Despite being cooped up with her husband, son, daughter and brother-in-law for the better part of a year, Nora Paris’s favourite thing to talk about is still her family. The Calgary-based senior crude quality analyst on the Supply, Trading and Optimization team lights up when she talks about them, the adventures they’ve had together over the last year, and special celebrations she’s planned for birthdays and other milestones.

“The restrictions have forced us to be creative in the activities we do,” says Nora. “We usually do them with other people; now we have to entertain ourselves.”

It’s a challenge they’ve met head on. In the past year, they’ve tripled the amount of hikes they do, taken up skiing and ice skating, made meals together, figured out camping without the convenience of a friend’s camper nearby, played a pile of board games, done a scavenger hunt in downtown Calgary and thrown Pinterest-worthy birthday parties.

Nora and her family in downtown Calgary during Family Day in 2020.
Nora and her family in downtown Calgary during Family Day in 2020.

Still, she readily acknowledges the past year has been tough – just as it has been for all families. She noticed her kids, 13-year-old Gabriela and 10-year-old Juan Diego, struggling while they were at home for online learning and away from their friends. She dearly missed frequent large gatherings with their friends, whom she considers family since many of her relatives are in Venezuela. And she found she had no patience and would blow up at her family over small things like dropped towels.

“We can get frustrated with each other easily; I am guilty of that,” she says. “You have to recognize there’s a problem and then talk to them about it.”

Nora’s situation is common, says Iordanka Petzanova, Suncor’s mental health specialist. “Being confined to our homes without access to our usual coping strategies, such as gyms or seeing friends, adds stress, and many people I speak to are feeling very tense around their family members.” 

This is compounded by additional worries that have come with the pandemic.

“As a company and as an industry, we have dealt with a lot,” says Iordanka. “No matter how resilient an individual is, this situation affects all of us and will have an impact on how we relate with our families and the conversations we have at the dinner table.”

She recommends that no matter how much we love spending quality time with our family, some alone time can be extremely beneficial. 

“Being together 24/7 is not healthy for any relationship. Whether we are talking about how much time we spend with a romantic partner or our children, it is important to balance that with time for ourselves and self-care - even in a pandemic,” she says. “Make time for your hobbies and the things that make you happy. When we recharge our batteries through self-care, we are able to show up and spend time with our families and loved ones in a more meaningful and present way.”

Nora planned a Clue-inspired party for daughter Gabriela’s 13th birthday.
Nora planned a Clue-inspired party for daughter Gabriela’s 13th birthday.

When it comes to Family Day (the official one), Iordanka recommends that however families spend it, they should do so free of distractions and devices – sometimes a tall order when many of us are steps away from our workstations. “Being fully present in the moment and giving others our time and undivided attention can often be the best way to celebrate each other and honour the connections with those around us.”

Nora and her family should have no problem with that as they unplug and head out to the mountains for Family Day to test their skating skills. “We’re going to showcase our new prowess on skates,” she says with a laugh.