Tag Archive for: Healthy Lifestyle


Is the Goal of Achieving Work-Life Balance Stressing You Out?

What is your impression of work-life balance? Is your goal to create this ‘balanced lifestyle’ actually increasing your stress level?  A lot of people find work-life balance a completely unrealistic goal that is impossible to achieve. Many find life demands are simply keeping them too busy to take time to relax.

As we have discussed before, stress can cause heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and immunity issues. Statistics Canada says that 1 in 4 adults reported high stress in 2013, and high stress means that your mental and physical health are declining.

The good news is that this is preventable. We simply need to change how we define “work-life balance” and create plans that will help reduce stress based on our individual situations.  The following video from our OT-V (Occupational Therapy Video) series will help shed light on how to create a healthy balance without increasing stress or guilt if this balance is not achieved every day. 

Remember Occupational therapists know the evidence behind de-stressing, and which activities give you the most bang for your buck when you’re low on time.  Contact an OT if you need help de-stressing and creating balance in your life. 


O-Tip of the Week: Get in the Habit

Our O-Tip of the week series delivers valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

For the month of January, our O-Tip series will provide you with ways to kick bad habits and establish good ones.  This week we discuss how to create lasting lifestyle changes by forming healthy habits. 

Did you know it can take three weeks or more to develop a new routine or habit?  And following the formation of habits, it can take up to four months to fully change your lifestyle.  Making positive change is a commitment, and with commitment comes accountability.  We recommend using a daily habit tracker, like our free printable below, to help you stay accountable to yourself and your goals.  Ensure you tick the box each and every day and you will be well on your way to creating lasting change!


Better Health: Is There an App For That?

At this time of year people are focused on finding ways to improve their health and well-being.  A great way to facilitate this is through the use of technology, specifically helpful apps.  The App Store and Google Play Store feature thousands of apps for health, weight loss, smoking cessation, disease management and more, but how do you know which ones will actually help you reach your goals?  Take a look at the following from MedScape which provides rankings of the top clinically rated apps for both health and wellness and condition management and try one today!

MedScape:  Healthcare Apps to Recommend to Patients

Have you found an app that has helped you improve your health?  Please comment — we’d love to know what has and hasn’t worked for you!


No Excuses: Daily Healthy Activity Tracking Tool

In our busy day to day lives it can be difficult to make time to put yourself first.  Healthy habits such as hydration, exercise, sleep and “me time” often get put on the back-burner or forgotten as we spend our time getting stuff done.  However, to achieve optimal mental and physical health you need to put yourself first!  Use our printable Daily Health Tracker to help create healthy habits and keep yourself accountable to ensure you are getting daily physical activity, drinking enough water, achieving a proper sleep, and making time to do the things that make you happy.



























For more helpful tools for both children and adults visit our Printable Resources Page.


Forming Healthy Habits

In my work as an Occupational Therapist I am often asked to help people learn to manage or improve their behavior.  Things they want to stop or start doing, and how to get there, become the topic of our treatment sessions.  But my response in these situations is often the same and my approach is to encourage people make “lifestyle” and not just “behavior” changes when it comes to improving function or health.  After all, if behavior (be·hav·ior) is: “the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others” and a lifestyle (life·style) is: “the way in which a person or group lives”, then there is a difference between acting and living.  My job is to coach the latter.

Modifying behavior helps, but how do we turn this into a lifestyle?  By forming healthy habits.  In the words of Jim Rohn:   “motivation is what gets you started… Habit is what keeps you going!

Use our Daily Habit Tracker to help you work turn your new healthy habits into a lifestyle.

Simply print, fill in your goals or “habits” and record each day if these goals were or were not met.

Learn more about turning your healthy goals into lifestyle changes in our post:  Healthy is a Lifestyle, Not Just a Behaviour.

habit-trackerAccess more helpful tools for children and adults on our printable resources page.


The Busy Community OT – Top Healthy and Fast Grab-and-Go Lunches Under 300 Calories

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

As a newer vegetarian, and someone who spends most days on the road, I am always looking for quick, but decent, lunch options.  While in an ideal world I would prepare my lunches and snacks ahead of time (including hand sanitizer!), sometimes life takes over and I am rushing out the door unprepared.  On some days that may result in me being undernourished and not eating again until dinner, on other days it does have me searching for healthy stuff en route.  So here is my list of the healthiest but fast meal options that are under 300 calories but can be grabbed quickly, as listed by restaurant name:


