Healthy Living in the North

Northern Indigenous wellness funding: Accepting applications

An image gives details related to the funding.First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities, organizations, and health centres can apply for up to $5,000 in funding to support community-based initiatives that focus on holistic health and wellness! Apply today – the deadline is December 6, 2019!

Who’s eligible for funding?
Applicants must be:

  • Located within Northern BC (the NH region and the FNHA Northern Region)
  • An Indigenous community organization or health centre, or a First Nations Band

Your project must support a community project and focus on one or more of the following:

  • cultural safety
  • primary care
  • mental wellness and substance use
  • population and public health: community wellness activities for Indigenous youth and Elders

Preferred projects will:

  • Encourage different groups to work together towards a common goal. Groups might include:
    • Community members (youth, families, Elders, etc.)
    • Health staff (Band, NH, FNHA)
    • Physicians
    • Aboriginal/Indigenous Health Improvement Committees (A/IHICs)
    • Other communities
  • Support health and well-being by combining Indigenous wellness approaches with current health care approaches.
  • Build healthy relationships and improve how people connect with each other, their families, and their community (e.g., community holiday gatherings).
  • Build capacity in and train local First Nations and Indigenous staff and community members.

About the Wellness Funding Awards

Since 2015, Northern Health (NH) and First Nation’s Health Authority (FNHA) have collaborated to offer Northern Indigenous Community Wellness Funding Awards.

For more information

For more information or to submit completed applications, please contact us by one of the following:

  • Email: Health@northernhealth.ca
  • Phone: 250-649-7226
  • Mail:
    Northern Health Indigenous Health
    600 – 299 Victoria Street
    Prince George, BC V2L 5B8
  • Fax: 250-564-7198

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Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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Equine facilitated wellness in Nazko

A woman poses, holding the legs of a young boy who is standing on top of a saddled horse in a field.

Jarius Boyd, youth participant, and Santania Grant, nurse and one of the creators of the program.

Drumming surrounds the round pen. An Elder smudges the horses with juniper.  The sounds of horses moving about fill the air, while youth take it all in.  This an opportunity for youth to learn about smudging, the benefits of it, and experience it for themselves.

Nazko is a First Nations community 100 km west of Quesnel, with 407 Nazko band members and approximately half living on Nazko land. The Nazko people are part of the Carrier Nation.

“When [I was asked] to come and smudge the horses off, instantly it was a yes,” says Nazko Elder Dennis Patrick. “I grew up riding horses in Trout Lake outside of Nazko; it was a way of life and it helped us to do our work. We rode almost every day as kids. We did our work/chores on horses but as children it brought us a lot of joy and play time. I like watching how the kids are interacting with the horses and learning how to act in a way that keeps them safe and respects the animal. As a Nazko Elder, it brings me great joy to see our children outside working and playing with horses. To my way of thinking, this is health.”

Santania Grant is a nurse at the Nazko Health Center alongside Health Director Anita Andreychuk. They both felt that there was a gap in youth programming and that a youth focused equine program would be a natural fit. Santania, who made a living working with horses prior to becoming a nurse, developed the program in use today, and delivers this program as an independent contractor.

A young girl in a red hoodie stands next to a horse that is decorated with paint.

Youth participant Nevaeh Boyd stands with Rio, the kind and gentle horse central to the equine facilitated wellness work. Photo by Santania Grant.

“Horses are not new to Nazko,” says Santania about the youth equine facilitated wellness program in Nazko. “Elders talk to me about their parents or grandparents who rode. Horses were a way of life for the Nazko people.”

The equine facilitated wellness (EFW) builds on this tradition and helps support wellness, healing, and self-discovery through engaging with horses.

While working with horses, caring from them, learning how to lead them, tuning into their feelings, and riding them, the youth embark on a journey of self-discovery and healing.

Rio is the horse central to this EFW work. Safety is crucial to any EFW program and Rio is just the horse for this. She is kind and gentle. According to Santania, equine partners (horses) can help youth overcome trauma and adversity through their gentle connection.

