More Than Fitness: Slow The Fork Down

Do you feeling like life is spinning out of control?  That you can’t seem to keep up with your daily to do list let alone take on any additional projects or even think about your health or “self-care”.  Well I am here to say that if you do not make time to make your health a priority, illness or burn out will soon find you and make the time for you – I know this first hand!
While it may not feel like we have the time to look after our health and incorporate daily routines and rituals that will protect us in the long run, ensuring we have long and healthy lives, when it comes right down to it, we all have the same 24 hours in a day.  So why is it that some people seem to be able to make the time they need to look after their health as a priority and the rest of us struggle to barely find the time to get our teeth brushed in the morning let alone incorporate any other “self-care” in to our days? It all comes down to mindset and priorities. What will it take to shift your mindset and lead you to make you a priority? Will it take a health scare? A burn out? An illness or disease? Or are you ready today to start to make the small, incremental changes needed to get you there one little step at a time?
By making small changes that you incorporate on a daily or weekly basis, you can begin to slowly but surely improve your health and your habits, and you will be pleasantly surprised by the results! While many of us focus on goals such as weight loss when we decide we should “get healthy”, there are so many other factors that are so much more important that will result from the changes you implement.  Reducing stress, better sleep, increased energy and the list goes on!
So what small changes can you implement today to begin to shift your health to a positive place? Here are a few examples:
Slow the fork down! And I mean this both figuratively and literally. By slowing your fork down and practicing mindful eating, you will not only improve your digestion, but you will most likely end up eating less as your stomach and your brain will actually have time to communicate so you know when you are full and avoid overeating.  
If you also start to slow the f#%k down and take some time for yourself every day, you will be surprised how your mindset and your outlook begins to change! Take a few minutes each day to practice some deep breathing or meditation, take a hot bath, read, go for a walk – anything that you enjoy and that helps you to slow down your body and your mind, and lastly,
Make a commitment to moving your body for just 15 minutes each and every day! I know it is asking a lot as you are already busy and overwhelmed but if you can make a solid commitment to taking these 15 minutes each and every day, you will be surprised just how quickly you start to see results.
These are but a few of many things you can start to slowly incorporate in to your day to live a healthier, more vibrant life. There are lots of other small changes you can begin to make on a consistent basis to achieve big results. Follow me on Facebook at coachjengendron for more easy-to-implement tips you can begin to use today.

Life Balance: Boosting Your Mood

With the spring weather finally upon us, you are probably starting to feel your spirits rise, and your mood elevate. However, if you are still feeling the aftermath of those winter blues, or if you simply need a pick-me-up on that gloomy Monday morning, then this column is for you!
Most of us have a cell phone, and probably spend countless hours aimlessly scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. This creeping-induced social media envy, as mentioned in a previous column, can take its toll. I am here to offer a list of apps and sites that will get you using your phone in a more mindful, healthy and intentional way…with the added benefit of instantly boosting your mood.
I have, in several columns, discussed the mental health benefits of meditating, and in particular apps that can help you begin your meditation journey. Apps such as Calm and Headspace, as you may already know, are some of my favourites. Calm offers guided and unguided meditation options that range from three to 30 minutes in duration. It allows you to choose your scene and sound for your meditation session, the type of meditation you want to try and the duration. Headspace, on the other hand, aims at offering basic-level cognitive therapy, where you learn to change your negative thought patterns and consequently reduce anxiety. The app offers a wide variety of meditation options, such as beginner “how-to” guided meditation videos, to more targeted meditation videos that can help with such things as relationship building, overcoming obstacles, etc.
Physical exercise is equally important to your mental health as meditation is. If joining the gym isn’t in the cards for you but you still want to gain the mood-boosting benefits of a good work out, there are countless free online guided workouts that you can complete in the comfort of your home. As I have mentioned in a previous column, the free guided yoga Youtube channel, Yoga with Adriene, is my all-time favourite. Other popular free guided exercise sites and Youtube channels include Booyah Fitness, YogaGlo, Boho Beautiful and the BeFit channel.

