When slow is the only way to go


I recently had elective hip surgery – it was a long-awaited repair to a torn ligament for something that is often called an “athletic injury”. This term is perhaps overly flattering , frankly, for someone like me who has never been more than a mediocre athlete – better that than an “ageing injury” I guess! This operation will hopefully mean that after 2.5 years of not being able to run or cross-country ski or do many of my favourite things, I may soon be able to get back to vigorous exercise.  This rather prolonged hiatus has been challenging for me – not a terrible, life-altering, drama-filled ordeal – I am well aware of the immense privilege I have to be healthy and otherwise able to move and live my life, but it did mean that I lost, for several years, access to my favourite stress relief activities. There is nothing like being outside on a crisp sunny winter day on a cross-country ski trail. I miss that badly. Or being able to go for a nice long run to clear my head when there is too much on my plate.

Anyhow, now I’m in recovery. The challenge of recuperating from hip surgery is that you can’t move really fast – you have to take your time, walk a few steps when you feel able to, stop when you don’t and, in the first few weeks, you have to spend a lot of time lying flat on your back with some well-positioned ice packs, to let your body recover from the surgery and to allow the hip to heal. You also need to learn to ask for help and allow others to do things for you.

For some people, this sounds pretty idyllic, right? Lie on the couch all day while you are being served? Well, for me, it is very difficult.

My lovely sister-in-law came to help for the first few days after the operation and we had a great time sitting in my living room, chatting, doing our Christmas shopping online and putting the world to rights. But, once she left and I started emerging from the post-operative haze, I was forced to face the reality that my speed was going to be severely curtailed.

I do most things fast – I act quickly, I move fast, I think fast, I talk fast. Ask anyone who knows me – I tend to like having several things on the go at once. I never run just one errand, I usually strike four things off my list every time I head out the door.  And now, all of a sudden, I have become a turtle, someone who has to take a nap after going out to buy a pair of socks.  “Now you can be like the rest of us humans!” said a good friend of mine, which was perhaps a slight exaggeration about my normal speedy state and also very cute and frankly a little bit true. Maybe I do too much because I can. Because that’s how I like life to go.

So, does this mean that I have learned a deep lesson about slowing down that will stay with me forever, even when I am back to full mobility? I can’t promise that. But it has taught me a few things: not to take my health for granted, that maybe pushing myself to get 15 things off my to do list every day isn’t such a great long term plan as I age, and that I have control issues about letting other people do things for me.

Having a bit more down time has allowed me to rest, to pour over some great cookbooks I hadn’t had time to explore (the new Moosewood cookbook is absolutely fantastic, btw), visit with friends I usually am too busy to see, and drink tea on the couch. Maybe going slow(er) is ok after all.





The 1% Change Challenge

by Alexandra Fortier, MSS, RSW

“Calling all champions” is a new column that has the very transparent and direct objective to stimulate conversations, get “shelved” projects started and to make your ideas happen. Basically, the intent is to get your fire started and to get your inner champion moving! The column will be presented every month with various themes. I hope to help stimulate you and bring out your healthy competitive side to make things happen!

folded laundry

Change can be a scary thing. Depending on the situation, it can create anxious feelings of “What will happen?”, “Will I know anyone”, “What if’”… Which is why most people prefer status quo. The “Let’s not change anything; let’s keep our old habits” attitude.

However, the reality is, not only is change good, but it’s unavoidable. A great example of positive change is that of reading a book. Let me explain. If I were to pick up a book at the library and stare at the cover for 3 weeks, that would be the equivalent of “the no change” attitude. But, as soon as I turn a page, that is change. Even if you are one of those readers that read the end part first to avoid surprises, it’s still a “change” attitude.

Granted, reading is a habit that most of us don’t consider a change, because it’s already a developed habit. What is the most difficult thing to do is change something that is opposite or different to what you are currently doing. I can name many, namely changing your: sleeping habits, eating habits, exercise habits, spending habits, and on, and on, and on.

When you think of it that way, it becomes easily overwhelming and will bring you back to the “let’s keep our old habits” attitude.

