January is often a time of New Year’s Resolutions and making goals for the year ahead. After an unprecedented year, many of us will be focusing on our mental, physical and social wellness in 2021. We chatted with Philippa Dawood, a life-long Scarborough resident and the wellness coordinator at SHN to talk to us about setting realistic goals, and why the resiliency of Scarborough is so special to her.

  1. The new year is often a time when people reset and make goals related to health and wellness. What advice would you give to people making New Year’s resolutions related to wellness?

When we think of wellness, we often think about our physical health. Resolutions made to improve this focus on eating healthier and getting more exercise. In previous years people would go get a gym membership and start exercising there, but now with our gyms closed I would encourage people to ask themselves how they can get more exercise with minimal equipment. One great way to achieve this is to get into virtual fitness and just use your body weight! There are free fitness videos on YouTube and other apps that offer easy and cheap ways to get more exercise at home.

When it comes to nutrition, one good thing that has come out of the lockdown is a lot of people have learned how to cook! Think about making delicious meals with fresh, quality ingredients, and if your goal is to lose weight this is a great place to start.

Overall, when setting goals, it’s important to break them down into smaller steps that will get you to where you want to be. Make a S.M.A.R.T. goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based so you can set realistic expectations for yourself. You are making a commitment to your physical health and to yourself. That is one thing I love about my role as wellness coordinator – I help to empower people to use the tools and resources at their disposal to be their best self and embody our wellness culture to guide them on their journey.

  1. 2020 was an exceptionally difficult time for many as we battled the COVID-19 pandemic, and taking care of our mental health was no exception. How do you recommend people look after their own mental health during a time of social distancing and not seeing family and friends?

The first step is to reflect and be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling. Realize that life has changed for everyone, yourself included. Try to take a good look at your three personal “pillars” – your physical health, mental well-being and your social health.

All three of these pillars are connected, and making a personal checklist of how you’re doing with each one can help you pinpoint if you need to focus on one particular area. If your social health is not at 100%, which during COVID-19 has been the case for many as we can’t visit our friends and family as often as we used to, try to think of ways you can meet this need through virtual means. Talk to loved ones through Zoom or FaceTime, try participating in activities virtually and most importantly make a schedule and a routine to incorporate those activities.

I would also encourage everyone to limit their news intake, and when you do consume news make sure it’s from a reputable source. Positivity and reassuring self-talk can do wonders for your mental health – including giving yourself permission to relax and check in with yourself.

For your mental well-being, it’s so important to be honest with yourself and seek help if you need it. There are a number of free resources being offered to Canadians during the pandemic, including AbilitiCBT from Morneau Shepell and resources from the Government of Canada.

  1. As our courageous frontline team members continue to care for others during the pandemic, we know it can be difficult to remember to take care of themselves. How can they look after their own health and wellness, and how can those of us in the community support those working on the frontlines?

Our frontline workers have always sacrificed self-care to care for our patients and for each other, even before COVID-19. Work-life balance has been an ongoing battle, and during the pandemic it’s important not to be too hard on yourself when it comes to increased screen time or virtual time. Right now it’s one of the most important ways we can connect with one another.

And while it may seem like a no-brainer, the number one thing you can do for yourself during these times is get enough sleep! It’s important not to feel guilty about going to bed early if you can, and remember to set “do not disturb” on your personal phone and work phone so you can get uninterrupted sleep. Make sure you schedule time for yourself and self-care – one way you can do that is to schedule blocks of time in your work calendar, even if it’s after work hours or on the weekends.

SHN also encourages our team members to speak up and talk about mental health. There is so much stigma surrounding mental health, but if one positive has come out of the pandemic it’s that it’s allowed people to be more open and honest about their mental health, and given us permission to reach out when we need help.

  1. You’ve been with SHN for almost 3 years now. What do you think makes SHN special?

People often tell me I have the best job – and I truly feel like I do. I’m incredibly passionate about wellness for myself and others, and my job is so robust that I feel like I get to participate in so many different things.

One of my favourite parts is going around to the different units and getting our team members active – whether through stretching or a quick Zumba class! We’ve had over 32,000 wellness participation moments throughout the last year, which really shows how committed our staff are to their own personal wellness. It really drives home our strategic direction of empowering our people and building a positive culture of wellness here at our hospitals.

  1. What is your favourite part about Scarborough and the incredible community we serve?

I’ve lived in Scarborough almost my entire life, and can say that the diversity and culture is my favourite part. With that of course comes incredible food from all over the world, which I also love to explore!

Scarborough has amazing facilities and resources for physical health, including the Scarborough YMCA and other community centres. I’m a Zumba instructor in the community, and this role has been very rewarding. I get to meet and interact with our incredible community members, and remain active in my physical and social health. I feel very grateful to be able to support our community and team members during these difficult times, and will continue to advocate for patient, staff and community wellness.

Another thing I love about Scarborough is how much love and support they have for all of us here at SHN. Scarborough has had the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the GTA, and as much as our team members and community are burnt out we will bounce back because Scarborough is so resilient. At SHN we have that sense of community, all the way from the top down. Even during tough times, Scarborough and SHN will keep going because we support each other, and we’re like a family – with all the ups and downs that come with that!

SHN is the heart and soul of Scarborough, and our staff live and work in this tight community. We have a sense of belonging and incredible resiliency, and I think that’s very special.

We are incredibly grateful to have dedicated team members like Philippa looking out for the health and wellness of our team members, patients and our vibrant Scarborough community. To learn more about how you can support SHN and health care in Scarborough, visit SHNFoundation.ca/ways-to-give.