Living Well Integrative Health Center

2176 Windsor Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. (902) 406-1500

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From Survive to Thrive A short guide to a healthy journey Dr. Maria Patriquin

The road to balance: How to survive and thrive in life

Those who choose professional careers tend to have personality characteristics that coupled with a high demand culture of training engenders overworking and a lack of self- care. This excess can and does lead to burnout. Current studies indicate that burnout is on the rise in work spaces.

Burnout has been linked to depression; sleep disorders, poor physical health, addictions, interpersonal difficulties, suicidality, financial problems, avoidant coping styles and negative attitudes towards self and others. It erodes empathy, the cornerstone of the healthy relationships. Without empathy and compassion we lose meaning, connection, efficacy and satisfaction. We lose what it is to be human and kind.

The ability to cope, survive, thrive and flourish resides in having compassion for yourself through this journey. When we experience stress we have a tendency to sacrifice self-care. We reason that we don’t have time, we can sleep more on the weekend, eat better next week, call family or friends some other time. Engaging in self-care is not a luxury but a necessity that helps us achieve and maintain optimal physical and mental health. It reduces the actual level of stress we experience and confers resilience in the face of difficulty and uncertainty of which life and study is full of.

The following is a list of evidence-based measures to foster wellness.

Eat well: What you eat strongly influences your daily and future mood. Try eating more fatty fish, nuts, berries, colorful veggies, multigrain and leafy greens and cut down on meat. You’ve got to put good things in to get good out.

Sleep more: The average adult’s basal sleep needs are 7.5 to 8.5 hours per night. Good sleep leads to less irritability, anger, unpleasant mood states and helps in managing stress. It increases our ability to focus, concentrate and reduces the likelihood of making errors. Work demands and busy schedules can interfere yet are required. To learn more about sleep and tips:                  

Move lots: Sitting is the new smoking. Walking is great, taking stairs, even just standing more during your day has health benefits. Moderate exercise immediately boosts your mood and energy levels. Exercise has more positive mental and physical health benefits than any single medication. “Walking is man’s best medicine”(Hippocrates).


Be grateful. Take in the good; notice, enjoy and give thanks. Write down 3 things a day you are grateful for. A kind word, a child passing that smiled at you, the setting sun are good examples. The key is they can’t ever repeat. Gratitude for self i.e. in the form of journaling also helps foster self-compassion, elevates mood and sense of connection to others. Gratitude and journaling are expressive, creative, therapeutic activities that enable us to experience the ordinary as extraordinary which is truly is.

Practice Mindfulness & Meditation: The ability to be present and aware without trying to alter and judge what we experience in a given moment is mindfulness. Meditation is one way to practice mindfulness. Regular practice increases awareness, mood and concentration while decreasing stress and reactivity. People who make mindfulness a habit have a greater sense of purpose and experience less mental and physical illness. Studies support the role of MBSR in medical professionals and students alike. Participants report less stress, improved quality of life and more self-compassion. There is always time to Stop, take some breaths and notice what you feel, sense, and are thinking. I call this “the mindful pause” and practiced throughout the day can be helpful in managing the buildup of stress.                                                              

Get outside: With as little as 5 minutes there are noticeable changes in mood and sense of self. Green space and light affect our feeling connected to nature and others. It reduces unpleasant feelings of stress, anger and fear. We ruminate less and feel happier. It helps us reset our “attention” ability, increases creativity, is energizing and we sleep better.                       

Socialize and build a healthy tribe: Our greatest drive is to belong and connect. When we have strong social ties we engage in more healthy behaviours and live longer. A strong social network can be relied upon and makes us more resilient to stress in hard times. Call a friend, have dinner with family, attend church, go to art shows, join groups, volunteer, frequent community centers and the library. When all else fails, make conversation with the people you meet in a coffee shop, the grocery store, your hairdressers or the market.

Engage therapy from a positive psychology perspective. Therapy actually works best from a good mood state so don’t wait for a downturn. Hippocrates said “Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” Therapy fosters awareness, helps us understand the root cause of our challenges and provides us with a safe place to process while we learn and experience about the vulnerability of being human and the practice of medicine. We acquire skills; build stress tolerance, optimism and resilience. Therapy helps us process old hurts and traumas so we can live fully and remain objective when caring. A strengths based positive psychology approach that incorporates mindfulness, an emotion focus, and cognitive behavioural therapy is strongly recommended. An example is ACT.                                                                                                                                  

Accept failure and disappointment: Failure and setbacks are part of learning. Thinking of failing as a mistake is a mistake. “Perceived” failures inform our learning help us know where we need to direct more personal resources. Ask questions and remain curious.

Be kind: It leads to positive feelings, self-esteem, optimism and feeling connected. Giving regularly improves our sense of self-worth and life satisfaction. As little as one positive act a week can lead to more happiness, which in turn creates a positive feedback loop making it more likely for us to do another.

Think positive and optimistically: Optimism can be learned and can fuel your motivation. Seeing obstacles as challenges and set backs as temporary external events rather than personal failures helps us persevere. In order to achieve anything, optimism is not merely desirable, but necessary. Martin Seligman wrote a book “Learned optimism”; it’s worth the read.

Practicing what we preach i.e. living our value of health and wellness is grounded in good science and common sense. Being able to respond to your experiences with more compassion, greater flexibility, cognitive ability, skill, support and resilience will ensure you survive, learn to cope and ultimately grow and thrive from work and life experience. Healthy lifestyles lead to greater satisfaction personally and professionally.  People who themselves lead healthy lifestyle are more likely to influence others to do the same. It’s win win. From an organizational perspective we don’t just want you to have a good experience and be well, we need you to. More now than ever Canada needs healthy people and communities.   

It seems apt to end with a quote from the pioneering Canadian physician Sir William Osler who said, ”The future is now”.  Your future is now. Embrace and enjoy it.

Dr. Maria Patriquin MD CCFP  www.practicewithpurpose

Living Well Integrative Health Center, founder                                                                                                                                                     Association for Positive Psychiatry of Canada, founding & board member.
Physician Lead: Group Medical Visits CHTeams/NSHA
Mental Health Committee Atlantic Canada Representative, CFPC
2016 PMH Care and Compassion Grant CFPC: Submit your story to
Assistant professor Dalhousie University Department of Family Medicine                                                                                                                                                 Collaborative Working Group on Shared Metal Health Care, CFPC                                                                                                                                                                Editorial Advisory Board, Canadian Family Physician
Canadian Pediatric Society Strategic Mental Health Task Force                                         

Promoting compassion, communication and collaboration in health care.



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