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Feeling Burnt Out? You’re Not Alone!

Posted on: January 5th, 2022 by TouchStone Health

By Julie Robertson, CCLS, MSW, RSW

How Are We Feeling?

Is anyone tired yet? Feel like crying, yelling, or stomping your feet with the latest provincial restrictions? As we continue into this 4th wave of the pandemic and kids return for another round of online schooling, many are feeling pushed past the point of being able to hold it all together. So go ahead, cry, stomp or yell (maybe into your pillow) and let everything you feel have its place. The more people I talk to these days, the more I realize that so many are experiencing burnout from the challenges of the last two years. Yes, we’re coming up to two years living through the ups and downs of the pandemic, and that is a long time to be under this much stress. 

What is Burnout?

Feeling burnt out is a concept we threw around maybe a bit lightly in previous times to describe big stressors such as crunch time during exams, busy streaks at work, or shuttling kids to activities on top of working and caring for family members. Those things all have potential for burnout but add a pandemic on top of that and it seems almost inevitable that most people would be fizzling and fading out this far into it. One difference is that before, we often caught a break. Exams finished, workloads ebbed and flowed, and kids activity sessions ended with each season. Now, there has not been the same balance, no end to the stress of the pandemic, and so much unknown with all of it that we are left is stress mode for way too long with no way to rest and recover. Even if we are eating healthy balanced foods, drinking water, going for walks and getting fresh air, for many people it doesn’t seem to be feeling any better. This is beyond the tired of before and recognizing it for what it is can help switch from swimming in circles to energy conservation mode, allowing the chance to heal when we have space. Burnout can be described as the imbalance between too much stress and the lack of resources to cope with it, or “feelings of depleted energy or exhaustion because of continual stress”. 

Some symptoms of burnout could be:

  • Feeling exhausted, despite efforts to relax and replenish
  • Irritability or hostility
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Feeling distanced from others, friends, family, kids
  • Lack of fulfillment in work, parenting etc
  • Feeling trapped

My Coping Tools Aren’t Working!!

So, hands up if you’re feeling depleted from continual stress? How many are feeling the lack of resources to cope with that stress? Are the tools you usually pull out to help cope just not working under the current circumstances? I don’t think you’re alone with that one! The things that normally help us cope like taking time off with friends, some alone time with a cup of tea, going to the gym, connecting socially with co-workers to vent, or even accessing affordable healthy foods have all been interrupted. Health care workers, teachers, other front-line staff especially are struggling with the heaviness of working in helping professions and holding other people’s emotions. Those working in services jobs also have the stress of face-to-face contact, and grumpy grumps complaining about not getting enough ketchup packets with their order is adding layers to an already stressful industry to work in. 

Is Parental Burnout a Thing?

And then there are the parents of school age kids and youth, who are now facing another few weeks (at least) of doing it all and having no space to take a breath and regroup. Parental burnout is noticeable on the whispers, sometimes loud whispers, of many parents who feel like they are hating being parents right now. On top of feeling the burnout symptoms, many parents then add on shame and guilt for not enjoying their kids as much as they ‘should’, or for not being able to provide as much support as their kids need right now. 

Now What?

So, after recognizing we’re feeling burnt out, what do we do if our usual coping strategies aren’t working anymore, or we can’t implement them because of the circumstances we’re in?

1. First, breathe. That’s all, if nothing else just breathe. Pretend to smell freshly baked cookies with a deep breath, then blow out to cool them off. 

2. Let yourself feel. Everything that is coming up, even the hate, anger or frustration has a place and can be honoured. Just because you have those feelings doesn’t mean they are permanent, but they are valid and can be allowed to be recognized and named for what they are. And scream into a pillow if you need to, just maybe warn people nearby first. 

3. Go back to basics of survival. Eat, sleep, create ways to feel safe and prioritize the most important things to get through each day. Oh, and water, don’t forget to drink water!

4. Move. If your body is already stressed to the point of being in fight or flight mode, don’t push it further into stress by pressuring yourself to fit in workouts you would normally do when feeling good. Be gentle, move your body, get some fresh air, or just stretch when you have a few minutes throughout the day. 

5. Reframe your thoughts in helpful ways. After letting all the feels do their feeling, look at picking out a few mental statements that have room for a shift in perspective and try them on. Things like “I can’t stand a messy house, I am failing at keeping it together if I can’t keep things organized” could shift to “I can’t stand a messy house, but it won’t be like this forever (even if it feels like it right now). I can leave the toys where they are and focus on doing one load of laundry for today”. 