Designs For Real Life: Do’s and Don’ts of a New Kitchen

Do go Straight to the Ceiling – An average 8’ ceiling has cabinets that go to 84”. By building to the ceiling you can now have 90” high cabinets + moldings providing more storage and it draws the eye up.  Plus, as an added bonus, no more painting or dusting above the cabinets.
Do a Full Depth Fridge Cabinet – Many of you live with a tiny fridge cabinet you cannot reach. That’s wasted space. It should be the full depth of your fridge (24” min) and easily accessible; a great spot for the big appliances.
Do Under Cabinet Lights – More light is always better. Under cabinet LED lights come in handy whether it’s a cloudy day or if your sneaking down for a late night snack.
Do Invest in a Good Sink – Don’t choose your sink and faucet based solely on price. A nice sink is a design feature and higher quality fixtures reduce your risk of water damage.
Do Add your Mark – Choose what you love and designers will help pull all your tastes together. A special glass to showcase Grandma’s china or a shelf for your cookbook collection. Make it yours.
Don’t Stick to One Metal – Since you will never be able to perfectly match your finishes anyway, mix finishes between your light fixtures, appliances and door hardware.  Choose from golds, blacks, brushed and stainless finishes; mis it up in a balanced way.
Don’t Think you Need Wall Cabinets – Plates can go in drawers for a cleaner look. You can also use floating shelves for cups.
Don’t Think you Won’t Need a Junk Drawer. Whether you plan for it or are in denial, you will still have one. We often add File cabinets in a kitchen to keep it organized.
Don’t Assume you Cannot Fit an Island – It might be small or it may be a peninsula that comes out from your cabinets. Either way the end goal to give you useable counter space and additional storage.
Don’t Worry about Budget – Be open and prepared to provide your budget to your designer. We can work within any budget. More importantly, do your research on the cabinet company prior to quoting. Over quoting will lead to confusion, time wasted and you truly not knowing what you’re getting. Look for the quality, years in business and customer service then request a quote. It is a close relationship for two or three months,  but you also need to be comfortable with the manufacturing company in case there are warranty issues in the future.

Investing In Your Future: Getting A Tax Refund? Spend It or Not?

If you are entitled to a tax refund this year, you need to decide what you should do with it. Sure, you could spend it – but then it’s gone. Here are six alternatives with longer term benefits for your financial future.
Immediately use your refund to make your 2018 Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contribution and you’ll get the benefit of nearly an extra year of potential long term tax-deferred growth plus a tax deduction against your 2018 income.
Contribute to investments held in a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). Your TFSA contribution room was increased by $5,500 as of January 1, 2018. Your contributions are not tax-deductible but you will not be taxed on the income generated by the investments in your TFSA, you can make tax-free withdrawals for any purpose at any time, and you can re-contribute any of those withdrawals in a future year.
Invest it. If your RRSP and TFSA are topped up, consider adding your refund to your non-registered investments. A tax-efficient strategy is to hold stocks and equity based mutual funds outside a RRSP or TFSA because dispositions of these types of investments are taxed using a more favourable capital gain income inclusion rate plus dividends from many Canadian corporations are eligible for the dividend tax credit.
Pay for your kids’ education. Set up Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) to fund their future post-secondary education costs. Contributions to investments within a RESP are not tax-deductible but their growth is tax-deferred and they may qualify for Canadian Education Savings Grants (CESG) of up to 20% of the first $2,500 or $5,000 you contribute each year. Depending on the primary caregiver’s family income, you could receive an extra 10-20% of Additional CESG on the first $500 you save in your child’s RESP each year.
Pay down costly, high-interest credit card debt and then pay down non-deductible debt such as your mortgage – a single prepayment could potentially save hundreds, even thousands of dollars in interest payments.
If your refund is large, consider parking that cash in a short-term investment that you can access without penalty. That way, you’ll have a ready source of money for a rainy day or a larger purchase – a new car? – without having to borrow or use credit. (A TFSA is also a good rainy day fund.)
Tax refunds are nice … but not as nice as enhancing your personal long term financial growth. Talk to your professional advisor about a comprehensive tax-reducing financial plan that will help make it possible for you to achieve all your financial and life goals.

