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

Take 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.

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Work life balance: A load of bunk?

Happy New Year dear readers!

To say that I have been incredibly busy during the past six months is pretty much the understatement of 2013. Since July, I have worked with folks from L.A. County Courts, cancer care workers in Bermuda, amazing trauma therapists in New Haven, visited Vancouver three times to present to ObGyns and refugee protection staff (not at the same time…)

I also met staff from the UNHCR, presented at a children’s hospital in San Diego and had incredible learning experiences with fantastic helping professionals at Mount Sinai hospital in Toronto.  My wonderful team of associates have also been busy, travelling to Indiana, Newfoundland and also offering a lot of training right here at home in Ontario. We presented on compassion fatigue, secondary and vicarious trauma, self care, conflict, change leadership, and developed a brand new training on rendering bench decisions to refugee claimants.

I also had the chance to co-develop a new workshop with my friend and colleague Leslie Anne Ross, from the Children’s Institute in Los Angeles, called “a Roadmap for Change Agents.” We are firm believers that the best way to promote healthy workplaces is to encourage the emergence of champions in each agency. This was an opportunity to share best practice ideas with folks from various child welfare departments in L.A. County, and encourage them to spread the learning about healthy workplaces.

Yes, it’s been nuts. But it has also been the most professionally rewarding year of my career. I would like to highlight some personal and professional learnings from the past year and see if some of them resonate for you: Read More

New Year – new projects

Hi, I’m back! It’s been a while since I have had the chance to write a post. The Fall turned into a bit of a whirlwind and time ran away from me. I have a lot of things to share with you in terms of upcoming events and training resources but I will let you know about these in a couple of days as I am waiting for one event registration to go live on the website before I make the announcement – so please come back in a few days. As always, I welcome your feedback and comments, so don’t be shy to email me a note or post a comment on the blog.

This was a very rewarding Fall for me professionally and a challenging one on the personal front: I had the chance to travel to Los Angeles twice to work with some wonderful people in the field of child welfare (and make some new friends along the way), Read More

Who guards your time?

A friend of mine who works in a very busy children’s mental health centre came to work one day to find this life sized Power Ranger guarding her office. If I got the story straight, some of her staff thought she could put him in front of her door to let people know to leave her alone when she needs time to work on stuff. He is her guard. Isn’t that fantastic? Now, of course, only in Los Angeles would you be able to find a full sized action hero mannequin, right? (that’s me on the right, giving him a little squeeze, for those who have never met me).

So here is my question for you, dear reader, on this beautiful Sunday morning, before I dash off to yoga: Who guards your time? Who protects you from unwanted incursions? Do you have a clear sign (or a big red guy) that lets the world that you need to be left alone? How would I know, if I was your friend or your work colleague, that you do not want to be disturbed? Do you answer your phone at all hours of the night and day, or are you comfortable setting limits on calls, texts and emails? Can people drop in on you unannounced any time or are you clear on what works and what does not work for you?

There are ways to set boundaries where you can still be kind and warm to others. Then there are days where I just feel like wearing a t-shirt that says **** off! What are your best strategies?

Chip away at your “to do” lists

I don’t know about you, but I tend to have a feast or famine type of schedule. Well, never really famine, but my work tends to follow seasonal peaks and valleys – December tends to be a quieter month on the workshop front, which gives me a chance to regroup from the Fall months and prepare for the holidays, and the end of June marks the end of my training season until the Fall rolls around again. Once the Compassion Fatigue Conference is done, I tend to spend a week in recovery mode (napping, dealing with email backlog, reading novels and taking time to smell the peonies in my garden). Then after about a week, I start getting a surge of a different kind of energy – not the workshop development vibe, but the “let’s chip away at the piles” type of groove. This is quickly followed by “holy s***! There is so much to do! Which could then easily be followed by feeling discouraged and going back to the couch to read more of Tilda Shalof’s new book and eat more cherries. But here’s what I do instead, and it works every time: I trick myself into getting through the piles. Take my freezer, for example: Read More

A good read: 5 excuses that keep you unhealthy

As someone who travels quite a bit (in the next few weeks I am going to Philadelphia, Toronto, Ottawa, Cuba, Mississauga, Thunder Bay and Newfoundland, in that order), I often find it a struggle to eat healthily and exercise when I’m on the road. It’s not just a matter of willpower, it’s also the fact that healthy food is always harder to get your hands on than refined carbs when you’re away from home. We know it’s cheaper to put danishes on a table than a fruit tray, so conference organisers with tight budgets opt for the danishes and muffins. Thankfully, this is improving gradually – I was thrilled to find a juicer in the last hotel I stayed at: in the buffet line, next to the sausages and pancakes was a tray full of fresh cut up vegetables and fruit and a juicer! Heaven. The Toronto Eaton Centre has a new vegan fast food outlet in their “urban eatery.” I now try to pack a cooler before I leave home, when that is possible. I pack fresh fruit, cut up vegetables, almonds, nut butter, hummus, healthy crackers, herbal tea, water, Lara bars, an avocado and some dark chocolate (you gotta live a little!). Sometimes I make a quinoa salad to eat on the road. I try to eat protein and vegetables and skip the refined carbs. If I don’t have time to pack food or if I’m crossing the border, I bring nuts and seeds and Lara bars and try to eat sushi and find some juice bars along the way.