6. If help is offered, take it, or not. If having your mother-in-law in your house for the day to ‘help’ doesn’t feel very helpful, then saying a polite no thank you might be the less stressful choice, and that’s ok. 

7. Talk to someone. A friend, a counsellor, a neighbour, a sympathetic pet. Journaling or making voice notes to vent can also be helpful. If you’re really feeling down, call a helpline or head to your Emergency Department. 

And that is all I’m going to say because a bigger list is not always better. In times of crisis, illness, burnout, we can let go of all of the extras we have padded onto our lives, the frills, bows and expectations that aren’t essential to what we need, and just focus on taking care of the things that get us through. The frills and bows and be added back on later, if we still want them that is!

If you feel you need more support finding ways to cope that can fit with your circumstances, consider booking a free 15-minute consultation, or go straight to booking a 50-minute session with Julie. All sessions are virtual, Social Work fees are covered by most insurance plans. 

By Julie Robertson, CCLS, MSW, RSW

Welcome Julie Robertson, Registered Social Worker to TouchStone Health!

Posted on: December 8th, 2021 by TouchStone Health

Starting in January 2022, Julie will be offering counselling and support to help clients cope with issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, grief, birth and fertility issues including NICU parenting, and parent coaching for those who are struggling with parenting higher needs children. Julie works from a trauma informed perspective and draws from a mix of counselling theories to create a unique treatment path based on individual experiences and goals. She is currently accepting adult clients for virtual sessions and is able to support parents and caregivers with issues related to children and youth.

To book an appointment or for a free 15 minute consultation go to: online booking

Gut Friendly Fiber – Why We Don’t Get Enough!

Posted on: November 11th, 2021 by TouchStone Health

by Jill Jackson, Certified Nutritional Practitioner, NNCP

Did you know that only 5% of US citizens reach their recommended daily fiber intake? That leaves 95% of the population in a fiber deficiency! I am sure Canadians would be the runner up in this shocking statistic. Our bodies are meant to consume fiber, anywhere between 25-50 grams daily depending on our gender, age, and level of health. Let’s consider what fiber is and why we may not be consuming enough.

Fiber has never really had a definition that has been accepted universally. Some health practitioners use the words dietary fiber, crude fiber, or even roughage interchangeably. Here is what we do know about fiber. Fiber is a combination of plant polysaccharides that are resistant to digestion combined with lignins (a class of organic polymers that help make up plant walls/structure). Simply put, fiber is exclusively a plant nutrient meaning it cannot be found in animal products.

I believe fiber consumption has decreased for two main reasons. One, low fiber diets are highly popular without many realizing it! Low-carbohydrate diets have gained popularity dating back to the 1960’s, their rules often removing potentially healthy and high fiber grains. After the low-carb craze, emerged the keto diet, even worse when it comes to fiber intake! No matter what diet is being consumed, if there is low intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, there will be low intake of fiber. However, we know a low carb diet cannot be the issue alone because for many Americans and Canadians 40-60% of their diet is carbohydrate, just not the right kind, leading us into my second fiber related concern. Westernized society relies heavily on packaged and fast foods. The processing and milling of these foods can remove most, if not all of it’s fiber content. In some African countries where there is the least amount of food processing globally and only small amounts of animal products consumed, daily fiber intake can reach 75-100 grams! A contrast to the mere 10-15 grams Americans consume daily. But why should we care about our fiber intake?


Low fiber diets are are associated with chronic constipation, gastrointestinal disorders, colon cancers, diverticulitis, high cholesterol levels and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Fiber is best known to bulk our stool and increase (or slow down) our transit time leading to healthy bowel movements, but it does so much more than that! As our understanding of fiber increases, we have learned that fiber also appears to nourish our gut microbiome (the ecosystem found within our intestines). After a chain of reactions within the gut, fiber acts as a food source for our
“good” gut bacteria contributing to an overall healthier gut microbiome. Fiber also helps with weight management and blood sugar management, the two going hand in hand. Fiber has seen to help draw out toxins and parasites within the body as well. It is a myth that all fiber does is help us use the washroom, it has many roles!

The final question you may be left with, how do I increase my fiber? The easiest way to answer this is through a quote from one of my favorite nutritional textbooks it says “Whenever we increase out intake of plants in comparison to animal foods, we are increasing our fiber intake” – Staying Healthy With Nutrition by Elson M. Haas, MD. It really is simple, we must increase consumption of plants whether it be legumes such as split peas or chickpeas, whole grains like oats and quinoa or fruits and vegetables like pears, avocados, berries, broccoli, or collard greens. (Not to forget nuts and seeds like flax, chia, and pistachios!) When considering your carbohydrate consumption go for the whole grains as opposed to white, processed breads and foods. With a little forethought fiber consumption can be easy!

