Healthy Living in the North

Making a little breathing space

Three people running outdoors in the winter.

Mental Health Week is the perfect time to ask what you can do to invest in your mental wellness. For Rai, it’s about giving her mind a little breathing space – which she did while running at lunch time!

I think. A lot. In fact, my mind rather resembles the ticker tape along the bottom of CNN. Or, rather, CNN, Fox, CBC, Global, CTV, and BBC News 24 at the same time. All whirling with lists, schedules and responsibilities. It’s often overwhelming.

I had taken on a new health challenge about two years ago as a way of working out stress. It appears that it had not really worked since I think that I acquired at least another 2 ticker tapes along the way.

As team leader to a large, busy and vibrant team, I always talked about self-care and creating a healthy work-life balance. Yet I struggled to practise what I preached. I even found that trying to make time for exercise became a chore in and of itself. It was only when a new colleague started with the team and expressed a desire to get back into a fitness regime that I became inspired. We formed a partnership where we dedicated 3 lunch hours each week to exercise. Three hours of my time. Not work, not family, but time for me.

I’d never been a runner and when the hikes up Terrace Mountain developed into 5 km runs, I started to look at my form and asked myself why I often struggled to keep going. I discovered that not only do I think a lot, I talk a lot. I needed to be quiet.

To run effectively, you need to breathe, not talk incessantly. So when my running became more serious and I made the commitment to run a half marathon, I really needed to stop talking and start breathing – breathing properly and thinking about my breathing.

By default, I started to practice mindfulness. I quieted my mind (this is no small feat, trust me!). I focused on my breath and on my feet making contact with the ground. I managed to push my ticker tapes to the back of my mind for 30 minute chunks during the week and for 2 hours on the weekends. As a result, I came back from my lunch runs ready to tackle the afternoon. I had given my brain a break while my body got to work.

I just finished my half marathon last weekend and now I plan to continue using running as a way to improve my physical and my mental health. I’ll put new challenges in place and run in new locations, all the while giving my mind a little breathing space.

Rai Read

About Rai Read

Rai has worked for Northern Health for nearly 18 months, starting out as the CRU (community response unit) clinician in Terrace before stepping into the interim team leader position. She came to Terrace after working in as a geriatric nurse in Edmonton, AB and prior to that, working as a psychiatric nurse in Cardiff, Wales. She is passionate about promoting healthy living and nutrition, and thinks it’s key to understand how hard it is to fit everything in to a busy life. Rai is a strong believer is making lots of small positive changes and keeping a good sense of humor.

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Modeling healthy behaviours

Rai with her son and dog.

Rai with her son and dog. How do you model healthy behaviours?

Okay Rai, put down the delicious cake with chocolate marshmallow butter-cream and walk away. Seriously, keeping walking girl, keep walking. A little further, a little faster. Hey, this could turn into a cardio workout! What is it about chocolate cake that turns me into the equivalent of the cookie monster? I have always had a sweet tooth and it seems once I start eating, I struggle to stop. After I had my son two and half years ago, I strived to be a healthy role model for him. How can I tell him “no” to the cookies when I’m in the kitchen secretly trough-ing half a pack? So I decided enough was enough.  I’ll be honest: I can’t totally write chocolate out of my life. So let’s talk about implementing a little harm reduction, right? Now it’s about moderation and allowable only if I’ve exercised. So far it seems to be working, mostly…

As part of being a role model, I felt it was important to instill the value of exercise. But how do you exercise with a small child, and a dog? I see these elegant moms dressed in Lululemon, running effortlessly with their calm toddlers who sit in jogging strollers and their well-trained dogs trotting alongside. I tried this, once. We made it three houses down before my kid tried to throw himself out of the stroller and my dog? Well, he was so scared of the stroller he tried to drag us into a ditch. And once my kid started screaming, my dog did his usual howling chorus. Elegant huh?

So, what works for me? I work full-time, I have a toddler. I needed to look at what worked for my life style. I realized I had a great space in my basement and the previous homeowner kindly left a rather nice treadmill behind when they moved out. I complemented this with a spinning bike. I added an art easel and toys for my kid to keep himself occupied and I now have a safe space to work out. We make it a special time for my son to come down in the basement each evening after supper and we spend an hour or so down there while I exercise and he plays with his toys. My workouts are usually complemented with a 35lb+ toddler sitting on me – I think of him as a rather cute dumbbell. I don’t know if you ever tried cycling with a kid on your knee, but it really works those thigh muscles. To mix things up and keep me interested I alternate with one day running the treadmill the other on the spinning bike. I also found YouTube has a great variety of workouts to suit my needs. I am not the most coordinated of people; trust me I am no dancer. When I watch an exercise DVD, I usually go the wrong way and spend most of my time trying to figure out what my arms are supposed to be doing, but after searching I found a video that is an idiot’s guide to exercising and with numerous choices, you can tailor your workout.

I started by making small changes and looking at what would work for me. By making sure it’s a good fit it allows me to keep motivated. I can still make improvements and educating my son at this young age about healthy choices is a great way to start him on the road for healthy choices for life.

How do you model healthy behaviours?

“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” -Steven Wright

Rai Read

About Rai Read

Rai has worked for Northern Health for nearly 18 months, starting out as the CRU (community response unit) clinician in Terrace before stepping into the interim team leader position. She came to Terrace after working in as a geriatric nurse in Edmonton, AB and prior to that, working as a psychiatric nurse in Cardiff, Wales. She is passionate about promoting healthy living and nutrition, and thinks it’s key to understand how hard it is to fit everything in to a busy life. Rai is a strong believer is making lots of small positive changes and keeping a good sense of humor.

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