Your Health

Stop and think

Stop and think

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, January / February 2011

Stepping back and taking time to think isn't just a means to reduce stress. It's also a good way to avoid injury, says Dr. Lynne Warda, Medical Director for Impact, the Winnipeg Health Region's Injury Prevention Program.

"People kind of tune out when you say 'be safe,' but what people should really think about is slowing down because simply being in a rush is the culprit behind many injuries," she says.

Speed is hazardous to our health. The obvious danger is when we're behind the wheel, rushing from point A to point B.

But just the overall feeling that we need to get things done now, sooner rather than later, has an impact on our safety and well-being. The problem is that our fast-food, instant gratification, hyper-speed society often compels us to try to do everything as quickly and as easily as possible.

"It's the whole theme of taking it down a notch: slow down," Warda says. "That's not just regarding speed, but just the whole pace of everything. If we just take that second to take a deep breath and say, 'Do I need to be where I'm going right in five minutes?'"

Warda says everything from car crashes to falls down the stairs can in some way be attributed to being in a rush or trying to cut corners to save time. According to a 2004 report by the Government of Manitoba, the latest provincial data available, unintentional falls were the leading cause of hospitalization for injuries ahead of motor vehicle crashes. And for males between 15 and 35, all unintentional injuries accounted for more than 30 per cent of all hospitalizations in Manitoba.

Want to stay safe? The answer is elementary: stop and think, Warda says. "It's taking the time to assess the risk and then making a decision as opposed to just doing it," she says.

For many of us, taking this additional time is a bother in our busy lives. For others, it's a matter of not even thinking about the potential consequences of the risks we might be taking on when we participate in certain activities, such as consuming alcohol and operating a motorized vehicle of any kind.

"If you're walking, you might stumble and fall down," she says.

"But if you're on a snowmobile and drunk, and you make the wrong turn, well, you have just hit a tree."

Even without consuming alcohol, many people are just in too much of a rush to get things done, but if they stopped to think about the big picture they'd realize that our go-go-go attitude is potentially hazardous.

"Basically, many accidents are caused by people in a rush, looking to take short-cuts," she says. "You're not going to put out a fire, so it's better to get there in one piece than on time."

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About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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