I hope this blog post has helped you to gain a deeper understanding of how easily fiber consumption can be missed as well as how easy of a problem it is to fix! I challenge you to make an effort to boost your fiber intake this week and I am sure you will reap the benefits of increased energy levels, digestive wellness, and overall stronger vitality.

In Wellness,
Jill Jackson, CNP, NNCP

Eating the Rainbow: why is it important?

Posted on: October 21st, 2021 by TouchStone Health

by Jill Jackson, CNP, NNCP

Eating a wide variety of colours is the best way to ensure that you are receiving the most vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants possible from your food, ensuring optimal health. I suggest having 2-3 different coloured fruits and vegetables with each meal. Different colours hold different important nutrients. The following are the
colours of the different rainbow in association with their health benefits.

RED FOODS Red foods contain the antioxidant lycopene, a strong protectant against cancers. It also helps to prevent diabetes, heart disease and lung disease. Some examples of red foods are pomegranates, cherries, red bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, red apples, and red chili peppers.

ORANGE FOODS Orange foods containplenty of vitamin C and beta-carotene. In the body, beta-carotene converts to vitamin A. This is especially important for our eye health, and immune function. Examples of orange foods are carrots, tangerines and oranges, mangoes, pumpkin, and squash.

YELLOW FOODS Yellow foods are also very high in vitamin C. Vitamin C assists our immune function as mentioned above but it also plays an important role in detoxification, improving circulation, speeding up wound healing and protecting against cancers. Brighten up your bowl with yellow foods such as pineapple, yellow bell peppers, lemons, and spaghetti squash.

GREEN FOODS Green foods are rich in thenatural chemicals sulforaphane, isocyanate and indoles which inhibit the action of carcinogens. Green foods are also often high in fiber and folate which will improve digestion. Vitamin K which is essential for bone and blood health is also highly present in green foods. The options for green foods
are almost endless, but here are a few suggestions: kale, avocado, cucumbers, edamame, broccoli, grapes, kiwi, spinach, and zucchini.

PURPLE AND BLUE FOODS Blue and purple foods contain antioxidants called anthocyanins important for delaying age related disease and helping to improve memory. Anthocyanins also prevent damage to cells, preventing cancers. Blue and purple foods include blueberries, blackberries, purple cabbage, prunes, eggplant, purple potatoes, grapes, and plums.

BROWN FOODS Brown foods play a big role in preventing heart disease. They contain vitamin B, folate and are often high in fiber. Brown foods do not mean large pieces of meat. When discussing brown foods, we are referring to plant-based foods such as legumes, chickpeas, and lentils.

Consuming the rainbow is an easy step towards vitality and disease and cancer prevention! Take your health into your hands when deciding what foods will go on your plate!


Warming Vegan Lentil Dahl

Posted on: September 23rd, 2021 by Anna Totzke

by Jill Jackson, CNP, NNCP 

Hello friends! I bring to you the perfect curried fall recipe. This recipe is easy to make and is vegan, gluten-free, and sugar free. It also works great for meal prepping and will freeze nicely! I hope you give it a try. 

Serves: 6-8 Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 20-25 mins Total time: 40 mins

Ingredients:

  • 1 large zucchini 
  • 1 large red bell pepper 
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 3/4 cup of dried red lentils 
  • 1 cup of full fat coconut milk 
  • 850 ml of vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp of fresh minced or grated ginger 
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of curry powder 
  • 1/2 tbsp turmeric 
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 small onion 
  • 1 large carrot 

Directions:

Begin by chopping all vegetables (bell pepper, carrot, zucchini and onion) into very small cubes. 

In a large pot or deep pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil (or oil of your choice) over medium heat and add in onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until onion begins to go translucent. 

Add in the rest of the vegetables and remaining oil and cook for another 3-5 minutes till vegetables begin to lightly soften. 

After rinsing your lentils, add them to your pot along with your vegetable broth. Add in all spices (you can adjust the amounts to your preferred taste) and add coconut milk. Mix everything together well. Bring to a simmer and allow mixture to cook for another 10-12 minutes, stir frequently to prevent the bottom burning. (Lentils should become nice and soft.)

Enjoy warm on its own or served with rice and naan bread! 

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