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Before you read on...

As a registered physiotherapist, I have a scope of practice that, while broad, addresses only part of the total wellness and healing picture.  My particular area of expertise, movement, is an integral part of what contributes to a client's recovery from injury, but is only part of the equation.   We know that nutrition, stress-management and quality sleep play equally important roles in optimizing the body's ability to heal and achieve optimal health.

The information contained within this blog are from my personal exploration of those other areas of wellness, and not from my professional training or opinion.  As an experienced health care professional, however, I find that clients, friends and family are curious as to my thoughts and experiences with those areas of wellness outside of my professional expertise.  It is my hope that this blog highlights that even this health care practitioner of 27 years is still on her ever evolving journey to find the wellness formula that enables her to live her best life, and provides inspiration for you to explore your path to optimal wellness.  I hope you enjoy!

Vickie's Wellness Blog

Take a peek at my personal journey toward optimal health!

Digital Detox

Wednesday, May 4, 2021

It was March of 2021 and my nerves felt frayed. Like most people, I felt restless with yet another lockdown announced, and burned out. 2021 was supposed to bring hope, but instead I seemed to be spinning and constantly adjusting to whatever changing restrictions were thrown at my business and personal life.

Heeding the wisdom of Robin Sharma (5am Club), I have installed the habit of taking a week off every quarter, and had booked such a week for the beginning of April. A tropical beach vacation would have been the perfect remedy, but not an option. With another lockdown preventing me from getting of a change a scenery to help me rejuvenate, I wondered how I could best clear my head, let my nervous system shift back to a more relaxed state and make the best of my week away from work and the world, without actually being away?


The concept of a digital detox had surfaced in some recent reading and podcasts, and sounded like an interesting idea. According to verywellmind.com, a digital detox “ is a period of time when a person refrains from using tech devices such as smart phones, televisions, computers, tablets and social media sites”. While digital technology has many incredible benefits, including apps, video games and other online tools that may benefit brain health, it can also cause several negative consequences. According to Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience (220 Jun; 22(2); 179-187) potential harmful effects include heightened attention-deficit symptoms, impaired brain development in youth, addiction and social isolation.  Other listed negative effects include sleep disturbances, the habit of constantly checking one’s phone and social media and the added layer of stress from being constantly plugged in to news and email (digitaldtox.com), sounded all too familiar to me.


In addition to being completely guilty of being addicted to my phone, I am now on screens for a fair bit of my workday. Digital technology has made my job as physiotherapist much more organized and efficient. I use video apps to capture movement for frame-by-frame analysis and a digital inclinometer app to measure angles that are difficult to measure with our traditional tools. The app even speaks the angle so I don’t have to lose my site on the client moving correctly for an accurate reading. Electronic medical records and clinic management software have made owning and running my own clinics less time consuming, and improves convenience for clients with automation of appointment reminders, access to online booking, automated billing and financial record features. Home exercise programs are now prescribed via an app that enables clients to watch and listen to videos of their exercises at home, rate their pain and set reminders to complete the program.

  

Outside of work, I struggled to not check my email and social media in the morning when I headed out to my studio to work out. As I accessed my music playlist on my phone, the email icon flashed the number of emails I needed to attend to. That very convenient Lululemon app…well anyone that comes to see me knows all too well how much time I spent on that app!! When I actually thought about it, my whole life was neatly contained in that smart phone: my schedule, my contacts, my photo albums, my recipes. My workouts are neatly kept on spreadsheets on my laptop, preprogrammed templates making my programming far quicker. I use my iPad to read digital versions of books and magazines, which are immediately accessible instead of having to wait for them to come in from the library or Chapters, particularly convenient in the COVID lockdown. My iPad also makes it super easy to spend hours searching for decorating and landscaping inspiration on Pinterest and Houzz, then buying my ideas immediately thought the Wayfair app. All of my banking is done online, my bills and statements all emailed to me. I store my copy of invoices and payments on my computer, keeping no paper copies anymore. With the COVID lockdowns, it has enabled our family to “socialize” through Zoom happy hours and online gaming. In all of this, I believe what was unhealthy for me was the automatic/thoughtless scrolling through apps: Facebook and my business social media pages to see how my posts are doing, or the reflexive checking of my phone if I was standing in line, or even keeping my phone with me when I was not expecting a call or text. How had it come to this?