Along with learning to ride, the youth create dream boards of their personal goals with the help of Lyndsey Rhea, Aboriginal Patient Liaison (APL) from G.R. Baker Hospital. They also learn about healthy eating and receive nutritious meals and snacks.

A young boy wearing a hockey helmet, holding a rope tied to a horse, looks up at a man holding feathers and items for smudging.

Greyson Laurent, a youth participant in the program. Photo by Santania Grant.

“I have been lucky to be involved with the Youth EFW program in Nazko,” says Lyndsey. “As the APL, it’s a good opportunity for me to get to know the kids and their parents and to build relationships and help address any healthcare needs. I have been able to work with the kids to set healthy goals and dreams by making vision boards. Santania is an amazing facilitator and makes every child feel safe and special. It’s amazing to see how proud the youth are as they begin to learn new skills.”

Families in Nazko come to watch the youth and build connections with the rest of the healthcare team and health services professionals. This program creates a culturally safe space where participants and families feel respected and free from discrimination, and where healing from intergenerational traumas from colonialism and residential school can occur.

“The EFW helps to build self-esteem, healthy habits, and pride and is an asset to the entire community,” says Lyndsey.

Santania explains that some of the youth that gave her the hardest time have really flourished. Some of these youth are even mentoring other youth and sharing knowledge they have gained.

Through EFW, horses can assist youth cultivate empathy and respect for the environment, leadership skills, and teamwork. This program has been running for two summers and is very popular among Nazko youth ages 5-15.

For more information about the equine program in Nazko contact Santania Grant grantsantania@gmail.com or Lyndsey Rhea Lyndsey.rhea@northernhealth.ca.

A young boy holds up a poster board, titled Dream Board, with magazine cut outs of horses and cowboys.

Laine Clement shares his dream board of his personal goals. Photo by Santania Grant.

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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The CNC Health and Wellness Centre: providing medical care to students, staff, and faculty

Behind a desk, one woman sits at a computer while another woman stands behind her, looking over her shoulder.

L-R: CNC Health and Wellness Centre Clinic Counsellor, Lacy Chabot and Medical Office Assistant, Connie Kragt reviewing the centre’s schedule.

Nestled by the dental wing, in the back corner of the College of New Caledonia’s (CNC) Prince George campus, is the Health and Wellness Centre. This inviting space is home to a medical office assistant, counsellor, physician, and two nurse practitioners. They offer medical care to students, staff, and faculty who walk through their doors.

Cheryl Dussault, a nurse practitioner, is one of the dedicated staff working at the centre.

“We provide the basic services required to meet our clients’ everyday health care needs,” says Cheryl. “Our focus is on health promotion, preventing illness, and managing chronic conditions. We have a counsellor on the team to provide mental health support to students.”

General practice physician Dr. Heather Smith is at the centre half a day per week.

“We are more than birth control, STI testing, and mental health services,” says Dr. Smith. “We deal with complex medical conditions including strokes, heart attacks, and neurological disorders. We are a full-service family practice with the same skills and abilities as other clinics.”

A team approach offers the right care by the right provider. Staff at the clinic work with other health care providers and the CNC community. This ensures students receive the appropriate care and contributes to student success.

The centre operates as a partnership between CNC and Northern Health. For more information on the CNC Health and Wellness Centre, visit their website.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Sedentary Behaviours – They’re not all created equal!

The sun sets over water in the distance. The sky is blue and gold punctuated by clouds. In the foreground, a silhouette watches the beautiful scene.

Some sedentary behaviours are good for your well-being, like taking in a soothing sunset.

The new smoking.” Sedentary time (time spent in a sitting or lying position while expending very little energy) has come under fire for its negative health effects lately. While there are certainly significant health risks associated with time spent being sedentary, calling it “the new smoking” is a bit of a scare tactic – smoking is still riskier.