Veggie Delight (whole wheat bread without cheese or mayonnaise) 230 Calories


Side Garden Salad (no dressing) 40 calories

Chipotle Chicken Snack Wrap® with Grilled Chicken 230 calories

Grilled Chicken Snack Wrap® 230 calories


Full Asian Cashew Chicken Salad (no dressing) 190 calories

Chicken Go Wrap Grilled 260 calories


Garden Pita (no cheese or condiments, whole wheat pita) 227 calories

Tuna Pita (no cheese or condiments, whole wheat pita) 285 calories

Turkey Breast (no cheese or condiments, whole wheat pita) 286 calories


Perfect Oatmeal (plain) 140 calories

Spinach, Roasted Tomato, Feta and Egg White Wrap 280 calories (my personal favorite with the nutrition value quickly wasted by my latte add-on).


Chicken Ranch or Salad Wrap Snacker 190 calories

Chipotle Chicken Wrap Snacker 200 calories

Chili 290 calories

Soups (no bun) 80 – 230 calories


Warm Grilled Chicken Salad (no dressing) 150 calories

Warm Grilled Chicken BLT Salad (no dressing) 210 calories

Grilled Chicken Sandwich (no cheese or condiments) 280 calories


Tendergrill Caesar Salad (no dressing) 250 calories

Hamburger (no cheese or condiments) 260 calories

Veggie Burger (no cheese or condiments) 270 calories


No under 300 calorie meals.

Of course, calories are not the only consideration when consuming a healthy lunch.  However, this measure can provide an easy metric when looking for something fast while trying to avoid the unnecessary calories found in heavy carbs and bad-fat common to fast food meals.  For drinks, stick to water as not only is this often free (tap water) with your meal, but it provides an opportunity to rehydrate which is also important.

I hope this list helps you to also pick healthier options when on the road.


The Work-Life Balance Myth

What is your impression of work-life balance? A lot of people find it a completely unrealistic goal that is impossible to achieve. Many people find life demands are simply keeping them too busy to take time to relax. As we talked about in a previous episode, stress can cause heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and immunity issues. Statistics Canada says that 1 in 4 adults reported high stress in 2013, and high stress means that your mental and physical health are declining.

The good news is that this is preventable. For a lot of people, their expectation of work-life balance is NOT realistic. You can’t expect to go to the gym 7 days a week, get 8 hours of sleep every night, meet every work deadline, and have the time to home-cook every meal. A common misconception of work-life balance is that it needs to happen every day, and that simply isn’t realistic. A more realistic goal may be to try to have a balanced week or month of work and leisure; it doesn’t need to happen all in one day.

We also need to change the way we think about work; instead of work-life balance we’ll be using the term stress-life balance. People that are unemployed by choice, students, and caregivers still experience stress-life balance, so we can’t attribute all stress to work even though it’s a common stressor for many.

One of the strategies OT’s use to make stress-life balance possible is to set SMART goals. A good goal should be:

  • Specific
  • Measureable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

First, figure out what stresses you. This may seem simple, but get really specific. Does your job stress you out? What ABOUT your job stresses you out? When do your kids stress you out most? Make a list of what can be changed, and what can’t. Don’t say that nothing can be changed!

Next, understand what helps you de-stress. This is different for everyone. Some people need passive or relaxing leisure where they can shut their brains off; common examples of passive leisure are watching television, yoga, or going to the theatre. Some people need active leisure to de-stress, like going for a run, socializing with friends, or reading a favourite book.

Lastly, make a plan for how you can integrate more of those de-stressors into your life on a weekly or monthly basis. Also make a plan for how to reduce your stressors. Make sure this plan is a SMART plan, and you should be on your way to improving your mental and physical health. Occupational therapists know the evidence behind de-stressing, and which activities give you the most bang for your buck when you’re low on time.


Laughter Is The Best Medicine!

Tomorrow is April 1st and you know what that means–  April Fools!  April Fools day is a day for pranks, jokes and laughter.  It may also be one of the healthiest days of the year as laughter is often felt to be “the best medicine.”  Check out the following from The Huffington Post which discusses the health benefits of laughter.   Make sure to have some fun and create some laughs today!

The Huffington Post:  Why Laughing Is Good For Your Health



National Non-Smoking Week– Be a Quitter!

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

National Non-Smoking week aside, are you ready to butt out?  According to Smoke Free Ontario, smoking takes approximately 13000 lives in Ontario each and every year.  However, the good news is that the number of smokers continues to decrease yearly, and is currently at 18.1%.  Are you in for reducing this number further?

