Healthy Living in the North

Big moves with big health rewards

Leah Smith with her dog, Sage, holding a fishing rod near a river.I, like many other healthcare professionals, find taking care of patients to be second nature – it’s just built into who I am. However, when it comes time to taking care of myself, it’s easy for me to neglect my own personal health and well-being.

As healthcare professionals, we’re very good at talking the talk. So, why are so many of us unable to walk the walk? This was a question I found myself pondering after 10+ years working as a pharmacist. As a result, I’ve realized we can’t fully look after our patients if we aren’t talking care of ourselves. This revelation has led me to make some big lifestyle changes this past year.

It wasn’t overnight that I decided I needed to make changes; in fact, my story spans a decade now. I started out my career in 2007 working as a community pharmacist in the Okanagan, and within a year and a half I found myself in a management position. After five years, I decided I needed a change – life had become too busy and hectic, my stress level was off the charts, and ultimately, I just wasn’t happy. So in 2013, I made the move to Smithers to work for Northern Health (NH).

It was a huge move, but I did it for the lifestyle and the opportunities that northern living brings. Since working for NH, I’ve been fortunate to gain experience working in several different roles. I currently have a unique position; my job title is Regional Remote Pharmacist. This means I help cover sites across the region, all the way from Prince Rupert to Dawson Creek! It certainly has its challenges, but I feel lucky that I get to work with so many different individuals across the north.

With this vast repertoire of experience, one of the common themes I continue to realize is that looking after one’s health doesn’t just happen; it takes work and practice to make good lifestyle choices.

Healthy Eating

Our diet is often one of the first things to overlook. With a busy, unpredictable workload, I would often grab things to eat that were easy and quick. These were never whole foods; most often, they were processed and certainly not well balanced. I now try to always have healthy snacks available, and make an effort to think about the food I have around my house, and the choices I make related to eating.

I don’t deprive myself, and I still enjoy special treats and more extravagant meals here and there; it’s just all in moderation. If I’m going to allow myself to overindulge, I plan some sort of extra activity in my day to make up for this special occasion, which brings me to the next big change I made!

Physical Activity

I always thought of myself as an active person because I enjoy the outdoors. I love hiking, biking, fishing, skiing, snowshoeing – really anything that gets me outside. But the reality is, doing these activities once a week doesn’t fulfill our physical activity requirements. Being a weekend warrior doesn’t mean you can take the week off in between and expect to be in peak shape.

So, I recently adopted a 12-week workout challenge, which I now do four times a week! I have a very busy schedule, so in order for me to be successful and stick with it, the workouts were designed to be targeted and short enough that I can complete them during my lunch hour. At seven weeks into the program, I can confidently say that I see and feel big changes in both my health and appearance. This experience has certainly laid the groundwork for incorporating a regular exercise routine into my life!

Mental Wellness

Although the change in diet and exercise have been wonderful, I couldn’t do either if I wasn’t mentally healthy. If I’m not in a healthy frame of mind, the last thing I want to do is exercise and I definitely don’t reach for an apple. For me, the best source of mental strength and balance is in spending time with friends and getting outside to enjoy the fresh air with my four-and-a-half year old German Shorthaired Pointer, Sage.

True friends always have a way of allowing us to show up and be who we truly are, without fear of judgment or recourse. Social engagements with them, whether it’s an activity or meal, is an essential part of keeping me connected and grounded.

My dog keeps me motivated to get out – whether I feel like it or not! We love to go out cross-country skiing in the winter and camping has become our favourite summer pastime, ideally next to a river where we love to fish! I love watching Sage’s enthusiasm when we are out, and more importantly, I love the peace and serenity I feel when I’m standing next to a river, skiing through the snow-capped evergreens, or gazing into a campfire. These places are where I feel the best, and where I go after a busy, hard day at work. These experiences and activities keep my body, and mind, healthy.

 

You can also view this article in Northern Health Spring 2018 edition of the Healthier You Magazine, Wellness by Professionals.

About Leah Smith

Leah Smith is a Regional Support Pharmacist with Northern Health.

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