Which brings me to the 1% change. This isn’t a new concept. It’s merely thinking of what you wish to change or achieve, then taking small, non-threatening, steps to creating that change and thus, changing your habits.

I’ll give you an example: 4 years ago, I listed out what my day looked like (responsibilities, chores, work, family…) and I decided on ONE thing that bugged me most, then I applied the 1% change concept. Here’s what I did.

I chose folding laundry… it’s not that it’s difficult, it’s just… I HATE it. Hum… what could I do? That’s when I came up with a win-win situation idea! I have 2 kids. At the time, they were 8 and 5. Every Saturday morning they watch cartoons… AND when we go out, they would always ask me to buy them something… So I put them to work. While they watch their cartoons, they “fold” the laundry. And because they do this small chore, I give them $5 allowance per week.

Here is the win-win: I no longer fold laundry. I developed a healthy “let it go” attitude (because the folding technics of a 5 year old is cringe worthy-but I didn’t redo their work… now they are experts!). They are happy because they get a little spending money every week. And the bonus that I didn’t think about is now they learned about the value of money. They save up for larger items and they don’t bug me in the store anymore (because if they ask, can I have this, I reply: “Sure, do you have enough money?” Which makes them think twice about the said item, and most often than not, they choose to not purchase the article in question).

The 1% Change Challenge – What will you do this week?

So here is your challenge: think of what you would like to change, then take a small step towards achieving this.

Post your ideas and achievements to inspire others to do the same!


Le défi du changement à 1%

Par Alexandra Fortier, MSS, RSW

« Appel aux champions » est une nouvelle série de blogues qui a l’objectif très simple et transparent de stimuler des conversations, de dépoussiérer vos projets et de donner vie à vos idées. Bref, l’intention est d’attiser votre enthousiasme et d’activer votre champion intérieur. Cette série présentera de nouveaux thèmes tous les mois. J’espère que cela va vous motiver et va faire ressortir votre petit côté compétitif afin de vous aider à faire bouger les choses.

folded laundry

Le changement peut être quelque chose d’effrayant. Selon la situation, cela peut créer des émotions de stress où on se demande : « Qu’est-ce qui va arriver? », « Est-ce que je vais connaître quelqu’un? », « Oui, mais »… C’est pourquoi la majorité des personnes préfèrent rester au statu quo. Autrement dit, l’attitude de : « Ne changeons rien et gardons nos vieilles habitudes ».

Cependant, la réalité est, non seulement le changement est quelque chose de positif, mais il est inévitable. Un parfait exemple de changement est celui de lire un livre. Je m’explique. Si je choisissais un livre à la bibliothèque et je regardais simplement la couverture pour 3 semaines, ce serait l’équivalent de l’attitude du « non-changement ». Mais aussitôt que vous tournez une page, c’est un changement. Même pour ces lecteurs qui se dépêchent de lire la fin de l’histoire pour ne pas avoir de surprises, c’est tout de même une attitude de changement.

C’est certain que lire n’est pas ce que la majorité d’entre nous considérerait comme étant un changement, car c’est déjà une habitude qui est bien établie. Ce qui est plus difficile est de faire quelque chose qui est opposé ou différent de ce que vous faites actuellement. Par exemple, changer vos habitudes de sommeil, d’exercices, d’alimentation, de dépenses, ainsi de suite.

Lorsqu’on pense au changement dans ces termes, on peut facilement devenir submergé à l’idée de faire quelque chose, ce qui vous ramène automatiquement à l’attitude : « Je préfère rester tel quel ».

Ce qui nous amène au changement à 1 %. Ce n’est pas un nouveau concept. C’est simplement de penser à ce qui vous aimeriez changer ou accomplir, puis de prendre un petit pas non menaçant, vers ce but, ce qui engendre un changement dans vos habitudes.

Je vous donne un exemple : il y a 4 ans, j’ai fait une liste de ce que je faisais en une journée typique (responsabilités, ménage, travail, famille, activités…) et j’ai choisi UNE chose qui m’irritait le plus, puis j’ai appliqué le concept du changement à 1 %. Voici ce que j’ai fait.

