Healthy Living in the North

Holiday donations: how can you best support your local food bank?

On Friday, December 1st, CBC BC is hosting Food Bank Day. As a dietitian, this has me thinking about food charity and what it means for our communities. If you’re donating non-perishable food items this year, Loraina’s helpful blog on healthy food hampers reminds us to consider healthy food options.

In speaking with various food bank employees, I have come to notice a theme: donating money to your local food bank is the most effective way to be sure that nutritious foods are available for families. Here’s why:

  • Food bank staff know exactly which foods are in need.
  • They purchase in bulk and can buy 3-4x more food with each dollar.
  • Food banks are costly to run, so monetary donations also help with operational costs (e.g. building costs such as rent, hydro and heat).
  • Both perishable and non-perishable items can be purchased by staff, which helps to ensure that food bank users have consistent access to a variety of nutritious foods.

Monetary donations help us to buy foods when needed, so that we can have a consistent supply of food throughout the year. Purchasing food ourselves allows us to provide both perishable items (such as eggs, meat and cheese) and non-perishables. That said, we can use, and are happy to receive, any form of donation, whether it be food, money or physical (volunteering).”

(Salvation Army staff member)

How can you help your local food bank?

  • Food Bank BC has an online donation system:
    • Donations above $20 are eligible for a tax receipt.
    • They help food banks across BC, including those in rural and northern communities.
  • If you know your local food bank, you can drop by with a monetary donation.
  • You can visit Food Bank BC to find a food bank near you.

Why are food banks in need?

Northern BC has the highest cost of food in the province, as well as the highest rates of food insecurity:

 Food insecurity exists when an individual or family lacks the financial means to obtain food that is safe, nutritious, and personally acceptable, via socially acceptable means.”

(Provincial Health Services Authority, 2016)

Statistics on food insecurity

  • In northern BC approximately 17% of households (1 in 6) experience some level of food insecurity.
  • Those most deeply affected are single parent households with children, those on social assistance, and many people in the work force.
donations, food drive, charity

Donating money to your local food bank is the most effective way to be sure that nutritious foods are available for families.

How can food banks help?

In Canada, household food insecurity is primarily due to a lack of adequate income to buy food.  While food banks are not a solution to household food insecurity, they can help provide short term, immediate access to nutritious food.

This holiday season, if you are thinking about donating to the food bank, consider a monetary donation. This will help support food bank staff in purchasing high quality, nutritious foods to lend immediate support to families during the holidays, and beyond.

On Friday, December 1st, tune in to CBC Food Bank Day and listen to live programs and guest performers, and learn about the issue of food insecurity in our province.


Laurel Burton

About Laurel Burton

Laurel works with Northern Health as a population health dietitian, with a focus on food security. She is a big proponent of taking a multi-dimensional approach to health and she is interested in the social determinants of health and how they affect overall well-being, both at the individual and population level. Laurel is a recent graduate of the UBC dietetics program, where she completed her internship with Northern Health. She has experience working with groups across the lifecycle within BC and internationally to support evidence-informed nutrition practice for the aim of optimizing health. When she is not working, Laurel enjoys cooking, hiking and travelling. She is looking forward to exploring more of the North!


Foodie Friday: Thanksgiving thoughts

Turkey, vegetables, and potatoes on a plate.

What does your family’s Thanksgiving dinner look like?

With the hustle and bustle of September behind us, it’s October and Thanksgiving has come and gone. The long weekend really got me thinking!

I have always loved this holiday because it is a time when my family is all together and it is the first break since the busy-ness of summer and back to school.

I also love this holiday because it is all about the food. Depending on your traditions, there may be roasted turkey or ham (both, for some), veggies from the garden including brussels sprouts sautéed with butter and chili peppers, green bean casserole, glazed carrots, mashed potatoes, my mother-in-law’s out of this world sweet potato dish, pumpkins and apples for pies, homemade breads, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy.

Handwritten recipe cards

Family recipes are a big part of holiday meals!

For many of my clients, this menu provokes feelings of deprivation or angst as many of these foods are “not allowed” on whatever diet they may be following – Paleo diet followers load their plates with turkey and a side of lard (oh, and if there is bacon, load up); Ketogenic followers head for the ham, the cheese platter, a tossed green salad, and skip the rest.

