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"New Year, Still You" - Balanced Holistic Wellness with Jill Kay

Did you catch our IG Live chat with Jill Kay of Down to Earth Wellness? Jill had some awesome insights into preventing or managing burnout, what a healthy "cleanse" actually looks like, and how to take a balanced approach to trying to achieve total wellness.

Photo from @down2earthwellness

Nadea: I just want to give you a bit of an introduction about why I think Jill is great before she joins us. I started working with Jill a few years ago now. It feels like just yesterday, but it was a long time ago, I think.

For those of you who know me, you’ll already know this, but if you don’t, I was not in a very healthy place a few years ago, and I was struggling a lot with disordered eating and a lot of just not feeling good — feeling burned out — and I decided that it was time to make some changes in my life so that I started feeling better and that I needed to repair my relationship with food, and I managed to find Jill. Jill was amazing at helping me to learn how to love food again in a really happy, nourishing, chill way, where it was really about finding joy and feeling good. She’s extremely insightful about helping you learn what you need to do to take care of yourself to feel good.

So I’m looking forward to Jill joining us to talk about how we can deal with burnout, a little bit about detoxification, and some overall tips for having a balanced start to our new year. Basically I love Jill, and everybody should also love Jill. If you’re not following her, she’s a joy to follow on Instagram.

How are you doing, Jill? Did I miss anything in my introduction? It was a little biased because it was about my personal experience. [laughs]

Jill: No, I just work a lot with women who are feeling burned out and who want to have more energy to get back to the adventures that feed their soul and light them up. I do a lot of that — functional nutrition. I think you mentioned nice things — thank you for that. I work in a functional nutrition and holistic nutrition capacity, looking at diet, lifestyle, supplementation, and getting nerdy with science and stuff like that. I definitely take the holistic approach.

Nadea: I love the way that you approach wellness. I think it’s brilliant. So I’m excited to ask you some questions.

Jill: Let’s dive in!

Nadea: So I was really looking forward to getting your thoughts on burnout because that’s something that you really specialize in. It’s kind of your niche, and you really do that well. So as a holistic wellness coach, would you say that you’ve been noticing an increase in burnout since the pandemic?

Jill: Yeah, definitely. I think that stress is of course higher. Work situations have changed for people. Life situations have changed. Collective stress is high. Stress takes a toll on energy, our adrenals, our emotional health — and of course burnout. So I’m definitely seeing more fatigue. And then we throw on winter as well and all the darkness — so there’s definitely some added burnout, I think, that is taking a toll on people for sure.

Nadea: Okay, good to know that it’s not just me.

Jill: No, it’s definitely happening, I think. It’s multifactorial, right? So there are a lot of factors, but the pandemic is a huge stressor for people in different ways for sure.

Nadea: Yeah, I think that’s going to comfort a few people for sure. So tying in with that, I’ve been seeing a lot of this whole “new year, new you” concept, which is part of why we wanted to chat with different people about it — because it’s being marketed to a lot to people at this time of year, and I am noticing that, in general, we have this obsession in our culture where people will set a bunch of very intense goals — in my field, it ends up being a lot of fitness goals — and they’ll decide at the outset of their year that they need to “go hard or go home”, they need to push themselves — they’re like, “This is going to be the year that I absolutely crush it!” The other thing I hear a lot is “no pain, no gain!”

So I would love to get your thoughts on that approach. Do you think that pays off, and what happens to a body when you approach life that way?

Jill: Yeah, I definitely am aware of that approach as well, and I find that it’s kind of — you know, “beat your body up! Just grind on! Push through! Grind, grind, grind! Pain is weakness!” — that kind of stuff. It really moves away from that intuitive connection to your body and listening to your body. It’s also sometimes a quick fix or kind of a diet-y mentality — like we’re “on the wagon” and then we’re “off the wagon”.

I more believe in creating a sustainable lifestyle change. Consistency is key — small, incremental changes over time that stack onto our habits and that are healthy and that become a lifestyle so that it’s not like we’re on this plan, then we’re off this plan or this cleanse or this detox, and it’s more about “let’s tune into our body — how is it feeling? What is it telling us?”