At this point, you might be starting to doubt my intentions. After all, my job is to promote increased physical activity and decreased sedentary behaviour in the name of better health. Fear not! I’ll get there yet.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under five years of age:

This is really exciting because the WHO took the evidence used in the development of the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years (0-4), reviewed more evidence, and reinforced these main messages:

  • Kids need to get a good amount and variety of physical activity each day.
    • For those under one year, being active several times a day including floor-based play and tummy time.
    • For kids between one to two years of age, at least three hours at any intensity throughout the day.
    • For kids between three to four years of age, at least three hours, including at least one hour of higher intensity activity throughout the day.
  • Kids need to get enough – and good quality – sleep!
    • For those under one year, the recommendation is 12-17 hours including naps.
    • For ages one to two, 11-14 hours.
    • For ages three to four, 10-13 hours.
  • Kids need to spend less (or limited) time being restrained and sitting in front of screens.
    • Translation? Not being stuck in a stroller or car seat for more than one hour at a time. Screen time isn’t recommended for children under two years, and it’s recommended to limit sedentary screen time to no more than one hour for kids aged between two and four.

Here’s what I really appreciate about this last part, and what I think actually applies to all ages: the recommendation is to replace restrained and sedentary screen time with more physical activity, while still ensuring a good quality sleep. However, it doesn’t tell us to avoid all sedentary time completely. In fact, this concept recognizes that there are a number of sedentary activities (particularly in the early, developmental years, but also for all ages) that are very valuable from a holistic wellness perspective.

For children, these higher quality sedentary activities include quiet play, reading, creative storytelling and interacting with caregivers, etc. For adults, things like reading a book, creating something, making music, or working on a puzzle can contribute to our overall wellness by expanding our minds and focusing on something positive.

So, what I’m saying is this: yes, for the sake of our health, we need to sit less and move more. However, not all sedentary behaviours are terrible or need to be eliminated completely. Generally, the sedentary behaviours that we, as a society, need to get a handle on are the ones involving staring at screens and numbing our brains. This is not to say that we should never watch TV or movies, or scroll through social media; we just need to be mindful of it, and try to swap out some of these activities in favour of moving our bodies more. We need to recognize the difference between those sedentary activities that leave you feeling sluggish and dull versus those that leave you inspired and peaceful. Do less of what dulls you, and more of what inspires you, for a balanced, healthy life!

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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All Native Basketball Tournament 2019 – The Diamond Anniversary

Person holding sign with their most valuable teaching.

My most valuable teaching…” Learning how to deal with loss. I learned not to isolate and at 72 years old I joined an Elders’ walking club. 3 times a week!”

From February 10-16, the 2019 All Native Basketball Tournament celebrated its diamond anniversary in Prince Rupert. The 60th annual tournament and cultural event drew participants and fans from as far as Ahousat on Vancouver Island to Hydaburg, Kake, and Metlakatla.

The original tournament was called the Northern British Columbia Coast Indian Championship Tournament and ran from 1947-1953. The inaugural 1947 tournament was held in the Roosevelt Gymnasium at what is now École Roosevelt Park Community School, attracting about 400 spectators. Due to lack of interest, the first version of the tournament was cancelled in 1953, but by 1959, the tournament was rekindled with a new name – The All Native Basket Ball Tournament (ANBT). The first ANBT was held on March 2, 1960 and continues to the present day as British Columbia’s largest basketball tournament and the largest Indigenous cultural event in Canada.

This year, the tournament saw thousands of spectators cheer nearly fifty teams competing in four divisions: intermediate, seniors’, masters’, and women’s.

All but one of the defending champions reclaimed their titles with the PR Bad Boys losing out to Skidegate Saints 85-83. The seniors’ division title went to the Kitkatla Warriors who beat out newcomers, Pigeon Park All-Stars, 102-85. The Hydaburg Warriors took home their fifth straight masters’ division title beating out the Lax Kw’alaams Hoyas 98-74. Finally, two-time defending champs, Kitamaat Woman’s Squad, bested the Similkameen Starbirds 45-36 to take home the women’s division title for the third time.

The Northern Health sponsored Raven Room

Person holding sign with their most valuable teaching.

