NAOSH WEEK PROFILE: Staying Healthy in a Busy World

Originally posted by the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) week runs May 1-7. During NAOSH week, anyone in the workplace, whether they work at a desk or on their feet, are encouraged to learn about how to make safety a priority.

We reached out to a guest blogger, Edmonton photographer, communications whizz and mom, Megan Braithwaite, to get her perspective on how she keeps her health a prioritywith her busy work and home life.

Photography is the art of pausing a moment. In order to catch that open-mouthed laugh, look of astonishment, or mid-air jump, you have to be limber and quick—not only with your shutter finger.

Occasionally twisting your body into the perfect angle or carrying heavy lighting gear to give someone a perfect glow will take a photo from average to spectacular.

You never know what you’re going to get during a shoot—you may spend a day running after a busy bridal party or crouched in anticipation for half-an-hour waiting for a bird in perfect light to take flight.

So, how can you prepare for, well, anything?

I think it begins with two things—moving AND staying still.

Let’s start with moving.

Yoga is my movement of choice, because it helps me be flexible in mind and body. Downward dog helps me stretch out my tight calves so I can chase my subject around, and it allows me to “see” new angles. How often do you look between your legs? Upside down? I try to keep this in mind while I’m shooting. If I look at something a little differently, sometimes I can capture it in a remarkable way.

Another way I choose to move is to take a long walk outside with my baby and my German Shepherd. I know that if I can last an hour minding the stroller and a dog that chases everything, and still notice how the duck’s feathers on the pond are a beautiful oily hue, I can wrangle that bride, pet-as-ring bearer and all 20 family members into one gorgeous shot. I know that my cardiovascular health is up to par to chase that rambunctious one-year-old around their birthday party.

Now, staying still.

Pressing pause on life is an important way to prepare. Sitting still in meditation for a prolonged period of time trains my mind and my muscles for when I have to crouch down and wait for that deer to get just a little closer, so I can slowly press the shutter and capture the moment when curiosity overcomes fear.

Meditation also teaches me to be kind to my body. Just like charging the camera battery, having your SD card empty, and choosing the right lens, it is important to have your mind on the moment and your body able. It is impossible to be present when you’re thinking about joint pain, that tight muscle, a rumbling tummy or the argument you had with your husband last week.

My solution to this is simple self-care. Eat well and healthy, but don’t forget to indulge once in awhile. Express gratitude and joy for the moments in your own life worthy of a photograph. Listen to your body—get a massage, see a chiropractor, do some yoga, sit in meditation, or find a version of movement that brings you joy. Both your body and mind will pay you dividends when you are ready to press the shutter as your friends walk down the aisle, the little girl blows an impromptu kiss at the camera, or the bird on the branch finally spreads it’s wings.

Happy shooting everyone!

Megan Braithwaite is a mom, wife, communications professional and photographer who enjoys sinking into the background and stopping time with her camera.

Silver Linings for Colder Days

Photo by NitroCephal/iStock / Getty Images

It seems like overnight the seasons change. The mornings are crisper, the air is dryer and the days are shorter. As the seasons shift, so do our activities. Perhaps we continue some of the same but move indoors, or just start layering up. Or, for those snow bunnies out there, once the white stuff falls we have an entirely new wonderland we can play in.  Preparing our body for these seasonal changes can be important to avoid injury, and to keep our immune system strong. If you're like me, it also can be challenging to stay as motivated with our activities when our animal instincts may be to cozy up on the couch to eat and hibernate!

As with any goal, planning ahead and setting some intentions can go a long way. Having measureable goals and timelines, enlisting a team of supporters and accountability-keepers to pull you out of a rut are all helpful in keeping on track, particularly on those days that are especially cold and gloomy.  Know that every single day we make a healthy choice, contributes to a healthier foundation. It is much easier to build on a strong foundation than to continue playing "catch-up", especially when it pertains to health.

 

Fall Fitness

I can't say enough about the importance of getting outside and being active for both physical and mental health! This weekend I had the privilege of participating in the MEC Fall Century Ride. A windy, but gorgeous 60 km leaving from Turner Valley, Alberta. It was challenging, but with encouragement from friends, and focus on my inner dialogue, I completed it in one piece. This may be the last thing you would be interested in doing on a beautiful Sunday, but there are some common themes I can share that may help in finding your inner drive to get moving. Here are some ideas to incorporate more activity into your week:
 
- Find something you LOVE to do! In summer I bike, swim, run, lift weights and hike. In winter I spin, swim, snowboard, snowshoe and lift weights...this keeps me conditioned year-round and changing my activities through the year adds variety and helps me cope with the changing seasons. Having a variety of activities also keeps me doing SOMETHING if I am not in the mood to do what I otherwise planned to.
 