"It’s more about 'let’s tune into our body — how is it feeling? What is it telling us?'”

Of course, set goals… We can set goals, but we have to set realistic goals and attainable goals — not that “me against my body mentality”, like “I’m going to make you push on, go on, and grind on even if you don’t want to!” I don’t really believe in that because it’s a fast track to burnout if you’re like, “I’ll just push it at the gym even though I don’t feel like it!” I much more believe in “let’s listen to the body”.

It’s cyclical as well — women have a cycle. We have a cycle of energy that changes every month at different times of the month, so we can really modify our exercise and our diet — even our schedules. So I’m much more about the intuitive approach. I definitely believe in setting goals; I just find that sometimes in the new year, it’s very much shaming ourselves — like “I have to do this! I have to go, go, go!” We have these unattainable plans and then we fall off and then we feel bad — that kind of thing.

Nadea: I think people are craving change and people do want to see big, dramatic changes. But what I like about your approach is that you can still have those meaningful change, but your perspective is just a little bit more stretched out and maybe a little bit more reasonable instead of thinking you need to hit it hard and fast and then suddenly it’s not going to work.

Jill: Ten days! [laughs]

Nadea: Yeah, exactly. [laughs]

Photo from @down2earthwellness

Jill: Ten days and it’s over — more like, let’s make one small change a week. We have a goal — like, whatever that goal might be — but let’s be realistic and have it attainable so that there is no wagon to fall off of. It’s just small lifestyle changes for the long term. That’s what I have found has worked for me. I used to try things — years ago — short-term things — and I could never stick with it. Then I would feel bad.

I found that what worked was small, incremental changes. Then all of a sudden, you look back and you’re like, “Wow, it’s been three months and I’ve done so many small, little changes that seemed kind of simple and mundane or not exciting, and they changed everything. I’ve changed my whole lifestyle because of these small little changes.” So that’s kind of the approach I take.

Nadea: Yeah, that makes sense to me. I think that change is exciting. So even if it doesn’t look like it at the outset, the accumulation of it all is really nice.

Jill: It’s like, “Drink more water.” “Oh, yeah. More water.” “Go to bed!” “Oh, yeah.” It’s like, no — those things are huge when it comes to reaching our goals!

Nadea: Absolutely! And you’re a great cheerleader for that for sure.

Jill: Oh, thanks. I’m always blabbing about those key things.

Nadea: So on the subject of burnout — I’m thinking that a lot of people might be suspecting that they are burned out or they’re on the path to being burned out. So what are some signs that a person might be a little burned out?

"I’ve changed my whole lifestyle because of these small little changes."

Jill: There are some sneaky ones and some obvious ones. Obviously you’re feeling more tired. You are not able to get through a day. You’re exhausted. You need naps. You’re pressing snooze a lot. You could just sleep the whole day. That’s where burnout is kind of kicking in. Maybe you’re wired and tired at night. Maybe we’re seeing your stress hormones become more inverted. Stress hormones should, you know, wake us in the morning and then they go down at night, but maybe they’re more inverted so that you’re wired and tired at night, you’re waking up in the middle of the night, you can’t sleep or you can sleep forever.

Some people find that they’re craving stimulants — they need their coffee, they need their sugar, they need their caffeine more than ever. Their nervous system needs those stimulants.

Other things are — even weird things like you scare easily — like if someone walks by and you’re like “Ah!” — nervous. It’s a sign that your nervous system is getting a little frazzled, or it can be a sign. That ties back into your adrenal glands.

Other things — craving salty foods and again stimulants or sugar — even anxiety, depression, melancholy — you know, you just can’t keep up with the day-to-day stress of life — the tolerance for stress is going down. You don’t even want to watch scary movies. Like, the nervous system can’t handle that. Maybe you can relate?

Nadea: [laughing] Yeah, I’m laughing not because it’s funny but because it’s terrible and also so many of us experience this. You’re describing a lot of us humans.

