketing and drinking among young people. The reviews covered hundreds of studies that used different research designs and measurement techniques, and the data came from a variety of countries and scientific disciplines.

The authors of the reviews used the Bradford Hill criteria–a well-known framework for determining causal links between environmental exposures and disease–to determine whether marketing is a cause of youth alcohol use. The same criteria have been used to establish that smoking is a cause of cancer and that tobacco marketing is one cause of youth smoking. Hill’s causality criteria involve determining the strength of association, consistency of the link, specificity of the association, temporal precedence of the advertising exposure, biological and psychological plausibility, experimental evidence and analogy to similar health risk exposures (e.g., tobacco advertising).

Sargent and Babor note that each of the Bradford Hill criteria were met within the eight reviews, supporting a modest but meaningful association between alcohol advertising and youth drinking.

Although such a relationship had been previously known, this is the first time any public health expert has explicitly concluded that advertising causes drinking among adolescents.

Click here for full article.

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The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the FASD Prevention Conversation Project, its stakeholders or funders.

Understanding the Relationship between Predictors of Alcohol Consumption in Pregnancy: Towards Effective Prevention of FASD

by Isabel Corrales-Gutierrez, Ramon Mendoza, Diego Gomez-Baya, Fatima Leon-Larios 


Prenatal alcohol exposure can produce serious changes in neurodevelopment that last a lifetime, as well as a wide range of congenital abnormalities, and is the main non-hereditary, avoidable cause of intellectual disability in developed countries. It is therefore crucial to understand the determinants of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
This study is aimed at determining the factors that predict it, as well as the interactions between them.
A cross-sectional study was carried out using a random sample of 426 pregnant women being treated at the outpatient clinic of a public university hospital in Seville (Spain), when they were in their twentieth week of pregnancy.
A custom-designed questionnaire was used for data collection and applied in the course of an interview administered by trained health professionals. The data collected were analyzed using hierarchical regression, moderation analysis, and a structural equations model.
Alcohol consumption prior to pregnancy proved to be the most powerful predictor of alcohol intake during pregnancy. Other particularly significant predictors were the percentage of professionals who gave correct advice to the expectant mother—not to consume any alcohol during pregnancy—and perception of the risk from drinking wine during pregnancy. The number of pregnancies correlates positively with alcohol intake during pregnancy, while the expectant mother’s level of education correlates negatively.
Identifying these predictive factors will allow the design of more effective fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) prevention strategies.
Click here for free, open access full research text.

Jennifer Tourangeau Selected As Featured Artist at the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie

Date: February 18, 2020

Artist Bio and Statement Submitted by: Jennifer Tourangeau

Editors Note by: Andrea Deleeuw

Jennifer Tourangeau is a proud Two – Spirit Denesuline (Chipewyan) person and a member of the Lutsel Ke’ Dene First Nations in the Northwest Territories. She grew up in Ft. Smith, NT and now lives in Grande Prairie, AB with her partner. Jennifer attended Grande Prairie Regional College and graduated with a Visual Arts and Design Diploma in 2016 and was also the Valedictorian for her Class.

Since graduating she was employed at GPRC and helped to create and design the Indigenous Studies Courses taught there. Now she owns her own business Two-Spirit Design which will help promote her art and also is doing consultation work for the Research and Innovation Department in the area of Reconciliation and Indigenous Scholarly Activity as it pertains to the Traditional Knowledge and Ways of Knowing.

Jennifer uses the experiences of her personal life of living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), being Two Spirit and her Indigenous background to create many of her art pieces. These pieces represent an emotional response to how she sees the world and her own personal journey.

Tourangeau says, “My art practice is a spiritual, positive and restorative process that helps me to deal with the affects of intergenerational trauma that was caused through the colonialization of my nation.”