J’ai choisi le pliage du linge… ce n’est pas parce que c’est difficile, c’est juste… j’HAIS ça. Alors… qu’est-ce que je peux faire? C’est à ce moment que j’ai trouvé une idée gagnant-gagnant! J’ai 2 enfants. À l’époque, ils avaient 8 et 5 ans. Tous les samedis matin, ils écoutent les bandes dessinées… ET chaque fois que l’on sortait, ils me demandaient toujours de leur acheter quelque chose… Donc, je les ai mis au travail. Pendant qu’ils écoutent la télévision, ils « plient » le linge. Et parce qu’ils font cette petite tâche, je leur donne 5 $ d’argent de poche par semaine.

Voici pourquoi c’est une situation gagnante-gagnante : je ne plie plus le linge! J’ai aussi développé la capacité à lâcher-prise (car les talents d’un enfant de 5 ans à plier le linge vous font dresser le poil sur les bras… mais je n’ai jamais repris leur travail… et maintenant, ils sont des experts!). De plus, ils sont heureux, puisqu’ils reçoivent une allocation chaque semaine. Un bonus auquel je n’avais pas pensé est aussi survenu suite à ceci… ils ont appris quelle est la valeur de l’argent. Maintenant, ils épargnent leur argent pour s’acheter ce qu’ils veulent vraiment et ils ne me demandent plus de leur acheter des choses au magasin (parce que s’ils me le demandent, je réponds : « Pas de problème, as-tu assez d’argent? » Ce qui leur fait réfléchir un peu plus sur l’achat de l’article, et la plupart du temps, ils n’achètent pas l’article en question).

Le défi est lancé! Que ferez-vous cette semaine?

Donc, voici votre défi: pensez à ce que vous aimeriez changer, puis prenez un petit pas vers sa réalisation.

Veuillez poster vos idées et vos exploits afin d’en inspirer d’autres à faire de même!


New series: Calling all Champions! Appel aux champions!

champions team

Starting today, our wonderful associate Alexandra Fortier will be authoring a new monthly column in French and English.

“Calling all champions” is a new column that has the very transparent and direct objective to stimulate conversations, get your “back of the shelf” projects started and to make your ideas happen. Basically, the intent is to get your fire started and to get your inner champion moving!

The column will be published on the 15th of every month with various themes. I hope to help stimulate you and bring out your healthy competitive side to make things happen!

Alexandra Fortier, MSS, RSW


« Appel aux champions » est une nouvelle série de blogues qui a l’objectif très simple et transparent de stimuler des conversations, de dépoussiérer vos projets et de donner vie à vos idées. Bref, l’intention est d’attiser votre enthousiasme et d’activer votre champion intérieur.

Cette série présentera de nouveaux thèmes tous les mois. J’espère que cela va vous motiver et va faire ressortir votre petit côté compétitif afin de vous aider à faire bouger les choses.

Alexandra Fortier, MSS, RSW

Great resource! Self-Care Starter Kit

how to flourish in social work

The University at Buffalo School of Social Work has developed an excellent self-care starter kit aimed at social work students and other professionals. They have an extensive bibliography, readings, checklists and other resources. They also have a great infographic called “How To Flourish in Social Work” which you can view here.

It’s very exciting to see such good quality resources emerging from the trenches. If you are an educator, preceptor or supervisor, please share this resource with your folks. This is a great tool for all helping professionals.


Being Healthy: It’s all about Perspective

Every day this week, we are sharing with you some highlights of the upcoming Compassion Fatigue Care4You Conference June 3-4th, 2014

Plenary Session: Being Healthy – It’s all about Perspective

muscle manTake a quick look at any magazine stand at your local supermarket – the headlines are either about celebrities or weight loss (or both at the same time):  “Flat abs in two weeks”, “Miracle new pill that lets you lose weight while you sleep”, “Huge muscles” (for men) and “Strong and toned, but not too bulky” (for women). Doesn’t it get a little confusing and just a bit overwhelming? What is healthy eating? What does “being fit” really mean?

Exploring the connection between healthy minds and healthy bodies, this session features three experts with a passion for health, inside and out, and a message about keeping your quest for “health” in proper perspective.