Playing Outside The Box: Gardening With Young Children

Young children who develop a love for gardening grow into adults with a passion for plants and respect the environment. Gardens and garden activities not only improve children’s environmental attitudes and connect them with nature; they also provide an opportunity to learn about math, science, language arts, social studies, nutrition and art.  An important benefit of gardening with little ones is increased interest in eating fruits and vegetables. If they grow them they are more likely to take an interest in tasting their harvest.
Some of the popular plants that the children of Lisa’s Playhouse have grown over the years are:  Purple (Royal Burgundy) Bush Beans – they turn green after cooking; Mammoth Russian Sunflowers – grow to 10 feet tall; Chocolate Mint – this plant smells so delightful; Purple, Yellow and Cheyenne Spirit Coneflowers (Echinacea) – So colourful and lasts most of the summer; Lamb’s Ear – so soft to touch! Just like a real lamb’s ear; Sensitive Plant (Mimosa Pudica), also known as the “tickle-me” plant. When touched gently the fern like leaves automatically fold closed, then eventually reopen.
Make sure you have an area to take care of our pollinators.  They need water, food and shelter to do their job right. The children can easily help out with this by placing a rock in a water bowl or putting a few sticks in a bird bath.  A bug hotel is a great activity to do with preschoolers too.  Just gather recycled items like bricks, boards, sticks, etc. and let the children use their imaginations.
Caring for something, nurturing its growth, and developing a positive relationship with nature are some of the most important skills and opportunities practiced in gardening.  For some children, this may be their first experience involving any aspect of nature, gardening or caring for a living thing. Encourage the children to participate and help in the process of gardening. Young children can help get supplies ready (line table with newspaper, pass out supplies, fill watering can, etc.) water the plants, count seeds, scoop dirt into the pots or dig the ground or soil. One of the biggest excitement in gardening is when the children find worms!
“From the garden, and the kitchen, and the table, you learn empathy for each other and for all of creation; you learn compassion; and you learn patience and self-discipline. A curriculum that teaches these lessons gives children an orientation to the future – and it can give them hope” ~ Alice Waters.

The Crayon Box: Take A Chance On Green

The party that got back to us the earliest was the Green Party. They currently hold one seat and are hoping for some big change this September. This week I had the pleasure of interviewing John Sabine (Hampton), Ann McAllister (Rothesay), and Marilyn Merritt-Gray (Gagetown-Petitcodiac).
I started off my interview with Mr. Sabine by asking about someone who has inspired him. He responded that his mother was the most important person in his life. She had a college education, rare for a woman to have at that time. She was down-to-earth and logical and Mr. Sabine says that to him, “motherhood is the most important job in the world.” When Ms. Merritt-Gray was asked the same question, she told me about Alma Brooks, an elder at St. Mary’s First Nation who advocates for many causes. Ms. Merritt-Gray said she’s a wise, reasonable lady who is a straight-shooter.
Policy-wise, the candidates agree on many ideas, most falling under the six party principles. They all expressed a wish to focus on local food rather than importing in from far away. The term “living within our means” came up a lot, from the financial sector, to the health sector, to the environment. They are all against the spending habits of the current Liberal party, as they believe people in general should not consume more than they can safely produce. For Ms. McAllister, this means finding renewable energy sources and increasing the efficiency of our transportation system. Plus, she wants to see buildings where a whole bunch of different health services can be found under one roof, as she believed this would speed up waiting times for specialists. Mr. Sabine drew attention to the fact that storms made worse by climate change are costing taxpayers more and more money and that weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels would be, for him, an important project. However, he also pointed out that change doesn’t happen overnight. Ms. Merritt-Gray desires stronger economies in our rural areas. She points out that if the rural people don’t speak up and vote, then policy will be dictated in a way that might not favour them. She also wants the government to pay more attention to our homecare sector, as she feels as though the voices of seniors have not been heard.
Next time, we’ll look at the Green Party’s opinions on democracy. To be continued…