About the Art Work

#IndigenousResurgence represents how we as Indigenous People whether First Nations, Metis, or Inuit are now in the process of re-claiming, re-discovering-and re-connecting Who We Are. The background represents the colors of the Medicine Wheel which are White (North), Yellow (East), Red (South) and Black (West). There many teachings that come with the Medicine Wheel, but perhaps the most important one is that WE are all connected, and that Time is continuous, as there is no Beginning or End. It simply is. The color of the fire in the Tipi represents the Spirit of Indigenous People, and through that, we are resilient and are not going anywhere. The hand holding the eagle feather shows our connection to Spirit and that as long as we keep that connection open always to them, we are not alone ever.

To view Jen’s work, visit the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie, located within the Montrose Cultural Centre at #103, 9839 – 103 Avenue. Admission is free.

Editors Note: Jen has many gifts and she shares them generously with her community.  She is the first artist of 2020 to be featured at the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie, and currently has two art pieces displayed at the Grande Prairie Regional College. Jen’s art garnered international interest when it was published in an Australian children’s book alongside Canadian artist, Robert Bateman. When I asked Jen about what she was most proud of, she said it would have to be her “willingness to hear others perspectives, but not allowing my voice to be silenced”. By staying true to herself, Jen reminds the people around her about how important it is that we speak our truth without apology. This is a gift that Jennifer has given to me. Thank you, Jen!

T8GP is an Indigenous-led, online community intended to educate, promote local initiatives, and welcome people into the circle. We are currently accepting submissions for web content! If you have an idea for a blog post or a suggested resource for the website, please send an email to


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CANFASD: What is a #WINEMOM and Why Should We Talk About It?

Becoming a mother is a transitional period in a woman’s life involving a number of personal, social, and biological changes. However, researchers have found that our view of motherhood is influenced by our social and cultural norms. Motherhood is performative, meaning that women are expected to behave in ways that correspond to how we (as a society) think mothers should act. For example, “good” mothers must fulfill a number of requirements, including:

  • Successfully juggling their personal and professional lives;
  • Dedicating their lives to their child; and,
  • Fulfilling all socially expected roles that make up what we think a woman and mother should be (e.g., a cook, a cleaner, a protector, a driver, etc.)

However, women do not all fit into these socially constructed boxes. Their identities are made up of so much more than those three elements listed above, and many women are turning to alcohol as a way to subvert those social norms. Alcohol is an important tool that women are using to re-create their own identities of what it means to be a mother and a woman.

Enter the Wine Mom.

The ‘wine mom’ is typically a middle-aged mother who enjoys drinking refined or “classy” wines. The wine mom culture is an intentionally comical portrayal. It uses alcohol to subvert the idea of constant perfection that is often associated with motherhood. Mothers will share photos of themselves drinking wine while performing typically “motherly” duties, like cooking, doing laundry, and watching their children. The wine mom culture involves jokes comparing wine to “mommy juice” and puns such as “when they whine, I wine.”

A number of articles and editorials written by self-proclaimed ‘wine moms’ have been published in online blogs and news outlets. From the information shared in these articles, it appears that mothers are using the wine mom culture as a way to talk about the challenges of motherhood in a supportive, judgement-free community.

The #WineMom culture has grown on social networking sites, where mothers are using this community to discuss their experiences of motherhood in a perceived safe space. However, its growth on social media has led to the commodification of this culture. Entrepreneurs, social media influencers, and the alcohol industry are targeting this growing demographic in order to sell alcohol and alcohol-related products.

The issue is also that the hashtag #WineMom is normalizing alcohol consumption in a big way. Canada’s low-risk drinking guidelines recommend no more than two standard drinks per day for women, and no more than 10 drinks per week. However, sayings like “save water, drink wine” and massive novelty wine glasses reading “Finally! A wine glass that fits my needs” tell moms that more is better when it comes to drinking.

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Increasing alcohol consumption among women is problematic for a number of different reasons:

  1. Alcohol can lead to a number of different health issues, including cancer. Last year alone it is estimated that 10,700 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer that was linked to their alcohol consumption. Long term drinking can also cause illnesses such as diabetes, liver cirrhosis, hypertension, and stroke.
  2. 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, and 40 to 60% of women are unaware they are pregnant until several weeks into their pregnancy. Normalizing alcohol consumption in women of childbearing ages increases the risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
  3. Increasing alcohol consumption can increase dependency on alcohol. Women who previously participated in the “Wine Mom” culture found that they self-medicated with alcohol as a way of coping with daily stresses.