My most valuable teaching… “Respect one another and respect your Elders; share and be thankful for what you have.”

Northern Health is proud to have partnered with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) to sponsor the Raven Room. The Raven Room is intended to be a peaceful space for Elders to rest and take a break from the bustle of the tournament.

Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson) was the room’s official host while many Elders and others dropped in for k’wila’maxs tea, coffee, baked goods with locally-harvested berry jam, fruit, and good conversation. Northern Health and FNHA staff and volunteers were on hand to offer wellness checks and advice about blood pressure, blood sugars, and cholesterol. Over 200 people visited the Raven Room and 191 people received wellness checks.

The Raven Room and wellness checks are designed to create a safe space for community members to learn about health care from a perspective outside the mainstream health care environment which can often be intimidating and uncomfortable for many. This more public space provides a safer and perhaps more familiar way to access services because others are there to witness and offer support.

Person holding sign with their most valuable teaching.

My most valuable teaching… “Pass my knowledge to the next generation.”

When asked what they enjoyed most about the Raven Room, one visitor responded, “I think that this service is an excellent idea – as it is hard to try and get to see your Dr. [The] waiting period at hospital is so out of this world.”

This year’s Raven Room theme was “the strength and wisdom of Elders.” Many Elders offered “their most valuable teaching” or “what they want to share with the younger generation” for an Elder’s Wisdom Wall (see photos).

FNHA also used other rooms to host great workshops about sports physiotherapy and taping, painting, and cedar weaving. Tournament participants and spectators were also invited to meet with traditional healers throughout the week.

Congratulations to all competitors and all those involved in organizing this event!

Person holding sign with advice for the younger generation.

What do you want to share with the younger generation? “Respect everyone! Compassion! Abuse of drugs and alcohol – say no!”

Woman holding sign with her advice for the younger generation.

What do you want to share with the younger generation? “Never give up, LOVE yourself is to respect yourself as a person. Find help when life pressure gets to hard. We DO LOVE you. you are not alone.”

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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Dancing my way to wellness: why boogie-ing is better for you than you think

Dance partners posing together.
My Boogie with the Stars dance partner Gurinder and I.

This fall I reignited an old passion of mine: dance. Growing up I spent many hours at my local dance studio practicing jazz and my favourite, ballet. Besides teaching me important aspects of physical activity like coordination and flexibility, dance taught me important things I still appreciate now as an adult.

What dance has taught me:

  • Good posture: I learned to put my shoulders back, not slouch, and stand tall!
  • Musicality: thanks to my ballet training I still enjoy listening to classical music; leading up to Christmas I had the Nutcracker on repeat!
  • Discipline: I learned it takes hard work to learn a routine or new move! I’ve applied this skill to many things since my younger dance days, including post-secondary school and my career.

From ballet to ballroom

Now I’ve traded my ballet slippers for ballroom heels! This New Year’s Eve I’ll be dancing at the Prince George Civic Centre as a member of Boogie with the Stars (BWTS). BWTS is a fun-filled biannual fundraising gala that sees a variety of Prince George community members come together and face off on the dance floor! There are several teams, each one raising money for a different charity. My partner Gurinder and I are Team Wheelin’Warriors of the North and all of our funds will go to the BC Cancer Foundation. We’ll be dancing a salsa and swing compilation! It’s been fun to take dance lessons again and try something new. Plus I forgot what good exercise dance can be! Have you ever been curious about dance? Here are a couple reasons why you should try it, including a couple benefits I’ve discovered:

Group dance session.
A group dance session at Dance North in Prince George. 

Now that the NYE countdown is on, my partner and I are continuing to practice hard. Whether you have experience or not I’d encourage anyone to give dance a try! Are you part of a dance group in your community? What kind of dance do you enjoy the most?

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Finding wellness at work: tips from the Dawson Creek Health Unit wellness team


The Dawson Creek Health Unit wellness team works on different wellness related initiatives throughout the year.