Challenging “Self-Care”: The power of changing your attitude toward diet and exercise

Carrie Watson, MSW, RSW

Carrie Watson Counselling, Kingston

Carrie Watson is passionate about working with individuals and families struggling with eating disorders, disordered eating, poor body image, and self-esteem issues. She believes in building confidence from a variety of sources including healthy relationships, meaningful daily practices, self-reflection, and mindful living. Carrie guides her clients to consider how the body can support the life of which they dream, and teaches the value of being gentle and forgiving with one’s self. Carrie has eight years of clinical experience in community settings, and has taught at the high school and college levels. Carrie currently divides her time between her clinical practice at the North Kingston Community Health Centre and her private practice.

Nutrition: The fuel for mental health

Jess Sherman, Registered Holistic Nutritionist

Jess Sherman Nutrition, Kingston

Jess Sherman work as a nutritionist, primarily with mothers and families. She started her career as a teacher and earned degrees from McGill, Queen’s, and UofT.  But found that the classroom was not where she could most effectively help children. So she left to study nutrition and developed a particular interest in the connection between food and development/behaviour.  Jess coaches her clients in how to use food to help their children and themselves thrive. She also coaches parents around issues of self-care through her MamaCare program.

Be kind to your body: Who said fitness had to be punishing?

Renee Whitney, Personal Trainer, Owner of Focus Personal Fitness Studio

Focus Personal Fitness Studio, Kingston

Renee Whitney has an honours degree in sports psychology and is a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. With over 20 years of experience in the health and fitness industry, Renee is the owner of a very successful fitness studio in Kingston. At Focus, the emphasis is on using proper form to prevent injury, and on whole-person health and lifestyle changes.

Click here for more information

30 Speakers, 20 workshops, 3 Keynote Presenters

Hi! Sorry for the long silence!

In the coming days, I will be blogging about some of the fantastic talks being offered at this year’s annual Compassion Fatigue Conference, June 3-4, 2014. This is a very exciting event for us – now in its fourth year, the conference has grown in some wonderful ways thanks to my new conference planner, the amazing Lisa Doulas, who has taken the helm of all things related to organising the event: this year, we have 30 speakers over two days who will present on wellness, organizational health, managing highly stressful situations, mindfulness and many other topics in line with our themes of “Learn, Connect and Refuel”.  We have a great lineup of speakers, including stress expert Dr David Posen, Nutritionista Meghan Telpner and even a vice president from Cirque du Soleil! (ok the Cirque du Soleil guy is my adorable brother, but still, isn’t that very cool?)

I haven’t been blogging as much as I would like lately because all of my writing energy has been concentrated on writing a feature article for an American psychotherapy magazine. My piece is a stock-taking exercise – after 20 years of compassion fatigue research, what have we learned, what works, what are agencies doing right, does self-care really work? I look forward to sharing this with you once it’s done. Right now, I am just learning the ropes of writing for a mainstream magazine, particularly dealing with a great editor who doesn’t mince his words when he doesn’t like what I’ve written. Ouch! But I’m learning a ton and he’s being a great teacher. It’s not always a bad thing for the ego either, to be schooled into a new genre.

Next week, I am off to Victoria, B.C. to attend the International Counselling Association Conference and the Canadian Counselling Psychotherapy Conference. Nice spot to visit in early May! Given that all we’ve had in my part of the world lately has been rain and cold weather, I am excited to leave for a week and looking forward to connecting with colleagues and learning a lot at the two conferences.

So, stay tuned for more on our Care4You Conference. We still have few seats left, but they are going fast. If you are thinking of joining us, I would recommend booking your seats soon. We are also offering a Laughter Yoga session as a preconference event. One person recently told me that she is bringing her mom to it. How cute is that?

Click here for more info about the June 3-4, 2014 Care4You Conference.



Having Enough

This is a post written by my friend and colleague Robin Cameron. I received it as a newsletter and asked her for permission to repost it here. A lovely reflection on simplifying and slowing ourselves down.

Having enough: continuing 2014 resolutions

By Robin Cameron

Good morning on a beautiful spring day.  I’ve been reflecting on the “I have enough” project that I turned into my 60 day resolution on January 1, 2014.  Thank you to my lovely client who wrote to ask for an update on how it went!  So here it is if you are interested.