Diets like these cause people unnecessary anxiety when they are faced with prohibited foods – do they forget about their diet and eat these foods and feel guilty later? Or do they sit sadly with their list of “allowed” foods and feel deprived? And who wouldn’t feel deprived at the table with everyone else loving my mother-in-law’s sweet potato dish and, later, my mother’s homemade apple pie? No one, that’s who!

To these folks, I suggest approaching Thanksgiving dinner and other holidays as an opportunity to practice trusting their body’s own internal cues of hunger, appetite, and fullness and let these cues guide them when it comes to choosing what and how much to eat. Then, they will leave the meal feeling comfortable and nourished rather than guilty and deprived.

Here is the famous sweet potato dish!

Sweet potato casserole

Beth’s mother-in-law’s “out of this world sweet potato dish.”

Serves 6-8


  • 4 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes or yams
  • 2 tbsp cream or milk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 1 beaten egg


  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup (approx.) pecan halves


  1. Mix sweet potatoes, milk, melted butter, paprika, and beaten egg together and spread into greased baking dish.
  2. Make the topping by mixing butter and brown sugar in a pot over low heat until butter is just melted. Spread topping over sweet potato mixture and cover with pecan halves.
  3. Heat in oven at 350 F for 35 minutes.
Beth Evans

About Beth Evans

As a registered dietitian, Beth is dedicated to helping individuals, families and communities make the healthiest choices available to them, and enjoy eating well based on their unique realities and nutrition needs. Juggling work and a very busy family life, Beth is grateful for the time she spends with her family enjoying family meals, long walks and bike rides. She also loves the quiet times exploring in her garden, experimenting in the kitchen, and practicing yoga and meditation.


Family health over the holidays

In the now-classic Canadian tale of holiday mayhem, Stuart McLean’s Dave Cooks the Turkey, befuddled husband, father, and record store owner Dave realizes with alarm (on Christmas Eve) that not only has he been tasked with cooking the Christmas turkey – but that in fact this means he should have actually purchased one. While amusing to hear, Dave’s ensuing story of holiday-prep turmoil may have been a difficult lived experience. Balancing family and workplace commitments while shopping, cooking and entertaining make this time of year busy and stress may not be avoidable – but there are ways we can manage holiday pressures end enjoy the season.

The Canadian Mental Health Association offers some great, practical tips on staying grounded, calm and capable during the holidays. As they say, it’s hard to think of Peace on Earth without peace of mind!

Family wearing snowshoes

What traditions or activities will you try this season to connect with family and friends? The Lamont family (2015) enjoys some winter snowshoeing!

Plan ahead. If you’re entertaining, use the “keep it simple” strategy. Try menus you can make ahead of time or at least partially prepare and freeze. Decorate, cook, shop, or do whatever’s on your list in advance. If you’re visiting (or supporting your guests), consider a plan for getting home safely at the end of the festivities – many communities offer special holiday transportation services and/or free ride programs like Operation Red Nose. Then you can really relax and enjoy visiting friends, relatives and co-workers.

As much as possible, organize and delegate. Make a list and check it twice. Rather than one person cooking the whole family meal, invite guests to bring a dish. Kids can help with gift-wrapping, decorating, baking, or addressing or decorating cards.

Practice mindful eating and drinking. The holidays are great time for the giving and receiving of delicious nibbles and drinks. Eating “one more cookie” or partaking in “one more drink” are normal parts of holiday celebrations but be mindful of how your body is feeling. You can help maintain your regular sense of well-being by eating regular meals and snacks and engaging in enjoyable physical activity. This is a great time of year to combine indoor pleasures with outdoor fun-times like snowman-building or rambles through now-sparkling neighbourhoods!

Stay within budget. Finances are a huge source of stress for many people. Again, eliminate the unnecessary. Set a budget, and stay within it. A call, a visit or a note to tell someone how important they are to you can be as touching as and more meaningful than a gift. You can also enjoy free activities like walking or driving around to look at holiday decorations, going window shopping without buying, or making your own decorations or presents. Craigslist and swap events are great places to find inexpensive brand-new items, and excellent-condition used items.

Remember what the holiday season is about for you. Make this your priority. Whether it’s the usual holiday advertising that creates a picture that the holidays are about shiny new toys, always-happy families and gift giving, remember that this season is really about sharing, loving, and time spent with family and loved ones. Develop your own meaningful family traditions that don’t have to cost a lot of money. Also, remember not to take things too seriously. Finding fun or silly things to do, playing games or watching movies that make you laugh, playing with pets, and spending time alone or with a partner or friends are all good ways to reduce stress.

