Featured How to live like the experts

How to live like the experts: Dr. Joanna Mansfield talks about finding joy in a sea of challenging news

Dr. Joanna Mansfield
Written by Monica Matys

Ever wonder if your doctor or specialist follows their own advice? Sunnybrook experts get candid with the approaches they take in their personal lives.

Dr. Joanna Mansfield is a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook’s Women’s Mood & Anxiety Clinic, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Clinic and General Psychiatry Clinic and teaches medical residents in psychiatry at the University of Toronto.
She offers her best tips on finding joy and balance in a world filled with challenging news.

How do you fit personal wellness into your day?

Part of my clinical work involves leading a mindfulness group and a cognitive behavioural therapy group. It didn’t happen right away, but I have noticed the work I do with my patients has slowly changed my own daily mindset. Even though I don’t do these things formally outside my patient sessions, I find myself moving toward things like balanced thinking and practicing gratitude.

We also talk a lot about the importance of sleep. I typically get about eight hours per night, and having a routine helps a lot. So going to bed and waking up around the same time is really helpful for me.

There is a lot of heavy and difficult news in the world. How do you cope?

One way is by knowing I am giving my best effort to impact our community through my work, and improving the mental health and quality of life of the patients I care for. I enjoy what I do and hopefully, it’s helping make the world a better place, one patient interaction at a time.

Also thinking back to some of my groups when difficult topics come up. We want to support a person’s well-being and look at the common humanity in all of us. There is a “loving-kindness” meditation that involves practicing extending compassion towards others and ourselves. This helps me in my own life, and can be especially useful during difficult times.

What are your go-to stress relievers?

Exercise is key. I enjoy lots of different activities, from yoga to muscle training. Walking is also something I love. It gets me outside for some fresh air and is a good way connect with others in the neighbourhood.

I have young kids, and they all enjoy playing hockey. I actually help volunteer coach my son’s hockey team, and go on the ice each week with the team to help train them. I’m the lone mom there with all the other dad coaches! I used to play on a team way back, so it’s come full circle.

Do you limit your exposure to social media?

I’m back and forth on that. It’s a delicate balance to stay informed but also knowing your own limits. When it’s too much, I take a break and engage in something else I enjoy. I don’t want to be all or nothing.  Self-awareness is important; how am I doing today, what helped me and what do I need to bolster at this time?

How do you talk to your kids about difficult news?

I explain things to their level of understanding and give reassurances if they need it. We get the Saturday newspaper, so I teach them about being aware of current events. And it’s not only about bad news; good news is important to share! There is so much happening with sports, arts, and culture that can enrich them.

Enriching ourselves is important!

I have a variety of friends, work friends, and others, to share perspectives on things. It’s easy to get hyper-focused on one area or issue, so it’s nice to stay connected with people from different parts of my life to have balance.

About the author

Monica Matys

Monica Matys is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

Have a question about this post? Get in touch.