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Balancing the Grind with Dr. Kelly-Anne Garnier, Founder of Redefining Health

Dr. Kelly-Anne Garnier is a GP and founder of Redefining Health, where she offers coaching, wellness and motivational consulting services to individuals and organisations.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

Let’s just say I took the scenic journey to medicine.

In 1998, I arrived in Tasmania from South Africa with little more than a Science degree to my name. As a new immigrant, I did whatever I could to support myself: initially part-time reception work then full-time call centre work.

Keen to improve my job prospects, I studied an MBA part-time out of hours. I eventually landed up working in Business Banking in Melbourne. All the while however, I was yearning to become a doctor – a dream I’d had since my childhood in South Africa – but kept very close to my heart.

Years later in 2010, I finally found the courage to actualise this dream and moved to Geelong where I commenced a Postgraduate degree in Medicine. After graduating and doing my internship and residency, I moved to Queensland to complete my specialty training in General Practice.

Life has come full circle for me: I have relocated back down to Melbourne – a city I love – where I work as a General Practitioner and have founded my own business, Redefining Health, which was inspired by my own journey and recognising the importance of listening to that still quiet voice inside.

Redefining Health involves work in four key areas – resilience, mindset, adaptability and burnout. In many ways, they are interrelated and impact our capacity to get the best out of ourselves. As a coach, I have a strong emphasis on mindfulness – which is evidence based and can benefit each of these aspects.

As a workplace wellbeing consultant, I offer businesses a fairly unique background of both qualifications and experience in business and medicine. So, this is about offering credibility as well as experience.

Now more than ever, our personal and work lives are intertwined – it makes sense to be looking at our wellbeing holistically, not exclusive from the workplace.

My belief is the emphasis should not only be about staying ‘safe’ at work, but instead looking at how we can ‘flourish’ at work which naturally, is also good for business.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I’m an early bird. I wake relatively early and feed ‘my shadow’ – my devoted 14.5 year old Golden Retriever, Hayley – who rarely leaves my side.

Thereafter, ‘we’ sit down for some quiet time which I guess can range from sipping a cup of tea looking out at the garden, to prayer and meditation or sometimes reading a book. It’s literally my best time of the day, only an hour or so but I’m lost without it.

Professionally, my days are very different from what they were three months ago! In essence, my doctoring work is now a mixture of face to face and telehealth consultations which has never been the case before.

I also do after hours GP work at an acute after hours clinic which I find is a great way of keeping my acute medical skills up.

So typically, each day involves a work shift seeing patients either face to face or via telehealth. I try not to do shifts longer than five hours these days which I find preserves my own mental health.

Outside of these commitments, I spend time working on Redefining Health which has also needed to adapt to our current conditions. It may be a case of writing an article to advocate for how workplaces can look after the mental health and wellbeing of their employees at this time.

Or it may be giving a talk to an online audience on the role of mindfulness to help us manage our lives in all sorts of ways: from reducing stress and burnout to becoming more focussed and improving our performance.

I love to walk so depending on how the day has panned out, I will usually head out for a thirty to forty minute walk and then probably take Hayley on a twenty minute ‘walk’ as well.

Walking a dog at her age is more artform than walk and epitomises the proverbial ‘taking time to smell the roses’. As we meander slowly around the block, it is always a reminder to me that all need not be accomplished in haste!

The day usually ends with a glass of red, cooking a meal – after my quiet time in the morning – this is my night time book-end to my day.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

General Practice is great in that flexible work hours are possible. The pandemic arrangements have also seen the introduction of telehealth in certain circumstances which has – for the first time – made remote working possible for me.

So some shifts are face to face shifts in the CBD where I would see a mix of telehealth and in person consults. Other shifts are exclusively telehealth from home.

I prefer this. Not only does this give me the flexibility to work on my own business but it gives me the autonomy and flexibility to manage my own well being given the demands of General Practice.

My work with Redefining Health is completely flexible. I have designed my life to be in the position to offer coaching online or in person, during and out of office hours, six days a week. My walk-and-talk format also provides the benefits of exercise and being in nature for both my clients and myself.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

It is incredibly important to me. In my younger days, in banking, I look back to how often I ‘sold my soul’ to my work hours and the demands of the trade. I was burnt out by the end of it all and am very conscious of never doing that to myself again.

So now, I make a conscious choice and effort to have reduced working hours and try to involve myself in areas of work I am passionate about.

That being: mental health in my clinical work and in my non-clinical work, using my business to help others lead their best lives, promoting the role of mindfulness in our lives and advocating for wellbeing at work.

I probably earn less than I could make if I followed a more ‘traditional’ full time mindset of working but my freedom and peace of mind more than compensate for this.

Aside from this, I try instil daily habits to look after my own wellbeing. My quiet time in the morning and cooking at night are fundamental. Other aspects include getting outside and doing some exercise and connecting with friends and family.

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5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

Like everyone else, self-care for me is always a work in progress.

My morning and evening routine have pretty much been quite stable for the past few years – probably on account of it working for me and being something I enjoy.

I started studio-based Reformer Pilates sessions twice weekly eighteen months ago. These sessions have stopped for me on account of this pandemic. I am feeling the difference in my own mind and body and I miss them!

Hopefully when we find some normality again, I’ll be in a position to recommence these – they were a treat but so worthwhile on so many levels!

Do I really have to admit to how many times I’ve started and stopped running?

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Too many! I must admit that reading for me is about escapism or motivation.

In terms of escapism – I’ve just finished the 6th of the Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley. The books are well researched and took me on a literary journey to a different country with each novel.

Each plot revolves around a strong, resilient, unique woman searching for clues from her past to have a more cohesive sense of her identity… and find self-love along the way.

Motivational books are typically metaphysical in nature. I am intrigued and inspired by what we are really capable of and how to tap into our inner resources which are always available to us whether this be for resilience to survive a crisis or to enhance our performance.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

No, there are none. And I hope it stays that way!

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

It would be the quintessential ‘single parent’ who is working and still raising beautiful children and managing to be a sane and loving member of their family and community. These are the unsung heroes that we don’t hear enough of or from.

To have minimal access to resources – the most precious of which is time – and still find a way to juggle, keeping all the balls in the air and dig deep to find the patience, tolerance and love within to raise a family and be an active part of a community.

Now this is the stuff we need to read more about! This is where the real work happens and we ought all be inspired to learn more from these sorts of folks on how they manage to achieve what they do.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

It’s probably not to be ‘fooled’ into thinking any of this is easy. Quite frankly no-one has it ‘all figured out’.

If you could sit in my chair as a GP for one day, I would hope that what you take away is that we all have such unique contexts but deep down we are all so very much the same.

Irrespective of our personal backgrounds, where we find ourselves on the career or lifestyle trajectory: we all seek to feel loved and accepted for who we are and feel like we’re a half decent human being.

Self-care has less to do with regular downward dogs or almond lattes but really begins with being aware of and making peace with what’s on the inside. It’s doing your best to be a decent human being – irrespective of your circumstances – whilst being cognisant that others are trying to do exactly the same.

If we each did this in the spirit of kindness and self-compassion and gave others a safe space to do the same – even encouraging them along the way – can you imagine the impact this would have?

What is the legacy you want to leave behind? Start there and prioritise your life accordingly.

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About Author

Balance The Grind gives me a platform to talk to these people about how they're achieving their ideal lifestyle. I'm inspired by the passion, the work ethic, the hustle; and these conversations motivate me to live life the way I want to live it.