- Sign-up for an event to train for! If this is out of your comfort zone, start with volunteering. You can get to know other participants, how the event works and most likely see how much you belong! Everyone, at some point has taken on the challenge of their first 'race'. I am always inspired by the people I see and meet at races and events! To be truthful, I didn't train for this weekend's ride. And I felt it. But I showed up, complained a little, and was so glad that I did it!
 
- Plan weekly meetups with friends, neighbours or coworkers. Having someone else you are accountable to can be a nice "push", especially as the days get shorter and colder.
 
- Meetup groups can be a great way to meet new people and try new sports or activities you otherwise may not have tried. The University, Mountain Equipment Coop, Running Room, Lululemon, among others, have various programs to participate in, some of which are complimentary!
 
Being active on a daily basis, is our primal nature. Building and maintaining strength with functional movements, flexibility, ease in motion, endurance and stamina, are all vital to living a long, healthy life.

Wine, Chocolate & High Heels

I recently had someone ask me if their backpain was related to the fact that they wore high heels the day before. My answer? Maybe...hard to say. It is not a secret that high heels can put added stress to the low back, ankles and feet. The lifting of our heel changes our centre of gravity and our body shifts to accomodate. We can not avoid stress entirely, nor do we necessarily want to, the bigger question is our body adapting appropriately to the stress.
 
It may be worth clarifying that there are multiple categories of stress where these ideas can be applied. High heels refer to more of a physical stress, however chemical stress (i.e. alcohol, sugar, etc.) and mental/ emotional stress (i.e. new job, lay-off, wedding, divorce) also apply. A healthy body is able to adapt to, what should be, a temporary stress.
 
Problems surface when the stress is no longer temporary. If a woman only ever wore high heels, eventually the body would adapt differently and problems may surface. Shortened achilles (the tendon at the back of the ankle), extra pressure on the lower spine leading to back pain, or even changes to the forefoot to accomodate the regular weight load distributed. In moderation however, the body has a chance to "bounce back" more easily so permanent changes don't take place. Even with moderation, ensuring a counter-action to help mitigate the stress produced on the body can provide further benefit, such as stretching the ankle/ calf after wearing heels.
 
In the response to the initial question, I equated high heels with chocolate and red wine (hard to tell what my vices are haha). Once in awhile, a glass of red, a little chocolate, is not a big deal and should not derail your health. If they became two main food groups however, you most definitely would note some negative repercussions.
 
When healthy, the 80/20 rule is a fair approach. If 80% of the time the best choices are made...eating the quality and quantity of food that is appropriate and necessary, participating in a well-rounded activity schedule (and as it relates to the above scenario, avoiding undue stress to our physical body), and maintaining an appropriate level of mental stress, then if in the other 20% of the time we choose to indulge, we really should be able to adapt and continue moving forward in a healthy way.
 
Be honest with the choices you are making 80% of the time. Journal if necessary to stay accountable and see where you may struggle the most, and acknowledge yourself for where you are living a life that will lead you to the outcomes you desire. Being healthy is about choice, not restriction or deprivation.

 

Juggling

I just had a great conversation with one of my practice members. She was stressed (with a smile) about always running late and taking too much on. It's not a rare story, in fact I'm sure all of us have felt that way at one time or another. The truth is, if we do not make and take the time for self care, our body will create a reason for us to slow down. OK, so what do we do when we have 25 hrs of "stuff" to cram into 24 hours? I don't know that there is one easy answer. Everyone is different, so what works for one person, won't necessarily work for another. And like any new habits, it can take time to get used to any new system. 

 If you have a smart phone, there are a number of different organizational apps you could try. I've checked out a few, and often they remained a pretty icon on my phone and didn't get much use. Recently however, I found one that works for me. It was free (even better!), and synced with my iphone calendar, so if events got added to one, they would show up in the other. My favourite feature though, was the "healthy habits" section. I could decide how many times a week I wanted to do a given habit, and then schedule it to track if I'm doing what I intended to. If I don't have a specific time to schedule, the app will suggest different times that do not have anything currently scheduled. Any time in the week I can have a quick look to see the progress I've made through the week. What I like about this, is not only in the tracking, but that the habits are set by the user. So you could set weights/ yoga/ run frequencies, but you could also put in "daily vitamin", or "8 glasses of water/ day" to track how closely you are actually following a healthy plan. The app is called "Timeful", but like I said, for it to be effective it has to be something you will work with. 

 Aside from finding systems to organize you, one of the most powerful tools to use is our own mind....sometimes our worst enemy. How we perceive our schedule and demands of the day can affect how we prioritize things. Often we feel like we are scrambling for time, because we have prioritized things that can wait. Tony Robbins has a system he uses called RPM. If you are willing to complete the exercises in the program, it can highlight not only where you are spending your time, but where you may be able to find extra time. 

 These are just two of many things you can do to reduce stress around time. If any point is worth making, it is likely that our health is worth prioritizing. Small, incremental steps go a long way!