Family Matters: Life As A Balancing Act

Life balance is an important concept in occupational therapy. Occupational therapists have much to contribute when speaking with parents and families about life balance and well-being. Many parents know that a balanced life is a healthier one but how do parents begin to teach their children about it? Here are some suggestions built around self-care, school, leisure activities and social engagement.
Exercise and Sleep. Speak to your kiddos about your walk, run or swim, and get them involved even if you aren’t doing the activity together. Talk about how it’s great for your body to be physically active.  Related to exercise is sleep. Teach your children that all our bodies need time to rest. Keep predictable bedtime routines and refer to bedtime as the time to recharge our batteries – for healthy bodies and minds.
Time Management. Time management is a skill that can be done together. Educate your children about time management when they are completing projects, homework, chores and during play time. It will give them a sense of time and responsibility, making sure they aren’t spending too much time doing one thing or over-scheduling themselves.
 Time to Take Care of Self. Teaching your kids the art of setting time aside for taking care of themselves is invaluable. This will come in handy as they get older and enter the work world. Model behaviours like daily grooming, healthy meal preparation, room tidying, alone time and laundry washing.
 Hobbies. Encourage your children to have at least one hobby, something they can partake in between school and other activities they may be involved in. Promote their enthusiasm for that hobby by giving them time each day to enjoy it.
TV Time. Complete house chores or homework before turning on the TVs or electronics. By placing priorities on tasks, you are teaching about balancing activities of daily living and down time. If your family has fallen into the habit of watching too much TV, create a new yard game everyone can play outside.
 Play Time. Our children learn a lot through play so setting time aside for play is crucial when teaching life balance.  Play games as a family, as part of a sports team and in unstructured ways.
Being a parent means making sure your kids’ activities are balanced, fun and promote well-being.  This month, find new ways to establish life balance as a family and enjoy the parenting journey.

Comments of a Distracted Mind: Different Strokes For Different Folks


Growing up, I didn’t display many maternal instincts. I had “career Barbie” long before it was fashionable.  My Barbie was a lawyer or a doctor or a pilot… she was always well dressed and I spent a great deal of time styling hair and deciding which briefcase best fit the career of the day. My sister on the other hand was very maternal. She had a set of “quint” dolls and generously offered to share the babies with me so that my Barbie could also be a mom but I declined. So while my Barbie was off being professional, my sister’s Barbie was home being domestic. The same pattern held true when playing dolls, My Little Pony or a myriad of other games all little girls play.
As adults I embraced my career. I liked knowing what my daily schedule would be, knowing that I would be able to dress in pretty clothes, style my hair, do my nails, and experiment with makeup. I enjoyed the challenge posed by working with tight deadlines and the thrill of contributing to a “win” for my employer’s clients. The little rush that I would get when I found that elusive bit of case law, the missing piece of a puzzle that could mean the difference between a common-law spouse receiving a fair division of assets or losing everything served as a natural high for me.
My sister on the other hand is known as “mother nature”. She is now a mom of four boys, a step-mom to an adult son and a grandmother to her step-son’s two children. She also babysits, runs a playgroup and is hoping to re-open her pre-school in the fall. She presides over a hectic menagerie comprised one ten month old who has just learned how to pull himself up on things and has a fascination with water, one three year old who personifies every action word known to man, a seven year old who knows no fear , a ten year old taking notes on how to be a lawyer, a husband who drives long-haul truck, two large, hyperactive dogs, two slightly psychotic cats, one non-litter trained bunny, and however many hamsters happen to be in the three cages at any given time. The running joke between Becca and her husband is that they “are one pony away from a hobby farm”.
Despite our differences, my sister and I have always been incredibly close (with the exception of our teen years when we both loved and hated each other at any given time). We can talk about anything and everything, although when it comes to our different lifestyles we often tell the other-“I don’t know how you do it”.