“In order to take good care of patients, we need to take good care of ourselves.” This is just one reason why the Dawson Creek Health Unit wellness team exists. Lara Frederick, the North East Preventive Public Health Program Lead, is an active member of this team, however, she is only one member of what she describes as a diverse group.

“The team is made up of a variety of staff at the Dawson Creek Health Unit – from administrative to management like myself,” says Lara. “Membership is optional and members are encouraged to join when they can. We’re a pretty informal group. We aim to meet monthly – usually in a neutral space like the lunchroom. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen and that’s okay. Members contribute where they can.”

Wellness in action

According to Lara, the Health Unit wellness team works on different wellness related initiatives throughout the year. She shared a few of the initiatives the team has taken part in lately:

  • Jeans Day: “Basically each staff member can choose to pay $25 for the year to be able to wear jeans on a Friday (participation is optional). We put part of that money towards wellness initiatives like potlucks etc. and the other funds go towards local charities chosen by staff. We usually vote as a group and then make a donation to four chosen charities on behalf of the Dawson Creek Health Unit.”
  • Walk Across Canada: “Last summer the team took part in a physical activity challenge where team members were placed on randomized teams and tracked their steps all summer. Every 5,000 steps equalled one star. Everyone tracked their progress by adding stars to a confidential team tally. The challenge really helped encourage everyone to get out on lunches and breaks. People were doing laps around the building! At the end of the challenge,the teams and participants who walked the farthest won a prize.”
  • Secret Friend: “This September, interested staff members filled out a questionnaire with questions asking what they liked, what makes them smile, etc. Participants were then randomly assigned to another participant to be their secret friend. The goal of the secret friend is to anonymously do nice things for their buddy – things like leaving nice notes or little gifts in their work space, and even just making a bit of effort to get to know that person. With many new staff this is a great way to help everyone feel included. One staff member actually created a seek-and-find where the secret friend had to search out people in the health unit according to clues! It was a great way to help that new staff member get to know us all! The plan is to end secret friend with a potluck in December where everyone tries to guess who their buddy was, followed by a big reveal!”

Why work should be enjoyable

For Lara, being part of the wellness team is a no-brainer as she’s a self-described wellness junky! “It’s very important to me to enjoy my time at work and have fun,” she says. For her, the best way to do this is to get involved with other people at work.

Get involved with other people on your team! If you’re given the space by managers, work together to create a fun environment. Especially with staff turnover and challenges, it’s great to come to work and have fun things going on.”

Overcoming workplace wellness obstacles

According to Lara, there can be barriers to making wellness work at work, the biggest ones being management support, time, and money. She says their team is fortunate that their local management sees the value in having a healthy wellness team: “Being supported to meet together for 30-40 minutes in the lunchroom makes a big difference. We have a lot of people eager to make our workplace enjoyable. They want to help and be involved.”


Prizes from the team’s Walk Across Canada challenge last summer!

Lara says time will always be a barrier, especially in health care: “The thought is that time shouldn’t be taken away from patient care to work on wellness at work. However, in order to take good care of patients, we need to take good care of ourselves first.” She says the wellness team operates on staff donations and relying on that can be challenging. “Sometimes when we’re looking to get prizes made, we can get discounts from local shops-which helps lower the cost. Having this local support is great.”

Incorporating wellness in your workplace: words of advice

“It takes just one person with a desire to bring wellness to the workplace. That one person needs to seek out the support of fellow teammates as well as support from leadership.” As Lara says, prioritizing time can be tough and health care workers must take care of themselves: “Making the workplace more fun and enjoyable makes it healthier for everyone!”


Getting involved with other people on your team is a great way to make work more enjoyable. 

Are you currently part of a wellness team or looking to start one? The Dawson Creek Health Unit wellness team is always looking for more ideas or other teams to do challenges with! “We’d love to do a challenge between another health unit or community team. Please get in touch with us!” 