Some mothers are re-evaluating their relationships with alcohol after realizing the impact that excessive consumption had on their life. Hangovers during school-drop offs, empty bottles of wine after nights home alone with the kids, and vomiting from binge drinking after nights out with other moms have pushed some women to recognize how pervasive alcohol is in their lives and work towards sobriety.

With research showing that alcohol-related deaths in women rose by a shocking 85% from 1990 to 2017 in the United States, it is clear that alcohol is becoming a growing concern for women’s health. Despite promoting increased alcohol consumption, it is important to recognize some of the benefits that the ‘wine mom’ culture may bring to mothers. Anecdotal evidence suggests this culture provides women with a non-judgemental community where they can talk about the challenges of motherhood; it provides mothers with a coping mechanism to deal with the daily stresses they experience; and it provides them with the opportunity to re-create their identities as mothers.

Therein lies the advantage of “Wine Mom” culture: it addresses the needs of women and mothers that are not being met by society. The “benefits” that this culture provides are not necessarily healthy. However, until we address the root causes that drive the existence of wine moms, we will not be able successfully address the risks that this culture poses.

CanFASD researchers are doing some preliminary work in this area to better understand the “wine mom” culture about how it impacts the identities of women and mothers, but there is still a long way to go.

In the meantime, these anecdotal stories found all over the internet show us how important it is to meet the needs of women and mothers. We need to address social issues such as our societal misconceptions of motherhood, the lack of open and honest discussions about the true experiences of women and mothers, and the lack of healthy coping mechanisms for stress and mental health issues.

We need to provide safe and supportive spaces for women to share their challenges of motherhood without fear of their experiences being invalidated or judged. Professionals need to engage in open and honest discussion about drinking habits with women and girls and provide the support and resources to reduce consumption habits when warranted. Above all, society needs to have open conversations about alcohol, the risks associated with alcohol consumption, and why we choose to drink.


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Women’s Questions About Perinatal Cannabis Use and Health Care Provider’s Responses


Background: Cannabis use is common among individuals of reproductive age. We examined publicly posted questions about perinatal cannabis use and licensed United States health care provider responses.

Materials and Methods: Data were medical questions on perinatal cannabis use posted online from March 2011 to January 2017 on an anonymous digital health platform. Posters were able to ‘‘thank’’ health care providers for their responses and providers could ‘‘agree’’ with other provider responses. We characterized 364 user questions and 596 responses from 277 unique providers and examined endorsement of responses through provider ‘‘agrees’’ and user ‘‘thanks.’’

Results: The most frequent questions concerned prenatal cannabis use detection (24.7%), effects on fertility (22.6%), harms of prenatal use to the fetus (21.3%), and risks of baby exposure to cannabis through breast milk (14.4%). Provider sentiment in responses regarding the safety of perinatal cannabis use were coded as 55.6% harmful, 8.8% safe, 8.8% mixed/unsure, and 26.8% safety unaddressed. Half of providers (49.6%) discouraged perinatal cannabis use, 0.5% encouraged use, and 49.9% neither encouraged nor discouraged use.

Provider responses received 1,004 provider ‘‘agrees’’ and 583 user ‘‘thanks.’’ Provider responses indicating that perinatal cannabis use is unsafe received more provider ‘‘agrees’’ than responses indicating that use is safe (B = 0.42, 95% CI 0.02–0.82, p = 0.04). User ‘‘thanks’’ did not differ by provider responses regarding safety or dis/ encouragement.

Conclusion: The data indicate public interest in cannabis use effects before, during, and after pregnancy. While most health care providers indicated cannabis use during pregnancy and breastfeeding is not safe, many did not address safety or discourage use, suggesting a missed educational opportunity

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The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the FASD Prevention Conversation Project, its stakeholders or funders.