Food For Thought: Understanding Whole Grains

There are many benefits to eating whole grains. They contain fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. They also help to keep your digestive system healthy and help to control blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. It is recommended that you make at least half of your grain choices whole grain every day. Aim for ¼ of your plate to include whole grains and fill ½ of your plate with vegetables and ¼ of your plate with protein for a balanced meal.
Wondering what grains are actually considered whole grain? Some examples include barley, oats, quinoa, millet, rye, brown and wild rice, bulgur, kamut and spelt. When buying grain products, look for the words “whole grain” in the ingredient list to know the product is made with whole grains.
There are many ways to easily incorporate more whole grains in your diet. Start by looking for white grain products that can be replaced by whole grain options. Switching bread, English muffins and tortillas for whole grain versions is a great way to get started. Choose brown or wild rice instead of white rice. Replace white pasta with whole grain or smart pasta. You could also mix regular rice or pasta with a whole grain version to include more whole grains. Another easy way to add more whole grains to your diet is to look for ways to include them in the meals that you already cook. Start your day with whole grain cereal or oatmeal at breakfast. Use whole grain flour or oatmeal in baking. Enjoy low fat, low sodium popcorn as a snack. Try adding barley, quinoa or wild rice to homemade soups.
If cooking with whole grains is new to you, start by cooking the grain according to directions on the package. Double up when cooking whole grains such as quinoa, rice, bulgur and barley. They freeze well and defrost easily for a quick meal addition on busy nights. Use low sodium broth instead of water when cooking grains to add more flavour. Experiment with different types of grains for new flavours and textures in your meals at home!
Sobeys Dietitians offer a variety of free nutrition classes each month. To learn more, call 633-7787 or email or for more information.

Live Well: Bullying In The Workplace – Part One

One definition of workplace bullying states that it: is a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes either physical or emotional harm. It can include such tactics as verbal, non-verbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. When the bullying involves a group of individuals targeting an individual or individuals, it is called mobbing. The leader—manager, co-worker, or subordinate—rallies others to engage in verbal and nonverbal aggression, personal attacks, social ostracism, isolation, humiliation, rumor, innuendo, and so on with the goal of getting rid of the targeted individual.
Women are more likely to be bullied than men; according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, women represented 57% of reported cases. Men, it was noted, are more likely to engage in aggressive bullying behavior. Cyberbullying, using the telephone or internet with the intent to shame, ridicule, or harm another, is a relatively new form of bullying brought to public attention by the shocking news of teen suicides attributed to peer cyberbullying.
According to psychologist Dr. Sophie Henshaw, mobbing is ‘bullying on steroids,’ a horrifying new trend where a bully enlists co-workers to collude in a relentless campaign of psychological terror against a helpless target. She also stated that at least 30% of bullying is mobbing with a rising tendency. Fear of becoming a target causes many individuals to support bullying behavior. An Australian study, claims that for every reported case as many as eight to 20 cases go unreported.
Certain workplace stresses can contribute to mobbing – increased financial pressure due to market demands; organizations driven by bureaucracy, such as government departments; beliefs that support bullying as personality conflicts; supervisors and managers lacking skills to deal with mobbing and bullying; values not centered on caring for others. Witnesses of bullying or harassment who turn a blind eye are guilty of perpetuating the problem because if nothing changes, nothing changes, and the bullies move on to the next target.
What can you do if you are the target of mobbing; first, practice good self-care and get out as soon as possible; document everything in case you decide to take legal action in the future; take the time you need to sort out future plans, and this could include having your doctor prescribe stress leave; find a therapist to help develop coping strategies, a lawyer who can advise of legal recourse, family physician who is informed of the work situation, supportive family and friends; practice good self-care; find activities that help diminish stress—exercise, creative pursuits like painting or coloring; try to find joy in every day or reasons to smile.