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Wellness at Work: Tips from your Recreation Therapist

jaymee webster on a bridge in the woods with her dog.In the world of recreation therapy, we often think of wellness as not the absence of disease, but rather on a spectrum. As such, there are many factors – physical, social and psychological – that have an impact on someone’s ability to reach optimal wellness. Optimal wellness is personal and it changes throughout the lifespan; it looks different for everyone.

As a recreation therapist in the rehabilitation setting, I work with those whose well-being or independence has been compromised due to multiple health or social problems. I provide leisure education opportunities for individuals to learn the benefits of leisure involvement, how it can have an impact on well-being, and what opportunities are available to them in their home community.

My work has an obvious link to wellness and I am passionate about leisure and recreation. In my spare time, I love exploring the many trails in the Prince George area with my dog, Juno. However, focusing on your well-being doesn’t have to stop when you get to work. We spend a lot of time at our work place.

Here are some things that I try to make a priority for keeping well at work:

  1. Pack a lunch and eat it too.
    Bringing food from home tends to be the healthier and the most cost-effective option. And don’t forget to eat it! The only way to give yourself the energy to perform your job effectively is to actually eat the food.
  2. Take the stairs.
    Take any opportunity to get yourself moving during the day.
  3. Get a good night’s sleep.
    I know this one’s easier said than done, but try to make it a priority. When Netflix asks if you want to continue watching… click “No.” It will set you up for a much better work day. Your body will thank you!
  4. Make a list.
    Managing your time and prioritizing tasks helps reduce workload stress. Take a deep breath while you’re at it!
  5. Have a laugh.
    Professional boundaries are important, but so is being yourself. Get to know those around you. If you’re in a helping profession, get to know the individuals you’re working with. Sharing an inside joke does wonderful things for the therapeutic relationship! Smiling and laughing can be contagious but that’s okay, it’s good for you!
  6. Balance.
    Leisure is defined as time free from obligation, an activity that is freely chosen and as a state of mind. Engaging in meaningful recreation and leisure activities in your personal life has the ability to improve overall well-being, which will spill over into your work life as well.

Wellness is a dynamic process that encompasses body, mind, and spirit. I challenge all of you to set an achievable wellness at work goal this spring, because a healthier you leads to a healthier work environment!

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

About Jaymee Webster

Jaymee Webster is a Activity Worker Recreational Therapist at Northern Health.

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Workplace burnout: How to avoid that stressful, sinking feeling

Raina Fumerton and her son posing outside.Physician burnout is a relatively common experience in BC and elsewhere. Life at work, and outside of work can be busy, chaotic, and stressful. It can, at times, feel overwhelming. I won’t pretend that I’ve got everything “figured out” or that I don’t have episodes of regression/remission to unhealthy habits, but I can share some strategies that have helped me to move in a healthier direction. As a physician, these help me – but can be just as beneficial for anyone!

As much as possible, stay positive. I know this sounds corny, but it’s true. It’s also hard to do and takes active effort (for me anyway). There are times, usually when I’m tired, when I tend to move to a negative outlook instead of a positive one. However, in my experience, cynicism can be very destructive and can lead to even more feelings of disempowerment and frustration, and can also be quite contagious. It’s been helpful to me to be aware of this tendency towards negativity, actively acknowledge it without judgment, and then trying to take a more compassionate and positive approach. Trying to see things from a different point of view and finding new opportunities from what might initially have felt like a failure can also be helpful.

Make realistic goals every day. Accomplishing small but realistic goals each day gives me the energy and motivation to stick with some of the longer term goals and projects I have on the go.

Be kind to myself and to others. A safe and respectful workplace is a culture that allows me to thrive. No matter the setting, saying thank you and showing gratitude to others for the many things that they do is a great way to ensure that I contribute to a positive and healthy environment that enables myself (and others) to thrive, both in the workplace and beyond. As a public health physician, I work on issues that can be quite controversial and divisive. As such, not having an expectation of myself to make everybody happy is also helpful. I take positions and make decisions based on public health ethics and on evidence; I have learned to accept that while people may disagree with me, I hope that they can respect and appreciate my process.