Jill: It’s these weird little things — of course it’s energy and some people even feel more wired in the day. They just go, go, go because their stress hormones are so high, but they’re tired and they’re living off of coffee and they’re just flying at it and they have energy crashes. They’re dealing with cravings. Even weird things like your eyes are getting twitchy, your muscles are getting twitchy and crampy, and/or your PMS is getting worse. Those are not necessarily signs of burnout, but stress is taking a toll. It’s taking a toll on your energy. It’s taking a toll on your hormones.

I had a couple of other thoughts — dizziness — you feel faint when you go from lying down to standing up. Again, signs that adrenals and the nervous system need some love. There are a lot of little sneaky signs as well.

The other one too is that your resiliency for stress is going down -- like, you just can’t keep up with life like you used to. That’s when I noticed I was burning out. When I was in school and doing all the things, I could come home after work and go exercise and cook dinner and then study until 8:30/9:00 at night, and I would do that. But gradually — and you don’t even notice — you just can’t do that anymore. I couldn’t do those three things. I could do one of them or two of them, and I just couldn’t keep up. Some people can’t handle stress — the stress is becoming too much — the tolerance for stress and exercise — exercise is maybe burning you out like it didn’t before. So it’s definitely multi-layered — it’s not just “I’m tired”; it’s all these other things as well that can show up.

Nadea: And that’s worth taking seriously and not just shoving on the back burner, because it might end up being an issue later.

Obviously you have so many different ways that a person can recover from burnout, and I think you’re really good at helping people figure out their individual approach. That’s something that I think is worth investing in — for people to do that with you. But I was thinking that you may have one or two sort of general ideas for if a person is burned out — some steps that they could take that might be beneficial.

Photo from @down2earthwellness

Jill: Yeah, for sure. There’s getting ahead of it. There’s mitigating it. There’s reducing it. Then there’s trying to recover from it. There are different phases of burnout, of course. So we always want to get ahead of it. But if we’re in it, there are some things we can do.

Sometimes those protocols and approaches will be different depending on where the person is at — like, if they’ve been burned out for a really long time or if they’re just getting burned out. But some key things are — oddly enough, it’s not just energy but it’s looking at where all your factors of stress are coming from, because stress impacts the nervous system and the adrenal glands — our fight -or-flight glands. So looking at our body as a barrel, we want to empty our barrel every day of stress — and we want to always be emptying it. If we’re not emptying it, that barrel is going to start overflowing and it’s going to tell us in different ways — through fatigue, burnout, even mood changes, skin issues — all sorts of stuff — so we need to empty that barrel and look at what’s filling that barrel.

So looking at kind of the whole-body burden — physical stress — are you overexercising or under-exercising? Because if you’re exercising and you feel exhausted afterwards — just tanked and wiped out — that’s something to be mindful of. You should feel energized and good and not just like, “I have to vomit and take a nap.” So be mindful of the level of exercise that you’re doing. Exercise is a stress on the body, right? It’s a good stress. We need stress in our life, but we don’t want it to be so much that it’s chronic and taking a toll.

That’s what I was going to say about the pandemic and burnout — we can handle acute stress. Not “cute” stress, but “acute” stress. We can take that — we’re built for “cute” stress — stress that comes and goes. But chronic stress — the pandemic has been very chronic stress. It is just never-ending — almost over a year now.

So if we have a lot of chronic stress, that’s going to take a toll on our body. So be mindful of your physical stress that you have on your body; be mindful of your emotional stress, of course — like, who do you surround yourself with? What’s going on in your life, work, your thoughts? Are you detoxing your mind? We have to detox our body.

There are many different detox pathways but one of them is the mind — so getting your stress out — talking, journalling — any way to get the stress out of your mind. The other one is diet. Diet can be a stress as well on the body if we’re not eating enough or we’re not eating nourishing diet or we’re eating a lot of processed foods and high sugar and not enough veggies — that’s actually going to be a stress on our body as well.

So if we have a lot of chronic stress, that’s going to take a toll on our body. So be mindful of your physical stress that you have on your body; be mindful of your emotional stress, of course — like, who do you surround yourself with? What’s going on in your life, work, your thoughts? Are you detoxing your mind? We have to detox our body.