I may not have the time or energy for a full workout, but I try to do pushups, planks and squats in my hotel room, if I’m too tired to go down to the hotel gym (and some of those “fitness rooms” are seriously awful – rattly treadmill in a broom closet, anyone?). If you only travel once in a while, you can get in the mode of “this is special – let’s treat ourselves” but at some point, those special exceptions turn into regular habits and pretty soon you’re a bloated, tired, out of shape road warrior.

Whether you travel or not, you may find that you struggle with sticking to healthy habits. Many people say “I don’t have time to exercise” or “I’m too out of shape, I don’t even know where to start”. Just for you, here’s a good read from Leo Babauta’s website Zen Habits: “5 excuses that keep you unhealthy.” 

Let me know if you have any strategies to battle the inertia of healthy eating and exercise when you are on the road!

(Image from gameanna)

A midwinter check-in with yourself


It’s February 14th. Heart day, V-Day. Whatchamacallit day.

Yesterday, I stealthily baked heart-shaped cookies for my children and their friends right before my daughter came home from school. I aired out the kitchen so it wouldn’t smell so good, cleaned all the mixer bowls and hid the evidence. It was a fun and relaxing thing to do – something they did not expect at all, and seeing their happy and surprised faces this morning was well worth it. As I baked yesterday (and because I’m self-employed, I was able to do that at 2pm, not 10pm…) I reflected on the fact that some years, I would not have had time, the energy or the interest to bake for many different reasons: too busy at work, too tired from looking after little kids, interested in some other project…What was fun about making the cookies is that it wasn’t a should, it was a “Just because I feel like it” kind of thing. I may not do it again next year, it’s not a tradition or something I expect of myself (Martha Stewart – you do not have me!).

Is there room in your schedule for “Just because I feel like it” events once in a while, or is life so jammed-packed that there is no space left for spontaneity?

Now that we’re hitting the middle of February, it’s a good time to check-in with yourself and see how you are doing post-holiday. Whether we adopt formal New Year’s resolutions or not, most of us make or renew commitments with ourselves when we start back at work in January. Now that the holiday ornaments are back in the basement storage, and that our attention is turned towards Spring rather than Winter, where are you at with those New Year’s commitments to yourself?

The goal of taking stock is not to beat yourself up about what you haven’t done, but rather to take a compassionate and loving look at the past 6 weeks and see why/how things got off track, if they did. Maybe your goals were too lofty, and not realistically achievable? The gym is full of future marathon runners in January, but in March the gym returns to its usual suspects…

So, once you’ve eaten all the Valentine’s Day chocolate you can handle, I invite you to sit down for ten minutes, and start by taking a few deep calming breaths. Then,  jot down a few thoughts about your current goals: Where are you at with reaching them? 1% of the way? That’s worth celebrating too, not just the massive leaps. If things have been really hard for the past six weeks, why not write down a compassionate, loving statement about why you have not been able to stick to the plan. Finally, why not scale down the goal into much more manageable increments: a walk around the block, saving $5 a week by not buying a latte, having a kind thought about someone instead of gossiping, eating one more vegetable per day. Research shows that true lifestyle change (the ones that stick) is really about the little daily decisions, not the crazy cabbage soup cleanse you attempt and fail at, or the austerity budget you blow after a week because you feel so restricted.

I recently read the following statement on a healthy eating blog: “You are only one meal away from healthy eating.” The same can be true about any lifestyle change: you are only one walk away from being someone who exercises, one cup of tea away from being someone who doesn’t have a stiff drink after work as a matter of course. One meeting away from not being the office grouch.

Feel free to share your new commitments with us on the comments below!

Please be kind to yourself.

For women (and the men who love them): Watch these two fascinating Ted talks

If you have a few minutes, take a look at this captivating scientist practitioner talk about the connection between your endocrine system and the four phases of your body in a monthly cycle. Fascinating.

Alissa Vitti on Tedx FiDi Women

If you still have time and want to watch a wildly entertaining video on the need for women to reconnect with pleasure (yes, that kind, but also other kinds of pleasures), watch Mama Gena’s Ted talk. She’s a vibrant, inspiring whole lot of woman! Imagine if I made my entrance at one of my workshops like she does! 🙂

TEDxFiDiWomen – Regena Thomashauer

Let me know what you thought of those two inspiring videos.

Wishing you a happy, sane enough, full enough, calm enough week.