Posture. Sit up straight or stand up! I spend a lot of time at a desk and in front of a computer and am fortunate to have a sit-stand desk, which allows me some diversity/flexibility. I find when I pay attention to my posture, it has positive effects on me, both physically and mentally.

Exercise. I am not a morning person, and quite frankly I am not easily pulled away from the comfort of my home in the evenings either! However, I am lucky to have a workplace that is within walking distance from my home and a fabulous local fitness studio that hosts lunchtime exercise classes. I find incorporating exercise into my daily commute (e.g. walking to work) and/or daily lunchtime regime is far more effective than trying to find time in the early mornings or evenings, particularly now that I have children. The lunchtime classes really energize me at a critical juncture in the day which enables me to be more productive in the afternoon.

Spend time with my son (and soon to arrive baby daughter). Admittedly this can go both ways (there are definitely times where one’s children can affect one’s life balance in a negative way as well!). However, in general and overall, I experience a lot of joy in allowing myself to engage in his playful and curious ways and exploring the world through his eyes. He has the absolute best and most infectious (and therapeutic) laugh I’ve ever heard.

Spend time in nature. Living in beautiful northwestern BC, there is no shortage of highly accessible, stunning outdoor adventures and escapes to be enjoyed. I am fortunate to have a wide range of options at my fingertips for all four seasons. I try to make a purposeful effort to get outdoors every day, even if it’s just for a short walk, on my own, or with friends or family.

Raina Fumerton

About Raina Fumerton

Dr. Raina Fumerton is a public health physician and a Medical Health Officer in the northwest.

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Wellness outside of the meal

As I dietitian, I hear the word “wellness” used so often in an extreme way, I fear the meaning is lost in translation. I define wellness by doing an activity that brings a sense of joy – like sitting down to enjoy a fresh cinnamon bun out of the oven. I see wellness in two contexts: First, how it applies to my work as a long term care dietitian, and second, how it applies to my life at home.little girl in blue dress holding a big leaf

As a long term care dietitian, I often get referrals to see residents regarding their diet (diet simply meaning the food we eat – nothing more). Referrals come in all shapes and sizes; it could be due to “Mrs. Jones’” diabetes, or “Mr. Smith’s” dementia. Whatever the reason for seeing a resident, I always approach the visit from a place of wellness.

This means I might liberalize Mrs. Jones diet so that she can have the monthly birthday cake with her tablemates. Why – doesn’t she has diabetes? Yes she does, however Mrs. Jones finds joy in eating cake and this activity makes her feel included in the festivities of her new home. This is wellness!

For Mr. Smith, I might change his diet to finger foods and speak with the staff about the opportunity to offer him a quarter sandwich and walk with him for a while when he’s walking the halls. Why? Mr. Smith likes to eat, but finds sitting down for a meal confusing and overwhelming. A sandwich while walking is easier, and it makes him feel good while providing him the nourishment his body needs. Nothing fancy, but when he lived alone, he loved eating sandwiches!

It’s incredible to think that even without focusing on what’s being eaten, the very act of eating can have a wellness effect on someone. Which brings me to how this sort of wellness applies to my family!

Our family lives outside of town on a larger lot, but by no means an acreage. In the last five years we’ve welcomed two children, built six raised garden beds, learned how to bee keep with one hive, and as I write this article, my husband – who’s no handyman – is building a coop for the six chicks chirping in our dining room.two kids sitting on a deck enjoying Popsicles

We don’t garden because home grown veggies are healthier; we do it because the act of gardening brings us all joy. We don’t have bees (which I’m terrified of) because the honey is better for you, we do it so we can enjoy it with our friends. We’re raising chickens not for their eggs, but because we want to have animals around our young kids. Our hopes are that this can help teach them empathy – and yes, to be frank, my almost two year old eats three eggs for breakfast. That one is a win-win for everyone!

Whatever it is that you do, or eat, I hope that you can spot the benefits in both the food and the act, and both of these important parts bring you as much joy and wellness as possible!

About Dena Ferretti

Photo & bio coming soon!

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