Diane Kibbin: “Don’t forget to breathe! ”

Exercise — I’ve discovered that you can stay fit with 30-minute weight training sessions. I used to think I needed 1–1.5 hours to get a proper workout in. I would fret about how or when I would find the time. I think this is where a lot of people fall off their exercise programs — by getting into an […]

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Exercise — I’ve discovered that you can stay fit with 30-minute weight training sessions. I used to think I needed 1–1.5 hours to get a proper workout in. I would fret about how or when I would find the time. I think this is where a lot of people fall off their exercise programs — by getting into an all-or-nothing mentality with it.

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Diane Kibbin.

Diane Kibbin has worked over 20 years as a Registered Nurse in various settings, including 5 years of Wellness Coaching. She began working at OceanView, a senior living community that offers a continuum of care in Falmouth, Maine, as the Director of Assisted Living in 2012. She was recently promoted to the Director of Operations for OceanView and Cumberland Crossing by OceanView in May of 2020.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Well I appreciate your interest. As you may have read in my bio, I have been in healthcare my entire adult life, and wellness has always been an area of particular interest to me. For 5 years I worked for a company called Health Dialog doing telephonic health coaching for 2 years before becoming a Community Leader and managing a team of coaches for another 3 years.

Following that experience, I pursued a fun career change by becoming a certified personal trainer, working part-time training clients one-on-one and leading edgy and fun group fitness classes. Unfortunately, it was hard to cobble together a living through multiple gigs, though it was an excellent and necessary road to test drive. I realized that even “fun” work is still work and consumes a lot of time, especially when a bulk of it is spent finding ways to market yourself to keep the business funneling in. I decided that rather than stringing together multiple jobs to earn a living, seeking full-time employment that I found rewarding would be best for my own well-being.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

When I began looking for a full-time position that I thought would be rewarding, I serendipitously came upon the advertisement for the Director of Assisted Living position at OceanView. I had worked there as a per diem nurse years before, so I knew they had an outstanding Wellness Program offering for the employees. Interestingly enough, I had attended a program there on “How to Become Financially Abundant,” or something along those lines. This was well before the book and/or movie “The Secret” was in the mainstream, but the principles of the law of attraction were discussed at this class. That was my first introduction to the use of affirmations. When I began seeking a full time position again, I was repeating this particular affirmation frequently. I would say something to the effect of, “I am now working for a company that appreciates all my skills and strengths. I’m doing interesting work that taps my creativity and rewards me well financially, and it is located close to home with beautiful scenery.”

I would say this to myself quite often when I was slogging through a night shift. Needless to say, when I saw the posted position at OceanView, I moved quickly to submit my resume and was elated when I was hired, but I really didn’t make the connection to my affirmation until much later. One spring morning when I drove into work and noticed the crab apple trees surrounding Falmouth House in full bloom, I got chills as I recalled my affirmation — it had come to fruition. I am a big believer that everything happens for a reason. I feel blessed to have found a career path that has helped me grow in another dimension of nursing with an employer that values those skills.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It sounds crazy to say this, but my biggest mistake was trying too hard. When I first became a Community Leader, I was young and managing people was new to me. I had a team of 15 nurses, all of them much older than me. I was devouring leadership/coaching/management materials constantly. I was a sponge and found it all so exhilarating. I was interested in productivity and efficiency, and how to get the most out of people. There was this intensity about me that was not a match to those I was supervising. I wasn’t meeting people where they were. Having high expectations of myself, I thought everyone else surely had the same aspirations. My enthusiasm resonated with some of the members of my team but fell flat with others. I learned that you must get to know what motivates a person before you can inspire anyone to grow professionally.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would say my mom played a significant role in my success. She was a single mother raising me and my brother, working three jobs to support us. It may have been nature, or nurture, I’m not certain which, but I inherited a strong work ethic from her. She encouraged me to learn how to type, which sounds ridiculously inconsequential, but it is such a necessary skill to be efficient in this day and age. I heeded her advice when I was in high school, and it has helped my productivity immensely throughout college and my entire career.

Through her actions my mom always conveyed the importance of being able to stand on my own two feet. When I was just out of college, she gave me a book titled, Prince Charming Isn’t Coming: How Women Get Smart About Money. She wanted me to be educated and independent, traits I’m happy to say I’ve fulfilled.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

At the macro level, our nation is aging rapidly with more Baby Boomers retiring every year, every one of whom will have retired by 2030. As the senior living industry continues to prioritize health and wellness, we have ever increasing evidence of how well it works, and that data will ripple out to the world.

OceanView has become a destination for individuals seeking to continue their healthy, active lifestyles into retirement. We offer amenities that provide as much or as little support as one needs, but total wellness is always the focus. This is achieved through a sustainable campus, maintenance free-living, various dining options offering healthy, chef-prepared meals, an outstanding fitness program with multiple group fitness classes — as well as pool classes in our three-season pool — and countless life-enriching activities that nurture mind and spirit.

