Building social connections at work
I, Karra Donnelly, am a nursing attendant with the Southern Alberta Renal Program Northwest, and, for the past two years, have also been a Wellness Champion. Part of my role as champion is in offering support to my team – and anyone else who requires it, but also remembering to practice my own self-care.
Self-care for me is varied between my own personal needs and my role as a wife and mother to three children (ages 19, 15 and 13). I enjoy running Spartan Races (poorly, but I still finish), reading, walking my dogs Rebel and Roxy, music (listening to it, watching my children play and teasing the strings of my own guitar) and learning more about my Metis heritage.
Why is balance important to you?
Being in tune with who I am and recognizing my emotions has helped me understand how our interactions affect each other, whether as a patient or a co-worker. When I feel ‘off’, I notice an increase in anxiety and an impact from lowered self-esteem. Nothing hurts more than my inner monologue demoting my self-worth, snowballing towards feeling of exhaustion and illness.
What practices do you personally use to foster social connections?
I believe in being open and honest, trying to be transparent with how I feel. It’s amazing how openness towards others can attract positive relationships. I have been told by others that my presence is very calming in times of chaos, and that it can keep people centered. I have my own mantra that helps me maintain a steady hand - I can’t change yesterday and tomorrow hasn’t happened. All I have is today and right now.
What obstacles have you faced in maintaining balance and finding time for social connections?
As a mom, wife and a full time employee, it’s sometimes hard to maintain social connections. Recent injuries have slowed my physical activity journey (and Netflix binging and eating cookies sure hasn’t helped). A co-worker of mine - knowledgeable about injuries and getting back to being active - has reached out and started guiding me towards reinstating a normal balance of getting active. I’m so glad that because of my transparency, people can reach out to help me too! As for staying in touch with friends and family, I give that torch to social media and technology. I love interacting with people on all levels.
As a wellness champion, can you share examples of two or three things you’ve done to promote wellness within your team?
As a Wellness Champion, my team has done many things to promote social connectedness at work:
- Pot lucks always bring our team together! I now bring the fruit and veggie tray, representing the Wellness Champion Network.
- I sometimes lead a quick stretching circle for co-workers.
- I came to work on ‘Take a Walk Day’ in a geeky exercise outfit to show how something as simple as taking a walk can help someone feel balanced and bring more energy.
- Healthy Eating conversation cards have been shared with coworkers and posted on bulletin boards. I was pleased to see others adding their own answers, opening up the conversation.
Most rewarding for me is when my coworkers share their feedback and comment on how much they enjoy the wellness board, and reading the tips I post.
My role as a champion has pushed my goals to the forefront, one of which is to live a balanced life. Another is knowing and acknowledging my sense of purpose -both professional and personal, though I suspect that’s a goal of almost everyone…
Join the conversation, and be inspired to think about your wellness!
The is a fun and engaging program designed to encourage and promote healthy work environments. Operational since 2013, the Network has grown to include over 285 members from across the province, representing all different locations and types of work.
Interested in becoming a wellness champion? Email [email protected].
Share what balance looks like to you, using #AHSwhatsyourbalance on social media. Or visit to download the Wellness Scorecard to get started on your path to finding balance.
As an Alberta Health Services employee, support is available on a variety of topics to you and your family members through the . See for more information or call 1-877-273-3134 to access services.