Invite others. If you have few family or friends, reach out to neighbours. Find ways to spend the holidays with other people. If you’re part of a family gathering, invite someone you know is alone to your gathering.

Connect with your community. Attend diverse cultural events with family and friends. Help out at a local food bank or another community organization.

When the weather outside is frightful… Some people get the winter blahs each year, and a much smaller number (2-3%) develop seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Paying attention to nutrition, exercise and sleep and being careful with alcohol are also important if you have a history of depression. If your low mood carries on into the New Year and starts to affect your daily life, you should see your family doctor.

Dave’s family did enjoy a turkey in the end, albeit one achieved through rather non-traditional means involving a hairdryer, a hotel, and a bottle of scotch. Dave somehow managed to deliver on his commitments to his family, but had he been better at delegating and sharing his tasks, he may not have spent precious time ladling gravy on top of lightbulbs that night to make the house smell like he actually cooked the bird.

This is a time of year we may all catch ourselves making big promises – and we would be well-served to remember that delivering on small ones, like simply enjoying each other’s company, has more substantial effects in the end. Enjoy your holidays, be they in company of family, friends, faith or in quiet contemplation.

This article was written by Andrea Palmer in partnership with Dr. Sandra Allison, Northern Health Chief Medical Health Officer. A version of this article first appeared in the NCLGA newsletter.

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!


A splendid – and safe! – holiday meal: Tips for safe turkey cooking

Cooked turkey

When it comes to turkey and meat, keep in mind two safety tips – temperature control and eliminating cross-contamination – and you and your guests will enjoy a splendid and safe meal this holiday season!

‘Tis the holiday season – such an exciting time! Many of us will have family and friends over, often to dine. But if someone gets sick from a meal that we made, well now that holiday spirit just won’t be the same, will it?

That’s why I want to share safe food handling tips so that you and your good company can continue having a happy holiday. Since winter holidays mean turkey dinner for many, I’ll focus on that.

A 2006 study in Quebec found that a third of raw turkeys tested were positive for Salmonella and Campylobacter. Salmonella and Campylobacter are bacteria that are commonly found on poultry that can make you sick if the food is not prepared properly. Consuming undercooked turkey is of particular concern for children, the elderly, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals as they are more likely to experience illness and experience it in more severe forms.

So it’s really the luck of the draw when you purchase that raw turkey. You cannot tell if it has bacteria like Salmonella or Campylobacter. Rather than play against the odds, it’s important to play it safe by preparing it safely! The following food safe practices boil down to two subjects: temperature control and eliminating cross-contamination.

If you purchase a fresh turkey, make sure it is kept in the fridge at 4 degrees Celsius or colder and cooked within 2-3 days after purchasing. If the turkey is frozen, it can be thawed safely in the refrigerator or under cold running water. In both instances, it’s good practice to keep the turkey stored in its original plastic wrapper to prevent any potential cross-contamination. Thawing time is approximately an hour per pound so plan accordingly.

Washing hands, utensils and cutting boards before and after contact with the turkey (or any other raw meat for that matter!) are also key to preventing contamination of the bird and other foods. At the same time, recent research says “don’t wash the bird” as splash from the washing process can travel 3 feet or more and contaminate the counter, utensils and any food dishes within that zone. You don’t want to have raw turkey juices on the salad fixings! We want to deliver the turkey into the oven with as little cross contamination, splashing and dripping as possible.

How can you tell your food is done? Visual cues are unreliable. The only sure way to check is to use a probe thermometer and check the internal temperature of the turkey. Your entire turkey and the stuffing must reach at least 75 degrees Celsius (167 F) to be safe to eat. If your turkey is done but your stuffing isn’t, remove the stuffing and cook it separately.

The goal of these tips is to leave as few opportunities as possible for the bacteria to grow and to minimize cross-contamination to other foods. In that way, you and your merry company can enjoy both a splendid meal and holiday!

Happy holidays!