Project “I have enough”. 

The gluttony of the holidays, the forever searching for lost keys and the endless piles of laundry for a family who seem to wear the same 5 outfits every week was beginning to get to me.  I realized I was spending what could be leisure time sorting through our abundance.  Growing up, we had enough, we didn’t have a lot, but we always had enough, but began a habit of holding on tightly to things.

So for 60 days, I would not shop, at all, unless it was a gift, groceries, or a drug store item that had run out and we did not have an extra.

I found the experience transformative, not because I’m a big shopper, Sophia Kinsella did not write a book series about me, but because it just made me realize how many purchases are made mindlessly, tossed into the basket at shoppers drug mart as I’m working my way toward the cashier.  My daughter also got into it, she knew that we couldn’t go to staples and buy furry balls, blank notebooks and yet another package of markers.  So I received the added bonus of feeling like I was teaching a value by doing, not just by telling her how much we have, how fortunate we are, you know, the kind of lecture they tune out?

Why not do it all year?

I really wanted to be successful at the goal, so I made it timed and ended it right before our holidays would begin.

Pitfalls: is cheating always bad?

I realized that we would be on a plane on March 1st when the challenge was over, and I started to sweat when I realized that I had planned to buy a pair of jeans that I could take to both destinations, (hot holiday followed by one night at the air port hotel where I switched out our swim suits for ski gear and went to BC to see my family).  So did I cheat?  Sort of…but there was a real difference in how it happened.  Instead of just mindlessly picking them up and then deciding I failed and tossing the whole project, I did my research, picked the pair I wanted and then without buying them, went home to try to find a way to (justify?) make it work and not loose the real meaning behind my goal, which was that I had enough.  Not shopping, while transformative, didn’t do anything to reduce what I was already sorting, washing, organizing and tripping over…so

The next 60 days; MARCH AND APRIL


In the end I donated more than 30 items in order to have that new pair of jeans.  This may not be sustainable but what I love about it is that it forces me to really ask myself, do I really want this?  Here is the pile I traded for my jeans.

1 in 10 out


This goal is about Having enough Time…Stay tuned.  I am setting an intention to write to you about this next week and send a free resource.  I would love to hear how your projects are coming along. To join Robin’s newsletter please contact her by clicking here.

Quick healthy snack or breakfast: Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats


My daughter and I have been oatmeal-obsessed lately. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the long winter, but we both found ourselves craving oats about a month ago: the hearty, steel cut variety, that takes forever to cook. Steel cut oats are the best kind: slower to digest, with a low glycemic index.

We’re a busy pair: she is a high school student and a competitive athlete, and I travel a lot, on top of running this awesome business and a household, so I couldn’t imagine spending an hour a day over a double boiler! In a matter of minutes, I had found the solution online: slow cooker steel cut oats. We now make up a batch every sunday and enjoy it all week, simply by reheating it in the microwave. My daughter likes it for breakfast, topped with frozen blueberries, almond milk and cinnamon. I eat it as a midafternoon snack or sometimes even for dessert, since I found that my dark chocolate addiction was bothering my stomach. I usually add chopped walnuts, raisins, cinnamon and, if I’m feeling fancy, a small amount of maple syrup. For those of you trying to eat gluten-free, make sure that your source of oats guarantees that it has been milled in a gluten-free environment.

How to cook Steel Cut Oats in your Slow Cooker:

2 cups of steel-cut oats (beware, this makes a huge amount. That is usually enough to last us a week)

8 cups of water or a mixture of water and milk or almond milk

1 tsp cinnamon

Some bloggers recommend lightly greasing your slow cooker before putting in the oats, so they don’t stick. I don’t bother, but I probably should. It does stick!

Put all ingredients in, and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours or high for 4 hours. Slow cookers vary, so do make sure you check on your batch the first time around. My slow cooker tends to be faster than most recipes.

Here’s a delicious-sounding variation on the basic slow cooker oats:  http://www.theyummylife.com/Slow_Cooker_Apple_Cinnamon_Oatmeal