At the micro level, the pandemic has certainly stirred up a few challenges for us, as it has for everyone. In the middle of March, COVID-19 hit home for us here at OceanView with a Center for Disease Control (CDC) call informing us of our first positive case. Our normally active, bustling community came to a screeching halt. Activities once held on campus that promote intellectual, emotional, social, physical and spiritual health were swiftly curtailed.

Re-envisioning our offerings to bring safer versions was required to fill the void: outside dining areas were enhanced, fitness classes were brought outside or to residents’ devices via ZOOM, and tents were purchased to accommodate socially distanced cocktail parties and gatherings. We remain optimistic yet proceed with reopening amenities and programs cautiously in keeping with the CDC and State of Maine guidelines in order to protect our fragile population. The lessons learned about successfully pivoting operations for the health and safety of residents and staff will have a lasting impact on the industry as a whole.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

  1. Nutrition — Be prepared to have plenty of nourishing food on hand so there is less temptation to eat something unhealthy because it’s easy. I pack a lot of food to get me through my day, but it helps me avoid the “treats” that inevitably show up in the office.
  2. Exercise — I’ve discovered that you can stay fit with 30-minute weight training sessions. I used to think I needed 1–1.5 hours to get a proper workout in. I would fret about how or when I would find the time. I think this is where a lot of people fall off their exercise programs — by getting into an all-or-nothing mentality with it.
  3. Have fun — Do something that you really enjoy. If it’s exercise, great, but it can be anything that brings you to your happy place and gets the feel-good juices flowing.
  4. Be thankful — Gratitude practice can do wonders for the spirit.
  5. Don’t forget to breathe! — So often we go throughout our days holding our breath or breathing very shallowly. Now science suggests that shallow chest breathing activates our “fight or flight” system. We all need more time in “rest and digest” mode, so engaging in breathwork practice helps us involuntarily breathe in a manner that produces calm.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Daily meditation. I am certain that cultivating a meditation or mindfulness practice would have a profound impact on anyone committed to it. I personally discovered meditation after a sports injury when I was putting too much focus into physical endeavors. Wellness can be a tricky thing. When you give too much of your energy and attention to one area, others can suffer, thus upsetting the delicate balance being sought.

I learned this the hard way when I was unable to be as physically active as I would have liked for a couple of years. My body was trying to tell me to slow down and my emotional health suffered terribly during this time because working out was my “go-to” method for clearing my head and feeling good. I felt so lost, and I grieved deeply. I had inadvertently turned physical activity into a vice by succumbing to “never good enough” thoughts that pervaded my mind, which lead to multiple overuse injuries.

Of course, I only made this connection by practicing sitting and observing my thoughts. The silver lining was that I discovered meditation and began to tune in to my thoughts and belief systems, exploring the spiritual and emotional realms I’d been neglecting for so long.

Once I established a regular meditation practice, I developed the awareness to understand fully how my underlying beliefs drove the behaviors that led to my injuries. So often we are our own worse critics, with an often callous and shaming inner dialogue cycling through our minds incessantly. Meditation helps bring awareness to these thoughts so we can cultivate more compassion towards ourselves. I needed that desperately and was able to heal both body and mind eventually. I still look at that forced sedentary period in my life as a blessing in disguise. That’s the kind of movement I’d start.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

Don’t listen to ALL the voices in your head, just the nice ones. Why? Self-compassion is required in order to be a compassionate person.

Don’t run yourself down to your last legs trying to achieve. Why? It’s likely the critical voice in your head that’s telling you to be more and do more will still say it’s never enough no matter how much you do. Buddhists have labeled this human quality as being like a hungry ghost — never satisfied despite getting what one wants, always seeking more and rarely satisfied for very long.

Be present and enjoy the moment. Why? The most precious moments in life can pass in an instant, especially when you aren’t paying attention.

You will learn these principles and work hard on mastery, but likely too hard. You will beat yourself up for not getting it, conveniently forgetting the premise of each. When you remember you’ll set out to work over and over again. Why? At least you’d know this merry-go-round never ends.

Enjoy the ride and don’t take yourself too seriously! That is the fifth thing.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

That would be sustainability. I want the planet to continue to be a hospitable place for future generations. I have 2 adorable nephews and I want to be sure they will be raising their kids with healthy air, green grass, clean water, and clear skies. I am proud that I work for a company that is extraordinarily environmentally-conscious. We have 615 solar panels located on our campus that provide hot water and generate electricity. We made solar panels standard on all 48 of our Schoolhouse Cottages on both the OceanView campus and Cumberland Crossing by OceanView campus. In 2017, we installed an electric vehicle charging station and we just installed our first Tesla Powerwall as an alternative to a generator in our newest Cumberland Crossing by OceanView model home. We also have green initiatives in place to reduce our waste, compost as much as possible, source foods locally and reduce the use of plastics.

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