Written by: Madison Graves
For mental health advocate Jill Bunny, wellness isn’t just a buzzword, it’s “a proactive way of living”.
However, for the Oakville native, wellness hasn’t always been so streamlined. Six years ago, Jill was gracing the covers of magazines, earning numerous sponsorships and celebrating her fourth International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Bikini Title as a fitness competitor.
What happened next is beyond anything she could’ve ever predicted.
Jill was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
In a matter of six months, she went from her highest high to the lowest low. She gained 50 pounds and spiralled into a deep depression. Jill quickly realized she could no longer rely on her physical strength and would need to shift her strategy to push past this major obstacle.
The real transformation begins in the mind.
She dived into the study of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and learned how to alter her sabotaging thoughts. In turn, she lost the weight, and gained an innate sense of self-worth and purpose.
Today, Jill continues to transform the lives of women through nutrition and training, but her major focus is making lasting changes in both their behaviour and their thinking.
Her greatest wellness tip?
“We don’t have to wait for an illness or something to happen in order for us to take care of ourselves”, she told us. “It could be stress reduction, it could be weight loss, it could be emotional balance — whatever it is, it’s just being proactive.”
However, being proactive doesn’t necessarily mean having an “all-or-nothing” mentality.
“We think we have to be all in — whether it’s our diet or training. It could be business. It could be anything we’re doing. We think we have to be 100% in and if we have one mistake or one drawback, we run or we retreat,” she advised. “But, that “grey zone” is a beautiful place to be in and we have so many opportunities to learn. So, I’m not 100% in or 0% in, I just like being in the grey and I’m pretty cool with it.”
For Jill, living in the grey zone has been particularly effective to help cope with the ups and downs of the pandemic. Currently, she places an emphasis on staying present and practicing self-kindness. Jill turns to the Soothe Essentials Kit by she.boutique in order to wind down, “I like to have spa days, and since we’re kind of in lockdown, we can’t really just go to the aesthetician and have a spa day ourselves.”
Another Jill Bunny wellness must-have? Coffee and tea.
“I’m not going to lie, I used to be a huge Starbucks person because it was just there. It’s on every corner. And honestly, when COVID-19 hit, and we couldn’t go to a coffee shop, I saved thousands of dollars last year,” she told us. Jill traded in her Starbucks for Happy Camper – Premium (Dark) Roast by Kind Grinds, adding she “really liked the name”.
As for tea, she’s turned to Gift Box – Liquid Therapy by Tea with Tracie, which includes a selection for morning, afternoon and night.
“I thought that was really neat to try and see how my energy shifts throughout the day,” she said.
Above all, Jill’s priority is to shop local. “I’m a business owner, and COVID-19 hit me too, and it is time that we dive into our local communities,” she explained. “When I sip the tea or coffee, I know that it’s going to somebody that put their heart and soul into it”.
Jill experienced this passion first-hand after getting her start working at local businesses. “More than ever, it’s difficult for students, and young people trying to get into the workforce,” she said. “And local businesses create that opportunity, even if it’s volunteering.” For Jill, shopping local is a means to give back to the hard-working business owners who supported her at the beginning of her journey.
Beyond shopping small, Jill makes an effort to cultivate community in everyday moments.
“When I’m walking my dog outside, or even when I was on the train going into Toronto, I put my phone down and I try to smile,” she beams. “At least, to acknowledge that I see somebody, because as soon as I went into the mental health field, I realized that I have no idea what somebody is going through and they may be having a really difficult day.”
Now more than ever, Jill makes a point of fulfilling simple acts of kindness. She reminds us, “if we can’t afford to do a grand gesture right now, if budget’s an issue, a smile is free or just a hi can do a lot.”
Perhaps it’s the simplest means of being proactive that leads to true wellness — strength in connection, and strength in community.