Q&A with Health Coach Suzanne Zilkowsky
Q1 :: Hi Suzanne - First off, what inspired you to devote your life to help others live a healthy life?
After graduating from Simon Fraser University with a degree in Criminology, I worked with the Vancouver City Police Department. A short while into my work with the VPD I realized this career choice would negatively impact my longevity and health and my ability to grow as an individual in a healthy capacity. Through this journey of self-discovery and some very deep soul searching I came to learn that my core values and life priorities were to participate with acts of service in my community through the teachings and healing around health. And so it was because of this that I made the difficult decision to leave the VPD and launch on a journey towards helping others thrive around health and wellness.
Q2 :: How important is it for others to set goals regarding their overall health and wellness? How can they begin doing so?
Well, change does not come from what you do sometimes - It comes from consistent habits practiced. If you want to accomplish a goal around health, you need to set a plan, a timeline and then you must apply action and behavior towards that specific goal. Most people are familiar with SMART goals in the job setting, but the truth is they apply to health as well. For example, let’s say you wanted to begin a meditation practice, but you currently have only meditated once in your life. It would be unrealistic to say you will meditate every night. You need to ask yourself, how often will I meditate, what is realistic considering everything else that I have scheduled into my day-planner, and how can I measure or track this goal? Perhaps the most useful, and easy to practice tool that I teach my health-coaching clients is the creation of daily health rituals. Finally, I would add that it is very important to think about how we want to “feel” when we reach our goals.
Q3 :: We read that you specialize in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. What exactly does this mean?
MBSR or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction was created by Jon Kabat-Zinn and is a program that teaches how to calm your mind and body to help cope with illness, pain, and stress. MBSR teaches "mindfulness", which refers to a capacity of mind, whereby one attends to his or her immediate experience arising both from within (e.g. mental states, thoughts, feelings, somatic sensations) and from our environment (e.g. auditory, visual, relationships, home, and work conditions) through observation while applying the attitudes of kindness, acceptance, and non-judgment. MBSR uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, body awareness, and yoga to help people become more mindful.
Q4 :: What physical activities would to recommend to others in order to promote a healthier lifestyle?
Any movement based exercise that you repeatedly do and have some level of enjoyment and satisfaction after completing. Some of my personal favorites that promote mental wellbeing and stress management are yoga, hikes in nature, running or walking outdoors, and group based classes that help build support and confidence.
Q5 :: What do you see as the easiest positive changes that most people could make in their wellness routines?
Sleep! Get at least 7-8 hours of “quality” sleep every night. Getting enough sleep is vital to our physical and spiritual wellbeing.
Q6 :: What do you see as the biggest challenge people have in making proactive health choices?
Most people feel overwhelmed by information they read, or see on social media and do not know where to begin. Another challenge I find my clients commonly facing is they do not initially understand why they want to improve their health. We all want to be healthier, but why? What is the real reason for making healthy choices? People want to make positive choices towards their health because they are told that this is important. However, if you are trying to change or make choices around health for someone else, the chances for longevity around these habits may not last long.
Q7 :: What are the most rewarding changes that you have seen from your coaching experiences?
Longevity around health! When someone sets goals around health and is not only successful in meeting those goals but finds longevity and continues to thrive.
Q8 :: What are the first steps people can take upon reading this and wanting to live a healthier lifestyle?
A good place to begin is to ask yourself the following questions so you become clear about your intention and motivation for wanting to live a healthier lifestyle.
- What’s my motivation for wanting to improve my health? If I am successful, what do I expect the results to bring?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- What has stopped me from sticking to a health routine in the past? Are these challenges still present in my life? If so, what is my strategy so I do not lose confidence or feel overwhelmed?
- If I am tempted to sabotage or quit, what will be my mantra (self talk) so I stick with the plan?
- Who is in my support circle? How can I build in a support group for myself?