The Four Shades of Ease | Dori Howard

Contributing Writer: Dori Howard

Each month The Story of Us features different changemakers on The Leader Path and in The House as they share their unique voice and perspective to positively impact the world we are co-creating together. Today's contributing writer is PowHERhouse AMPLIFY Coach and Enso Retreat Centre Owner Dori Howard who invites us to remember the importance of nourishing ourselves and shows us the staggering statistics of the cost of burnout.

The Four Shades of Ease


‘I’m exhausted’. 

A phrase that is heard a lot these days.

While the promise of the end of a pandemic is upon our doorstep, weariness, exhaustion and fatigue continue to set in. Some may have an overwhelming feeling of not doing enough especially when patients line up, people die and sick days increase. The more exhausted we become, the less  capacity we have for empathy and compassion. As our compassion wanes, judgement and criticism, shaming and blaming becomes a knee jerk response to lash out at those who are seen as not doing their part. Suffering becomes a competition. These are all signs of:


Burnout is real and is a familiar term in healthcare and other service professions. Burnout is also infiltrating into our homes and families at alarming rates. But not solely because of Covid-19.  Nor the government. Not because of the ‘anti-maskers’ or the system. Not because of the administration or the economy. These reasons have escalated and amplified an already existing self-care deficit inherent in our culture, our way of living and our organizations.

Recent stats from a number of mental health surveys, Blue Cross and BC Women’s Health Foundation indicate:

  • Improvements needed in sedentary behaviour, physical activity duration, and nutrition.
  • Higher than average rates of cardiovascular disease (8%), diabetes (4%), and obesity (11%)
  • Fruit and vegetable intake are generally not within recommended range
  • Water intake is below the recommended range
  • 63% of participants identified as being at risk in anxiety, and 71% of participants were identified as being at risk of burnout.
  • Higher than average rates of anxiety (25%) and depression (16%)
  • 42% of participants reported frequently feeling anxious or tense
  • Mental health, workplace health and life health were below bench mark standards which directly correlated with engagement, productivity and the number of days missed in the workplace

On average each worker came into work:

  • 115 days per year when their mental health was questionable
  • 94 days per year when they were not coping well
  • 97 days per year when they were feeling burnt out
  • 52% of British Columbians currently have fair to poor mental health vs. 19% pre-COVID-19
  • 80% of BC’s health workforce is women and exposed to increased health risks, stress, burnout, and depression while supporting an overburdened healthcare system then go home where they often the primary caregivers to children, elderly parents, or both.

This overall health decline, especially with women, is intensified when nurturing and nourishing ourselves takes a back seat. The stress response is on overdrive harbouring tension and prolongs the circulation of stress hormones all throughout the body.

 It is called self-care for a reason. You have to take care of yourself. No one else will. Not to be confused with someone caring about you or doing kind deeds which are caring gestures.  Self-care is about the choices and decisions we make about the practices to be in right relationship with body, mind, heart, soul and the planet. 

Nourishing yourself is an essential service.  Self care is ALL care.

Why is it so hard to take care of ourselves?

Here is the modern day synopsis of the research of why we find it so hard to adopt practices to nourish ourselves:

“I don’t have time”

“It’s selfish if I put myself first”

“I have to go in or the place will fall apart”

“I can’t take a day off.  They will be short staffed if I do”

“It’s a luxury”

“I can’t afford it”

“I signed up for a job of caregiving”

“I don’t want to let the team down”

Self-care requires a shift in mindset. Nourishing ourselves is about bringing attention to body, mind, heart and soul. It is more than a checklist of activities to scroll through and pick one to do on any given day. All those conversations we have with ourselves, many of which are not even registering, are in need of a huge tune-up. This is not an easy task. Often this mindset stems from a dumping ground of unprocessed or unrecognized emotions and trauma. Many of those conversations have been going on since childhood and center around:

  • trying to prove something to someone
  • blaming self or others for something
  • shaming self or others
  • judging self for not being _________ enough [fill in the blank]
  • pretending to be ok when we are not, or that everything is happy

These conversations lead to sloppy boundaries, trying to please everyone, save everyone, care for everyone at the expense of ourselves. Our attempt at self-soothing leads to unhealthy habits and practices that take us further from nourishing ourselves:  too much consumption (food, alcohol, stuff), not enough sleep, working too much, not enough body movement, or maybe too much exercise, pretending, avoiding and eventually become burned out, stressed out and/or ill.

A deep dive into self-care is a radical act of self-love and self-compassion. This grandiose act  requires a major shift in mindset. It begins with a choice to engage followed by small steps to being  a shade more nurturing, more nourishing, more tender, more self-compassionate, more forgiving. 

Here is the irony. Self-care doesn’t mean doing it all alone. The choice to make the shift is with self. But it takes  a self-care revolution to combat the  self-care sabotage. The default hardwiring from many years of unconscious patterns makes it very difficult to make way for new nurturing habits for self. Leaning on and leaning with is how we can engage in the self-care revolution.  Being held in safe and brave space to take the  deep dive with others, fosters learning to make lasting shifts to a more nourishing way of being.   

The Four Shades of Ease is a self-care framework that takes a deep dive into all realms of wholeness.

Embracing conscious and mindful eating; creating a sacred kitchen and cooking as an act of self-love; honouring food.

Mindful awareness, stillness and reflection, creating a sacred space for “ME” time

Filling the joy bucket, emotional agility-noticing, naming and taming emotions- cultivating self-compassion, especially FIERCE self-compassion

Moving the body, playing in nature, Forest Bathing, honouring the planet and resources.

The Four Shades of Ease integrated into a purposeful process either with others or supported with coaching shifts the conversation we have with ourselves to bring self-honouring, self-compassion and self-love to our being. This work is an ESSENTIAL SERVICE and is very liberating.


Dori Howard is the owner of Enso Retreat Centre and is part of the PowHERhouse Amplify Relational Leadership Coaching team. Dori has a BScN from U of Alberta, an MA in Leadership and a Graduate Certificate in Executive Coaching from Royal Roads University. She is a licensed facilitator for Coaching Out of the Box  and a member of the International Coach Federation, Institute of Coaching (Harvard Medical School) and the NeuroLeadership Institute.  She is certified as a Trauma Informed Coach working with first responders and couples to overcome the impact of PTSD.  Dori is also a Kundalini yoga teacher and integrates the ‘yoga of awareness’ into all realms of life. Dori currently resides on the  unceded ancestral territory of the Hul’qumi’num and SENĆOŦEN speaking Coast Salish peoples also known as Salt Spring Island, BC. There she hosts intimate retreats, hikes with her compassion dogs, plays in the Coast Salish Sea and enjoys sunsets from her deck.

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