• Tue, 23, Jun, 2015 - 5:00:AM

Dr Kathleen Wills on integrative medicine, Dr Google and beating burnout

Villainesse recently chatted with Dr Kathleen Wills, an integrative medicine practitioner and certified Animal Assisted Therapist. Her recent book Beating Burnout focuses on holistic health and taking a proactive approach to wellbeing, so we asked her to share some of her top tips and wisdom.

Villainesse: Your new book focuses on burnout. What are some of the major symptoms to look out for?

Dr Kathleen Wills: Waking up feeling unrefreshed, trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, daytime sleepiness, weight gain around the middle, low moods or anxious feelings, brain cloud until having coffee or energy drinks, irritability, excessively dry or oily skin or rashes, increases in allergies, digestive issues (unpredictable bowel movements, wind and bloating) frequently getting sick (picking up everything going around), short term memory decline, frequent headaches, muscle aches, dizziness, red or irritated eyes, daytime sleepiness, and frequently feeling overwhelmed by all of your daily demands.

Villainesse: What would be your top tips to help young people to avoid becoming burnt out?

Dr Kathleen Wills: At this age, life can be pretty hectic and stressful. It seems to run a mile a minute.  So we need to stop and breathe and appreciate what’s going on around us. Notice the trees, the sun, and all the good things, including the people around us. Breathing is really important. I like to use the 8-8-8 breathing technique:  8 breaths in slowly through the mouth, holding each breath for 8 seconds and then breathing out for 8 slow seconds. Repeat two more times. This actually slows down your heart rate and your breathing so you feel more present in the current moment.

I also think connecting with nature is key to keeping calm, centred and healthy. With such a technology-focused society we need to make an effort to get out of our homes and offices every now and then to feel the breeze and the sun on our faces and be still.

Villainesse: Young women often report feeling tired and run-down. How can integrative medicine help them?

Dr Kathleen Wills: When feeling tired and run down and even if you are feeling some of the symptoms of burnout, you can go to an integrative doctor for a salivary hormones test to test both your adrenal function (the adrenal glands that sit on top of our kidneys produce stress-coping hormones and when in overdrive, they can become exhausted) and also your female reproductive hormones by saliva (when these are out of balance we can feel teary, irritable, bloated and have heavy periods). There are science-based herbal and nutritional treatments that can help people to feel more energetic and balanced.

Villainesse: If you could give just one piece of health advice to young women to help them to improve their lives, what would it be?

Dr Kathleen Wills: Have good friends always. Be honest, open and if tears need to come that’s okay. It will pass and those friendships will become stronger. Partners may come and go but friends are forever.

On a clinical level, I would recommend every young woman gets a cervical exam every three years from their GP to reduce their risk for cervical cancers; this is the only way to find out if you have it!

Villainesse: What’s one health myth you’d love to bust?

Dr Kathleen Wills: It’s never too early to test your hormones. If you are feeling like your moods, PMS and periods are out of control follow your instincts and seek help. Women and men can have hormonal imbalances well before menopause (and manopause!). If your doctor won’t test your hormones, find one that will.

Villainesse: What are your thoughts on WebMD and other symptom-based web services?

Dr Kathleen Wills: With the popularity of ‘Dr Google’ I’ve encountered many fun, challenging and sometimes odd questions from my clients. Knowledge is power. It’s great to have these tools, but always check with a medically qualified professional before diagnosing and treating yourself for any health conditions you may or may not have.

Villainesse: You are also an Animal Assisted Therapist, what inspired you to work with animals?

Dr Kathleen Wills: I grew up with a zoo of animals at home and always found comfort in cuddling up with my lovely dogs and cat. Animals are non-judgemental, always in the present moment and soothing. My Siberian husky, Una, has been an SPCA/St. John’s Outreach Therapy Pet visiting Starship hospital children for 8 years now. It never ceases to amaze me how she inspires children to walk again, speak again and have patience as they wait for new hearts.

Villainesse: What’s one thing that you wish you knew when you were 18?

Dr Kathleen Wills: Where do I start?! I would be saying to my younger sisters and women everywhere it’s important to start thinking about what you want out of life early. Plan your goals, financially aim for independence, and eat well (dark chocolate is a great sweet treat but avoid the fast food drive-throughs). What you eat at this age will affect your health in your thirties and forties and beyond so it’s never too early to eat well.

Villainesse: If you could change the world in one way, what would it be?

Dr Kathleen Wills: I wish we could have cheap/free energy and cheap/free food. A less economically driven world and more kindness-driven society would be ideal. I like the idea of a barter system of goods and services that we actually need and enjoy.

This interview was sponsored by ecostore. Dr Kathleen Wills is an ecostore ambassador.


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  • Symptoms /
  • Nature /
  • Tiredness /
  • Stress /
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  • Tips /
  • Hormones /
  • Friendship /
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