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Get in the ‘healthy living’ groove

A few tips for finding the right balance in your life. 

Shawna Oliver prides herself in challenging the status quo. During her 22 years in the healthcare industry, she has worked with key stakeholders spanning the ecosystem as an underwriter, a consultant, within health technology, in operations, and currently at Manulife overseeing Global Benefits & Wellness.


With stressors and temptations all around us, keeping healthy habits on track can sometimes feel really challenging. Maybe you’re pulling up to the fast-food takeout window a bit more than you’d like, or the evening walk has given way to another hour of zoning out in front of a screen. Or even more concerning, you’re slipping into troublesome spending habits that might not fit your budget.

The good news is there’s always time to turn things around – and that time is now!

In a recent episode of the Solutions to go podcast, Manulife wellness expert Shawna Oliver offered up some sound advice on what it means to live a healthy life, focusing on three key areas – financial, mental and physical wellbeing. Let’s begin with the financial aspect.

Financial wellbeing

The impact of financial stress on our overall wellbeing is significant and can contribute to serious conditions, such as depression and heart disease. In one study, 48 per cent of respondents said they’ve lost sleep because of financial worries. Another study found that those dealing with financial stress were four times more likely to suffer from headaches and other illnesses.[1]

As the cost of living continues to increase, it’s more important than ever to take stock of your household budget. Shawna Oliver calls this financial courage.

“When it comes to financial health, it can be hard to admit that things are a bit of a mess,” says Oliver. “But I guarantee that if you sit down with an advisor, they’ve had at least one case worse than yours.”

Your advisor can help you identify the best way to pay down debt, manage loan repayments, while also investing for the future. “With a plan for your finances in place, you can feel back in control of your life,” says Oliver.

This handy budget planner worksheet can also help you make sense of your household expenses.

Mental wellbeing

Gaining control of financial matters can help to alleviate stress, but there’s more to keep in mind when it comes to mental wellbeing. Mindfulness is a buzzword tossed around a lot, but what does that really mean?

Here’s a definition of mindfulness: The practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.[2]

Common methods of embracing mindfulness can include activities such as yoga and meditation, where you learn to let go of racing thoughts that can elevate stress levels. Improving your organizational skills can also be an effective approach.

“When I’m overwhelmed, I feel better when I know there's a plan, and that can help me gain some control over my day, a week or a given situation,” says Oliver. “I simply write down what needs to be done in small increments, and that can help to make a large task more manageable.”

Another effective method for incorporating a bit of mindfulness into your day is a technique called 4-7-8 breathing.[3]

“You breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven and breathe out for eight, mimicking our breathing pattern when we’re relaxed,” says Oliver. “It only takes a minute to do but is very effective for calming yourself down and regaining clarity.”

And sometimes the path to mindfulness includes the word ‘no’.

“I'm embracing the ‘no’ and I encourage everybody else to do so as well,” says Oliver. “I've stopped feeling guilty about saying no to activities with friends and family to protect my own personal time. The superhero cape that I try to wear is defined by nobody's expectations but myself.”

Physical wellbeing

Reducing stress and gaining control of a busy schedule are important parts of healthy living. But there’s one key ingredient to add to the list that might have the biggest impact of all – physical exercise. Regular physical exercise can help to prevent or manage health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and anxiety. It can also help you sleep better, increase your vitality and boost your mood.[4] And the best part is that it can be as simple as going for a walk every day.

“When it comes to physical wellness, you don't have to start out running a marathon - you can think big, but start small,” says Oliver. “If five minutes a day is all you can manage to start, then that’s better than nothing. Maybe all you can manage at first is walking to the end of your driveway. But by next week, you’re walking around the block. The following week you’re walking two blocks. Do what feels comfortable, and most importantly do something that you love.”

There’s a synergy that comes from finding balance in financial, mental and physical wellbeing. When one of these aspects is out of balance, it can throw the whole system off. Starting small, staying consistent and setting achievable goals can help set you up for success. And with a bit of effort, you might be quite surprised at what you can accomplish.

To learn more about a  variety of wellness tools and techniques, check out these additional resources:

Find your zen 

Stressed about money?

The fresh air brain cure

Fit in some fitness 

Fitness alternatives 

[1] www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/financial-wellness-work/stress-impacts.html 

[2] www.psychologyunlocked.com/what-is-mindfulness-explained-20-definitions-that-clarify-mindfulness/#:~:text=Merriam%2DWebster%20Dictionary,%2Dto%2Dmoment%20basis.%E2%80%9D 

[3] www.healthline.com/health/4-7-8-breathing 

[4] www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389 

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