So really being mindful of all these areas — and then sleep. Sleep is so important if we want to start recovering from burnout. So seven to nine hours is really important. If we can get to bed by 10:00/10:30, that’s the magic time where our body does a lot of rest and restoration repair work. So really zeroing in on your sleep, sleep routine.

Looking at what products even you’re putting on your body, in your home, and on your skin — because, again, that can be a stress on the body. The body has to detox it through your skin, through your liver. So looking at, “Can we clean up the products gradually?”

It’s all very gradual, but overall, you’re going to be lowering the stress/body burden, which will help with energy. Oddly enough, it all helps with energy. Other things are stress management — what makes you happy? Getting outside and exercising, being in nature — really lowering that stress every day. The mental stress and everything like that.

Nadea: I feel like if everyone were just to listen to you and apply all these points, our lives would be so much better.

Jill: It might even sound overwhelming — like, “Okay, I’ve got a million things.” But just do one thing, do it gradually — like eating balanced meals every day. Three balanced meals with adequate protein, fat, and fibre is going to balance your blood sugar, which will reduce your cravings and actually balance out your insulin and your cortisol levels — your stress hormones — which helps with energy. That’s huge.

Also, making sure that you’re detox pathways are open — we were talking a little bit about detoxification. Those detox pathways are making sure you’re going to the bathroom every day, eating enough fibre and veggies, you’re feeling good, the bathroom — going number two, emptying your bladder — your lungs — so getting outside in fresh air — your mind — and your skin is a huge detoxification organ. Another thing you can do to support burnout recovery — there’s the big guns and the small guns — the little things we can do — but focus on really nice, nourishing food — bone broth or sea salt — pink Himalayan sea salt — you can put it into your water, add it to foods — it’s really, really nourishing with all those minerals for your adrenal glands.

Then of course there’s targeted supplements we could do, depending on the person, for your adrenal glands — supporting them, getting the nourishing foods in. Really, the key is looking at your food, looking at your lifestyle, your sleep, your movement, and watching what kind of stress is coming into your body and making sure that we’re emptying that barrel. That’s really going to help with burnout.

Photo from @down2earthwellness

Nadea: That sounds amazing.

Jill: There are so many things we can explore. Maybe I forgot other things, but these are top of mind, you know?

Nadea: Yeah, I think that covers a lot of really valuable stuff. I like that you already started talking about detoxing, because that was another subject where I was like, “Man, I really want to talk to Jill about this” — because I see so many advertisements and also just stuff on Instagram from influencers and stuff talking about detoxing your body. Some of their ideas are a little bit sketchy — like, “Guess what, guys? We’re going to go on a 21-day celery juice cleanse and it’s going to make you lose all of the weight and it’s going to cleanse everything and it’s going to fix your life.” And you just look at that, and you’re like, “I don’t know if that really is the most effective form of detox that there could be…”

So from your perspective — you’ve already talked about it a little bit, but would you say that is a reasonable perspective on detox, and what do you wish people knew about detox?

Jill: Umm, yeah, I think it’s totally cool — no, I’m just joking. Just go for it! [laughs] Yeah, I think that it’s kind of a diet mentality. We don’t realize that we can get into a diet mentality even when it’s “healthy food”. “I’m eating really healthy though!” but it’s still that relationship with food — we don’t want to impact our relationship with food. We want to have a healthy relationship with food. So I find that short-term cleanses or really, really strict fasting cleanses can be stressful for people sometimes. You’re done the cleanse and you still don’t fully understand how to build a healthy diet or what your body needs. It was just a short cleanse and we still have to create a lifestyle. So I’d rather create the lifestyle for the long term.

I find that short-term cleanses or really, really strict fasting cleanses can be stressful for people sometimes. You’re done the cleanse and you still don’t fully understand how to build a healthy diet or what your body needs. It was just a short cleanse and we still have to create a lifestyle. So I’d rather create the lifestyle for the long term.