14 years ago, while sitting with hockey parents at a social event, I was introduced to one of the first smart phones, a Blackberry, that one of the parents handed to me when I wanted to look something up on the internet. I was immediately starstruck by it, the though of having instant access to information I might want to know, to my emails, and even to applications where I could easily write notes and keep my schedule…all this in 1 tiny, neat box, no more carrying my cumbersome day timer! This lead to my first smart phone purchase, a Palm Treo. I was in love, not only with the convenience it offered, but if I am totally honest, by how it made me feel important and like a real business person.


Over time, I progressed to the popular iPhone, which lead to the expansion of Apple products in our household. My first iPad, purchased 10 years ago for work, changed how I could educate clients with the use of interactive anatomy applications. Around the same time, I purchased my MacBook Pro, the same one I use today in my treatment room! Now I have 2 iPhones, an iPad Pro for work and personal use, my MacBook and an iMac. Both my husband and daughter each have MacBooks, 2nd generation iPads and iPhones. All 3 of us own Nintendo Switch consoles with my daughter also owning a gaming PC required for her Bachelor of Game Design program done online this year, in addition to several gaming consoles. The digital world has gradually become a major part of our lives, even for a family that spends a fair bit of time outdoors and physically active. Having everything neatly stored on devices appealed to my desire for minimalism; I don’t like having stuff. The upside of this translated to no watch, no photo albums sitting on my shelves, no calendars cluttering my fridge, no paper client files to store and secure, no hard copies of movies or music, no address books, no phone books, no array of recipe books.


Flash forward to March 2021, feeling I needed some kind of an escape, and wondering if perhaps a digital detox could offer a solution to my sleep issues, I hatched a plan to turn off all devices and screens for a week; no cell phones, tablets, computers, gaming consoles or TVs. Timing wise, it would work well during this particular vacation. I had already set up my out of office email and voicemail reply to defer to my colleagues. My daughter is living at home doing online school, so I wouldn’t worry about her not being able to contact me if needed.


I told my plan to my 22 year old daughter first. Her response, “No Animal Crossing for a week? Do you have enough books to read?” My girl knows me so well! My sister’s response, “May the odds be ever in your favour! I couldn’t do it!” My husband’s concern, “How will I text you?”, followed by that he thought it was a good idea for me. My plan was to begin Saturday April 3rd. I immediately felt a sense of unease, a fear that I might miss something.


I awoke Saturday morning, bright and early as I usually do, and realized I had not contacted any of my friends with whom I normally text, nor did I know their numbers! I did not know the times or the contact information for the 2 appointments I had that week, and I hadn’t yet paid our credit card bill due the first of the month. Great start. So I quickly turned on my phone to text my friends, get the contact info and times for my appointments and pay my bill. My phone was off again before 7am.


How it Went:

For the most part, I actually didn’t notice the absence of my devices, other than initially feeling that reflexive habit of wanting to check my phone and fearing I might miss out on something. Instead of texting friends and family that week, I enjoyed chats with them on our landline phone, the old fashioned way. My sleep did not improve, disappointingly. Most importantly, however, I experienced the best sense of relaxation I’ve had in years, and was able to think far more clearly and creatively. I created several solutions to challenges that had been simmering unsolved for a while, and hatched the idea for my outdoor gym (coming in a future blog!). Several ideas spontaneously popped into my head for my new Health Coaching business. I discovered how much I enjoyed writing, and spent a lot more time journaling (something I had been doing for over a year). I worked on completing journaling exercises (Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”Journal), wrote the rough draft of this blog on paper and looked for any reason to just write!


I purchased a day timer with a full page for each day, and shifted my schedule, contacts and workouts to it. I have found that returning to a hard copy of a schedule appeals to my need to have things visible. I hadn’t realized how much it bothered me to have my calendar in digital form until now. I have my weekly goal and to do list on a page prior to that week, easy to flip back to and check items off. I still design my overall workout plans on the spreadsheet templates that I have refined over the years on my computer, but now transfer the daily workouts into my day timer to record my reps and loads.


In this day timer, I am also keeping a journal of my garden, a record of when I am planting and how, to reference in the future, something I used to try to keep track of in a separate book, and didn’t stick with. I am finding that I enjoy marking our observations of the nature on our property in the calendar of my day timer, like the first day of the spring trout run or the first night we hear the spring peepers. I plan to keep this archived so we can compare from year to year.


I learned a lot from this experience, in particular how too much digital technology seems to negatively affect me, and I know this may not be the case for others.  Outside of work, I have reduced my digital use since returning to the digital world. I removed all apps from my personal phone except text, weather, maps, camera and photos. I have removed my personal social media apps from both of my phones. I leave my phone in the house when I am out in the yard, and don’t keep it right with me when I am in the house. I no longer keep it with me during my meals alone or with family. I check my personal phone in the morning after breakfast, and again after dinner during the week.