Alicia Parayno

About Alicia Parayno

Alicia is an Environmental Health Officer at the Vanderhoof Public Health Unit. Born and raised in Metro Vancouver, Alicia wanted to experience more of B.C. so, after finishing her education at BCIT, she completed a practicum in Prince George in 2014. Since she enjoyed her northern B.C. experience, she was ready to jump at the opportunity to return to Northern Health the following summer. During her spare time, Alicia likes to walk, hike, cycle, occasionally run and ski when she can. She also enjoys baking, attempting to crochet and having teatime – more than once a day. (Alicia no longer works at Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)


Foodie Friday: Holiday pecan pie balls

It’s that festive time of year! A time for anticipation, socializing, giving and joy! It’s also a time to dust off the recipe box to create some of your favourite dishes for your friends and family as many traditions are based around food!

Maybe you’ve been invited to different gatherings over the next few weeks – office parties, gatherings with friends, and family dinners. Do you have an old stand-by recipe that you bring to these get-togethers? Or are you looking for something new and exciting? Or maybe you’re short on time? Have no fear! Try this super easy and fast recipe that has only three ingredients! And believe me, it will impress.

Rolled balls on a plate.

Pecans, dates, and vanilla are all you need for this holiday treat that packs a nutritional punch! Try them today!

How does this recipe compare to other baking? Well like with any sweet treat, a couple of these balls will do. But nutritionally, these little balls are powerhouses!

  • Pecans are a great source of healthy fats that are great for the heart, vitamin E which helps prevent disease, and a whole bunch of other vitamins and minerals that promote health. (Not to mention they are also delicious!) When you roast pecans in the oven, the flavour they develop tastes amazing.
  • Medjool dates are moist, sweet and meaty fruits that are gooey and delicious. Dates are a great source of fibre, potassium and antioxidants, all of which help keep the body running the way it’s meant to run! Look for them in the produce section in a square container.

This recipe is allergen-free except for nuts.

Holiday Pecan Pie Balls

Makes about 12-14 one-inch balls.


  • 1 cup Medjool dates, pits removed
  • 1 cup toasted pecans
  • 1/8 tsp salt (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread pecans on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 5-7 minutes or until toasted in colour and smelling fragrant. Watch them carefully because they burn very quickly! Let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove pits from the date by making a cut down the side with a sharp knife. The long pit will come out easily.
  3. Place dates, pecans, salt (if using), and vanilla in a food processor. Pulse until fairly smooth.
  4. Pinch a small amount out of the bowl and roll between clean hands to form a ball.
  5. Store in the fridge until ready to serve! Enjoy!
Amy Horrock

About Amy Horrock

Born and raised in Winnipeg Manitoba, Amy Horrock is a registered dietitian and member of the Regional Dysphagia Management Team. She loves cooking, blogging, and spreading the joy of healthy eating to others! Outside of the kitchen, this prairie girl can be found crocheting, reading, or exploring the natural splendor and soaring heights of British Columbia with her husband!


Foodie Friday: Leftover pumpkin? Here’s a healthy go-to snack!

No-bake energy bites in a bowl.

The season of sweet treats is coming soon so it’s a great time to try a new healthy, go-to snack and use up some leftover pumpkin in the process!

As fall comes to a close and the winter season begins, your taste buds may also be shifting gears in preparation for all things Christmas. Sugar cookies, fudge, and candy canes are among the treats that many of us tend to expect during the holidays! These treats can be hard to avoid so, in preparation for this abundance of goodies, I’m carrying forward a favourite healthy fall recipe as a go-to healthy snack.

Use up those leftover cans of pumpkin puree or, better yet, put your pumpkins from Halloween to good use in this recipe that can be enjoyed any time of the year!

Full of healthy fats, fibre and protein, this quick grab-and-go snack is the perfect choice any time of the day. It’s guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth and nourish your body with good nutrition to get you through your busy day!

Pumpkin no-bake energy bites

Recipe from Gimme Some Oven

Yield: About 25 one-inch balls


  • 8 oz (about 1 cup) chopped dates
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds or flax seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats (dry, not cooked)
  • 1 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds


  1. Combine the dates, honey, pumpkin puree, chia or flax seeds, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt in a food processor. Pulse until smooth and combined.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Once the mixture is cool (and easier to work with), use a spoon to shape it into your desired size of energy balls (the recipe should yield about 25 balls if you aim for one inch in diameter).
  4. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Tip: Instead of balls, you can also press the mixture into a parchment paper-lined pan, let it cool, and then cut into bars.

