Healthy Living in the North

Can I have a moment of your time?

The present moment, if you think about it, is the only time there is. No matter what time it is, it is always now. -Marianne Williamson

Clock face

There are many way to be in the moment – Reg suggests breathing exercises as a great way to relax and reduce stress.

Time is a funny thing

Time has no wings, but flies occasionally. It has no feet, but sometimes drags on. We never seem to have enough of it, but there’s no way to store it for later. It’s not uncommon to spend time planning our future or reveling in our past glories, however, how often do you truly stop and savour the moment? To be honest, we have neither the future nor the past, only the present moment in time.

Now I’m not saying it isn’t important to plan for the future or look to the past for guidance or inspiration. What I’m saying is that it is important to slow down and appreciate where we are. Finding ways to be in the moment can have a positive effect on your health and well-being. It can help by promoting relaxation, reducing stress and narrowing your focus when needed. Learning to stop and appreciate the moments when good things happen can improve your mood and cheer you up.

Be “in the moment”

There are many ways to be in the moment. Activities like meditation, tai chi, and yoga can help ground you in the present. Even more intense activities like playing sports, cycling, or working out can have the same effect. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you do as long as it connects you to the current moment in time.

I know, you’re probably thinking that while those are great suggestions, they might not always be practical. In reality, you’re right. I know my employer wouldn’t approve of mountain bike riding through the office corridors as a way of being in the moment! Nevertheless, there is one thing that can be done almost anywhere and anytime. You’ve done it since birth and you’ll do it every day for the rest of your life.

Breathe. Yup, that’s it.

The best thing is there’s nothing hard about breathing and you don’t need any special skills, equipment or a facility to do it in. Breathing exercises are a great way to stop the whirlwind around you and connect with the moment. But as always, there’s a catch.

You really need to pay attention to your breathing. Take a minute and try the following:

  • Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose.
  • Breathe in and fill your lungs with air.
  • Feel your chest and belly expand as you breathe in deeply.
  • Make sure to breathe at a pace that’s comfortable and when your lungs are full, pause for split second and exhale. You can exhale through your mouth or nose, it doesn’t really matter.
  • When your lungs are empty, pause for a split second and repeat.
  • Focus on your body and the breathing process. Feel the air moving into your nostrils and down to your lungs. Feel your chest rising and falling.
  • Repeat until you feel a sense of calm.
  • Open your eyes and be in the moment.

That’s it in a nutshell. You can learn to do many different types of breathing exercises and they all have the benefits of relaxation and stress reduction. Best of all, they aren’t complicated and don’t require hours of practice.

I know that at times it can be hard to focus on your breathing. If you have a smartphone or tablet, you may want to look into downloading apps that have guided breathing exercises. You can also use music if it helps you focus on your breathing. It also helps if you get into a habit of daily practice.

Now, take a few deep breaths and enjoy this moment of your life. A single moment can hold the surprise of a lifetime, but you might miss it if you’re a day ahead of yourself or a day behind.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Tigers, tight timelines, and toddlers

This month, we want to know how you are preparing for the future by investing in your health! Tell us (or show us) what you do to invest in your body, your mind, and your relationships for your chance to win great weekly prizes and a $150 grand prize! To inspire you, we’ll be featuring regular healthy aging content on the Northern Health Matters blog all month long!


Forest path

Physical activity and quieting your mind – like by going for a walk in the woods – are great ways to manage stress. What tools do you use to manage stress?

I have a question for you.

What do battling a sabre-toothed tiger, juggling multiple responsibilities at work, and dealing with a house full of screaming toddlers have in common? If your answer is that they all cause a bit of stress, you’d be right! However, there’s more at play here.

Fight or flight

You’ve probably heard the term “fight or flight” associated with stress at one time or another. The more technical term for this is the stress response. The stress response came about a long time ago when humans, more often than not, faced situations (like bumping into a sabre-toothed tiger) that required fighting or running away. It helped our bodies “find another gear” that got us out of dangerous situations.

It’s really all about how we see things

Today’s world is much different and most of life’s problems require a cool head and thinking, not running or flailing away with a wooden club. Often, stress can be a result of your perception of situations. When you perceive a situation as being more than you can handle or as being threatening, the stress response kicks in.

In the modern world, stress usually results from situations that have to do with work, family life or finances as opposed to truly life-threatening situations (no sabre-toothed tigers in Terrace!). However, human beings take time to evolve and the stress response is still activated in times of perceived threat. Sometimes these situations aren’t resolved quickly and it results in stress lingering.

Being “in another gear” for an extended period takes a toll on your health. Even mild levels of stress can have a negative impact on your health if they persist long enough. Sleeping problems, headaches, and an increased likelihood of getting sick are associated with stress.

Wooden hiking path

It’s easy to get overwhelmed in today’s world of deadlines and responsibilities. Remember to take time to quiet your mind!

Managing stress

Learning to manage stress is an important part of healthy aging. Here are some suggestions for dealing with stress:

  • Get to the root cause of your stress. Make sure you’re working on the real cause of stress.
  • Be proactive, be organized, and don’t let small things build up or multiply. Take care of small problems before they become too big to handle or so many that they become overwhelming.
  • Talk about things. Talking to someone you trust can help take the weight off your shoulders and could lead to a solution. If stress is having a negative impact on your life, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
  • Have hobbies and activities that take you away from stress for a while and let you focus on something enjoyable.
  • Learn to quiet your mind. Solving the problems of today usually requires thinking. However, that can be hard to do when you’re stressed. Try techniques such as meditation, yoga, mindfulness or breathing techniques to quiet the noise and focus on finding a solution to what is causing you stress.
  • Don’t forget the physical connection. Getting regular physical activity and eating well help in managing stress and promoting overall wellness.
  • Monitor what you tell yourself. How you think about things has an effect on your response to them. Focus on solutions and watch out for negative self-talk. Look for the bright side!
  • Simplify your life. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in today’s world of deadlines and responsibilities. Learn to say no when you’re overwhelmed. Make your to-do list reasonable.

At the end of the day, everyone experiences stress. It’s part of life. However, it can be managed and it doesn’t need to impact our health in a negative way. Moreover, not all stress is bad. Stress can be a good thing if it motivates you to focus on a task or solve a problem.

So, what will you do this week to invest in your mind and deal with those annoying sabre-toothed tigers? Remember to send us a picture or quick line about how you kept your brain engaged for your chance to win!

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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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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