How I go forward with these new insights is evolving, my goal is to develop a more healthy relationship with technology. 


The American Psychological Association (apa.org, November 1, 2017) recommends several strategies:

Defend your sleep: This is a habit I already engrained with my sleep issues, but it is a good reminder to avoid screens for 1-2 hours prior to sleep.

Turn off notifications: Constant notifications are associated with lower levels of productivity, social connectedness and psychological well being. A study by psychologists at the University of British Columbia found that “people who checked email continuously reported more stress than those who checked email only three times per day”. They suggest trying to be realistic about what notifications you actually need.

Manage expectations: Let other people know if you won’t be checking email while on vacation, or checking your texts during your workday, or whatever boundaries you decide to set. It’s far easier to enjoy the benefits of disconnecting knowing you are not frustrating family members, friends, clients and coworkers!

Use social media wisely: I now use it only to post content for my business, and I make sure to keep it real, positive and beneficial to my audience. According to research, when one uses social media passively (consuming information and scrolling through other peoples posts), they report lower levels of well being. They suggest that to get the most from your social media, engage actively by posting content, sharing ideas, commenting on other’s posts…and remember that what you see on social media may be more perfect than reality!

Be present: Unplug when you are in person with friends and family.

Take time to recharge: Grabbing your phone every time you have time on your hands is a lost opportunity to relax, reflect and enjoy creativity. It is suggested that one sets aside some time daily to unplug. This is habit I have tried to engrain before, an hour each morning digital free, a lesson learned from Robin Sharma’s 5am Club. Since my detox, I have followed this rule religiously, using this time to journal and read with my coffee.


I am currently experimenting to see if a screen-free day one day each week is doable. So far I’m 1 for 2.  Two weekends ago, with my screen free day planned for Sunday, the weather not outdoor friendly, I enjoyed a lazy day with my daughter playing a co-op game of Star Dew Valley on our Switches, but my phone was off, and I didn’t look at any other of my devices. This past Sunday, I was completely screen free. Since the detox, I have been using my phone only to connect with friends and family, to take photos and check the weather. If practical, I would love to do a full detox again on my next week off work.


It’s incredible to think that when I graduated from university, I lived life perfectly fine without a cellphone or computer. It didn’t stress me out to leave my house without my cellphone or have my internet go down. 27 years later, technology has wound its way into every aspect of my life. As with everything in life, the challenge now is to find the balance that’s right for me.


My Fitness Journey Through the Ages-Coming Full Circle

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

  My journey into an active lifestyle began in elementary school. Our school was fortunate enough to have an incredible full time gym teacher who went above and beyond to encourage his students to participate in extra curricular sports. From grade 6 through high school I spent every morning and after school practicing volleyball, badminton, soccer and track.

   It was our high school track coach that introduced me to weight lifting, and being genetically predisposed to developing strength and power, I was hooked! I got my first Weilder bench and free weight set when I was 16 and have, for the most part, resistance trained ever since.

 


Read on...

Vickie's Quest for Zen: My Meditation Experience

November 4, 2020

2020 is nearing a close, and I can’t say I am sad to see it go. It has been challenging for all of us, and has brought into sharp focus what is truly important. For me, it was the importance of my mental health, which I have always known was important, but didn’t prioritize as I focused on the visible aspects of my health like physical activity and nutrition. As a business owner and health care professional experiencing the COVID pandemic, I realized that my ability to handle stress needed some work: worsening insomnia, repeated cold sores, worsening tummy troubles and a vague feeling of tightness in my chest just a few of the physical warning signs that lead me to get my blood pressure checked (I have a family history, and thankfully it tested normal) and to seek methods to manage my stress in addition to my already thorough exercise routine.

Read on...

Bedtime Battles

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

I struggled to write this blog. I had hoped that after months of research and trial and error, I would have found the unicorn solution to a very common problem, insomnia.

I have always been a great sleeper. We joke in our household that I could sleep through a train running though our house, whereas my partner could awake from hearing a pin drop in Antartica in his sleep. I was such a deep sleeper in fact that I had to have the baby monitor full blast right by my ear to ensure I heard my daughter through the night when she was an infant. Even so, like most people, during certain exciting or stressful events in my life, I experienced short bouts of what I would describe as insomnia, awaking at 3 in the morning ready to solve the worlds problems for several days or weeks at a time.

Read on...

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