Q&A on wellness with Tonya Price: “When we free our minds from the chatter, ideas come”

The global COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to change our habits. Most of us are working from home more, seeing our friends and families (in-person) less and adopting new approaches to health and fitness that don’t involve going to the gym.

To Tonya Price, a registered yoga instructor and mindfulness facilitator based in New Brunswick, this has also created a welcome discussion about the benefits wellness can bring to our lives – both inside and outside of a pandemic.

Tonya delivered a “Lunch and Learn” to the #BanFam on mindfulness, so we decided to ask her for insight on how we can adopt a wellness mindset with so much change taking place around us.

Banfield: What does wellness mean to you?

Tonya Price: For me, wellness means developing and maintaining mental, physical and spiritual health. It means taking the first step towards our own well-being and never giving up trying to add just one more healthy habit to our daily lives. It can be as simple as taking a five-breath mindful moment, cooking a healthy meal or taking a walk. The pandemic is keeping us closer to home and many of us have benefitted from a bit more flexibility with our time. It has also brought increased anxiety due to shifting work routines, home routines and even shopping routines. We have been asked to pivot and adapt to ever-changing conditions both personally and professionally. Yet a return to wellness offers us tools to increase our resiliency through mindfulness, physical activity and spiritual practice. While our connections to others may be more challenging, our connections to our self may be stronger than ever. However, well-being is dynamic. We may feel great one day and struggle the next. Being kind to ourselves, and others is the ultimate wellness practice.

I personally find wellness in my own breath. Taking a few deep breaths always gives me a moment to pause and clear my mind. I always feel better after quieting my mind, even just for a minute. I also find profound wellness in my daily walks, being in nature and actually feeling grateful for what I have. Taking a positive perspective has been a key to my personal and professional success for many years and it is something that I must nurture and practice.

Banfield: How does a focus on wellness topics (such as mindfulness) help you at work?

Tonya Price: About 10 years ago, I wanted to bring more wellness to work, so I enrolled in yoga teacher training. My goal was to bring more wellness to my workplace. It was certainly a struggle to introduce wellness to a traditional government department but with time, the work I did made a difference. A culture of wellness grew within my workplace. Stretch breaks were naturally included in all staff gatherings, talking about mindfulness became common, walking at lunch time was expected and checking in with colleagues, to ensure they were well, became normal.

This gave me permission to be my authentic self at work. To care about the wellbeing of my staff and not just how much work they were accomplishing. Other leaders at my workplace embraced wellness and encouraged their staff to take care of their own well-being.

Now, more than ever, our wellbeing is important. I moved back to New Brunswick to work for the Province a year ago. I have been trying to bring my brand of wellness to my new workplace but it has been challenging and the bureaucracy seemed to be standing in my way. Since the pandemic, the bureaucracy shifted and all attention has been focused on keeping our Province safe. The work has become very stressful and I saw an opportunity for introducing mindfulness to my colleagues. Since then I have led a number of virtual mindfulness sessions to great results. Taking just a few minutes to quiet the mind has allowed my colleagues to regain their resilience and meet the challenges that lie ahead.

Banfield: Many creative thinkers have a mindfulness/meditation practice as part of their lives. What role does wellness play in creativity?

Tonya Price: As I mentioned, mindfulness allows our brains to rest. I believe that it is in this state of rest where ideas and creativity grow.

I often share the power of habits with my friends and colleagues. Habits usually carry a negative connotation. Until I ask them if they have the same routine in the shower every day? Most of the time, the answer is yes. Then I ask if they ever have great ideas in the shower. Again, the answer is usually yes. Why is that? Well, the ‘habit’ of the shower routine frees up our minds to think about other things. It is this freedom that leads to creativity and idea creation. I believe that a mindfulness or meditation practice follows this same notion. When we free our minds from the chatter, the revolving thoughts and the worry, ideas come. Instituting a new habit, like a mindfulness or meditation practice takes time but the benefits are worth the investment.

The same applies for physical or spiritual practices or habits. Connecting with a higher power can lead to inspiration. Accomplishing a physical fitness goal can push an individual to strive for other personal or professional goals. Achieving a connection between mind, body and spirit encourages peak performance and only good things can come from that, such as improved creativity.

Banfield: What are your top tips for practicing wellness at work?

Taking a walk at lunch time is my number one tip. For me, it’s a walk but for others it may be a run, a workout at lunch time or even social / spiritual activity. I guess my main tip, is to take a mid-day break. Step away from the monitor, clear the mind and work the body a bit. It is a great gift that we can give ourselves. I also think that walking meetings, where possible, are an excellent option at work. Take a pen and a stick a note pad in your pocket for documenting ideas. Walking meetings are a fantastic way to mix wellness and work!

Stretching at our desks (whether we are working at home or at the office), getting up from our desks regularly, drinking water and even looking away from the monitor and focusing on something in the distance to relax the muscles in our eyes, are all simple and effective wellness at work practices.

Chatting with colleagues, in-person or virtually, provide benefits from a social well-being perspective. Finally, giving ourselves “permission to pause” is more important than ever. Shut down the emails and truly taking a break from work is crucial to our resiliency. Asking a colleague to cover for us and putting on an ‘out of office’ message, ensures that our clients are still served while we take a break. It can do wonders for our mental wellbeing.

Banfield: How do you maintain wellness in the midst of a global pandemic and all the added pressures that adds to our lives?

This is a tough question as everyone is in a different personal situation that may offer them varying degrees of ability to maintain wellness. It may also be that the notion of “maintaining wellness” has changed since the global pandemic started. For example, individuals who used to go to the gym regularly have had to modify their routines versus those with an established home practice. Or some of us may find that simply being kind to ourselves is the most beneficial wellness practice at this time.

Tonya Price is a registered yoga instructor and mindfulness facilitator based in New Brunswick.

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