Tip: Try adding some chocolate chips to take the decadence factor up a notch!

Rilla Reardon

About Rilla Reardon

Rilla is a Registered Dietitian working for Northern Health since 2013. Rilla moved to northern BC from the east coast to continue developing her skills as a dietitian in a clinical setting while enjoying all that the north has to offer. Outside of work, she can be found experimenting in the kitchen or navigating the trails around Prince George with her dog, Henry. Rilla channels her passion for nutrition into practice, inspiring others to nourish their bodies, minds and souls with delicious and healthy food!


Foodie Friday: This holiday season, give brussels sprouts a chance

Roasted brussels sprouts on a baking sheet

Lots of people try to avoid brussels sprouts but they are missing out! These vegetables are available fresh at this time of year and pack a nutritional punch! Marianne suggests some different preparations that will definitely change your mind on brussels sprouts!

‘Tis that time of year again, when friends and families gather together to celebrate the holiday season. While we all have our own holiday traditions and ways of celebrating the season, for many these include a holiday feast. My family always has a very traditional turkey dinner complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, carrots, salads, and, of course, brussels sprouts. Ah yes, brussels sprouts, the “ugly duckling” of the holiday feast. I know more than a few people who have no love for the sprouts, saying they are mushy or smell a little funny. But it doesn’t have to be this way – brussels sprouts can be nutritious and delicious!

Why eat brussels sprouts?

They are a member of the Brassica family, which includes other vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. These vegetables have been shown to help in the prevention of various cancers and are also great sources of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. In particular, brussels sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K, and a good source of folate and vitamin B6. Their peak season is fall through to spring, which makes them a great fresh vegetable choice during our northern winters. You can also buy them frozen to enjoy all year round.

How do you make brussels sprouts taste delicious?

It’s all about the way you cook them and what you pair them with. When you boil brussels sprouts, they can overcook easily and you are left with a mushy grey-green vegetable that doesn’t look very appealing. They also develop a much stronger flavour when cooked this way. Instead, try steaming, sautéing, or roasting your sprouts – or shred them into a salad to eat them raw. Steaming will keep that vibrant green colour, while sautéing and roasting can really bring out nutty or caramelized flavours. To kick it up a notch, add some nuts, Parmesan cheese, bacon, or balsamic vinegar. Yum!

To get you started, I’m sharing my go-to brussels sprouts recipe – Canadian Living’s Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts. It’s sweet and savoury, easy to make, and a true crowd pleaser. Try replacing the maple syrup with birch syrup to add some northern B.C. flair!

This holiday season, give sprouts a chance!

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.


Tales from the Man Cave: Winter blahs and humbugs

Sunset at a snowy tree farm

Feeling “unjolly” over the holidays can be especially difficult because everyone else can seem so joyful. This year, if you are feeling down, lonely, or isolated, talk to others about how you are feeling.

We don’t need a Charles Dickens story to realize that we all suffer from the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future at times. In fact, the holiday season can unfortunately be a reminder for some that life in the past, present, or future was, is, or may be far from jolly.

This is a time when people remember loved ones lost. It is also a time of darkening skies and lower levels of sun. What’s worse, if you are feeling down this season, you can feel like a misfit – why is everybody going around celebrating and talking about doing good deeds?

Two holiday periods in my life stand out as pretty rough. The first is when I was looking after a dying woman who passed away as my hospital shift ended on Christmas Eve. When I got home, all I could do was cry as the children opened their presents. The other was when my kitchen caught fire during the week of Christmas and covered my house in soot. Both times, I felt seriously unjolly and, with so many others celebrating, like a misfit, too. It’s hard to be the life and soul of the party when you feel like that.

So, how can you cope with the holiday season if you are experiencing depression or loneliness?

If you are feeling very low in mood, find your sleep to be disturbed, can’t be bothered to do things, and feel as though everything is drudgery, then you may be suffering from depression. A counsellor or your doctor can help during this difficult period. Talk to someone. Don’t stay isolated and alone. Crisis lines are available throughout B.C. if you need to talk to someone confidentially, 24/7/365. In northern B.C., dial 250-563-1214, 1-888-562-1214, or visit the Crisis Prevention, Intervention & Information Centre for Northern BC. There is also a B.C.-wide line. For that, dial 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433), 310-6789, or visit the Crisis Line Association of BC.