Apparently, quitting smoking is extremely difficult and many need to try different approaches before finally kicking the habit.  For many smokers it becomes more about the habit and the behavior, than the nicotine itself.  So how can you butt out?  Our team of experienced Occupational Therapists have some great solutions for you to try:

1.    Make Your Intentions Public:  The decision to quit takes a great deal of courage and should be celebrated.  Make your intentions public within your family or friends, or by using social media for a larger reach.  By making your goal to quit public it will help hold you accountable and to draw on those close to you to lean on for support.

2.    Devise a Plan:  Quitting cold turkey can be extremely difficult.  We recommend that you create a monthly or weekly plan to reduce your intake and set you well on your way.  This might be as simple as reducing one cigarette per day for a week or a month, then reducing again etc.

3.    Identify Triggers:  While working through your monthly or weekly plan to reduce the amount of cigarettes you consume, ensure you are keeping track of the amount you smoke each day, the times of day you smoke and what in your environment has triggered you to have a cigarette.  Tracking any behavior is the best way to isolate it and is the first step to making improvements.

4.    Modify your environment to help reduce these triggers:  After conducting your research look closely at the time of day, environment, people, stressors or other triggers that promoted your need or wanting to smoke. Is it possible to change your situation or environment to avoid these triggers moving forward?

5.    Work to reduce stress:  Many smoke as a reaction to stress.  Finding ways to reduce stress, such as meditation and mindfulness practice, taking a hot bath, or breathing exercises can help you to reduce this trigger.

6.    Find a healthier habit:  If it’s the “break” you find is your trigger try finding a different way to take 5 minutes to yourself.  Take a quick walk, try yoga poses, grab a warm beverage, phone a friend or practice breathing exercises instead.

7.    Seek Support:  By making your intentions to quit public you have opened yourself up to a group of family and friends to rely on and assist you in your goal to quit.  If these sources are not available, try phoning the Smokers Hotline or join a support group to speak with someone who can help you through your craving and keep you smoke free.

8.    Seek an Alternative Solution:  There are so many different products in the marketplace to assist you with quitting such as:  gums, e-cigarettes, inhalers, and patches.  Find which one works for you and rely on this to assist you along the way.

9.    Speak to Your Doctor:  Your family doctor is a great resource and will gladly support you in your quest to break the habit.  Speak with your doctor about the alternative solutions and medications that exist that can help you quit.  Your doctor may also connect you to OHIP-funded resources that you can access to support you in your quest.

10.  Celebrate Your Success:  Ensure that along the way you celebrate any milestones you have reached.  If you’ve worked for a week or a month to cut your daily intake by 5 cigarettes, reward yourself and share your news with those you love.  This will help to keep you focussed and lead to further success!

11.   Reword the goal if needed:  Yes “quitting smoking” might be the BIG goal, but under this there are layers of other goals that you can focus on that might seem less intimidating and are more fun to measure.  Maybe your smaller goals include walking upstairs without becoming breathless, having whiter teeth, or not wanting your clothing or home to smell like cigarette smoke.  Perhaps if you relate to a more practical goal that is tangible, measurable, and visible to others, your motivation might be enhanced.

12.   Watch for other bad habits to surface:  Sometimes when trying to move from one bad habit we pick up another.  With any reduction in a negative behavior there will be withdrawal.  Accept this and cope through it for the days it lasts, knowing that those symptoms too shall pass.  But when struggling through withdrawal, try not to adopt another bad habit as a coping mechanism.  Switching from smoking to eating unhealthy food or consuming more alcohol will not help you to achieve the ultimate result you want which is to improve your health.

13.   Don’t just change your behavior, change your LIFESTYLE:  Adopting a new way of living, and talking to others about this, is far more impactful and motivating then talking about a behavior change.  When people say “I am trying to lose weight” it is not nearly as impactful as “I have a sugar-free lifestyle” or “I have changed my lifestyle to achieve my health goals”.  Make a LIFESTYLE change to be healthy and let the behaviors follow.

14.  If at first you don’t succeed… try try again!

For more resources and tips to help you along the way visit or

We wish you the best of luck and encourage you to BE A QUITTER this 2016!


Originally posted, January 2015.


The Gifts of Music

Studies show that playing a musical instrument, at any skill level, can benefit your health in many ways including:  lowered stress, increased concentration, heightened math and reading skills, and more.  However, access to musical instruments can be difficult based on cost and availability.

Learn how one man’s legacy is inspiring instrument lending libraries across Canada aimed at helping others gain access to this excellent and healthy hobby.

The Globe and Mail:  Instrument-lending programs spreading at libraries across Canada