You can’t be a party animal when you are feeling sad, depressed, lonely, or isolated – and the holiday season may make this worse. But perhaps Dickens has something to offer after all: even if your whole being is crying out to be old Scrooge, engage with others, talk to others about how you’re feeling, and try to take part in all of the different activities that the holidays can offer.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.


Happy Holidays from Northern Health

On behalf of everyone at Northern Health, I’d like to offer our blog readers the very best for the holiday season! May your holidays be filled with happiness, health and good cheer! And if your New Years’ resolutions involve doing all you can do to live a healthier lifestyle (quitting smoking? eating healthier? getting more active?), please be sure to check out the NH website and continue to follow along with new blog posts in 2013 for many resources you’ll need to help you in your journey!

Our Christmas gift to you… we’d like to share The 12 Days of Health Care! Enjoy!

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)


Seeking a work-life balance

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

How do you maintain a work-life balance?

Have you ever experienced time slowing down when you were on a holiday? During long days at the lake or on that cross-province road trip with your family, you do the math somewhere at the midpoint of your vacation, and are shocked that you have yet another week of unscheduled bliss! People say that when we intentionally step away from our over-scheduled lives, we take a healthy pause that forces a change in our routine and rewards ourselves for hard work.

With two busy kids and a busy husband, a full-time career, a dog, a home, friends, family, neighbours and our community, including all the routines and schedules that come with, it’s a daily juggle for me to fit everything together, ensuring everyone is dropped off, picked up, safe and sound, well fed, well rested, nurtured, loved, clean and clothed, enriched, socialized, progressing, learning, moderately active and very, very happy! While we might enjoy the random and occasional experience of holiday bliss on any given day, striking actual balance takes practice and intention. So how do we re-create holiday bliss, and maintain a balance between our professional and personal lives for greater health and well-being?  How do we achieve that sought after work-life balance?

Work-life balance is a concept, first used in the late 1970s to describe prioritization between career and lifestyle, which includes our ambition, our health and well-being, pleasure, leisure, family and spirituality. In 2010, the University of Toronto published a list of research abstracts, all paying close attention to work-life balance in Canada; the list contains over 80 independent research projects focused on this topic. It’s astonishing that it’s garnered so much attention, but not surprising given the amount of people that struggle with it.

While our lives may remain complex, there are actions we can take now that will create greater balance, perhaps reducing our stress, improving our health and well-being, promoting a healthier lifestyle and potentially re-creating the joy of that last great vacation, on any given night of the week!

Please remember: balance requires practice, so take a gradual approach.

Holiday bliss at home:

  • Set a boundary for yourself and turn off your devices (e.g. your phone and your laptop). Make one night each week a “no device” night.
  • Schedule downtime into your personal life just as you schedule meetings into your professional life. This creates opportunity for spontaneity and “going with the flow.”
  • Schedule a fun activity with your kids, your partner or a friend. Go berry-picking, go to the playground or prepare a meal together.
  • Schedule time for the things you enjoy. Read that book. Call your friend. Go swimming.

Holiday bliss at work:

  • If you regularly work late, plan to leave on time today. Work will be waiting for you tomorrow.
  • Instead of working through your coffee or lunch breaks, find a buddy and go for a quick 10-minute walk around your building, up and down the office stairs, around the block.
  • Schedule personal lunch appointments. Make sure that your partner, parents or kids are as important as your professional lunch appointments.

In the quest for greater work-life balance, try a few of these ideas out. Just imagine how you will feel; imagine how your family will feel as well.

Do you have any tips to add for creating holiday bliss and maintaining a work-life balance?

[Ed. note: Don’t forget to join the September Healthy Living Challenge and enter the Week 2 Challenge for your chance to win a Fit Kit!]

Kelsey Yarmish

About Kelsey Yarmish

Kelsey is the regional manager of Northern Health’s population health team. A nurse by background, with past work in acute psychiatry (at UHNBC) and tertiary mental health and addiction services, Kelsey has become equally passionate about public health prevention initiatives and upstream work. Kelsey grew up in Prince George, and loves being part of the community and the north. She is married, with two little "dancing" girls. Family is her joy and her kids ensure that home-time is always lively and a lot of fun! When she is not at work, she is with her family and friends, and she loves entertaining, her gardens, traveling, boating, crafting, cooking and reading.