Spotlight On: Dawn Zitney

July 7, 2020


Dawn Zitney

Name: Dawn D. Zitney

Department: Health & Wellness

Role at UNH: Wellness Educator/Counselor

Year Started at UNH: 2007

What does being healthy look like to you? 
When I am feeling well, I am listening to my body, mind, and heart and not punishing myself with unrealistic demands. Being well also means being aware and able to name my emotions moment by moment and experience them in my body. Having a sense of purpose, living my values, and finding the meaning in life’s events also contribute greatly to my wellness.  

What have you been doing to take care of your mental health while in quarantine? 
Quarantine has reminded me to go back to the basics of listening to my body and nourishing it with food, sleep, and movement. But my self-care goes beyond that foundation. I have also been meditating and using mindfulness to continue to be curious with the way I am feeling and find ways to offer myself kindness by acknowledging what’s going on and then asking myself what I need. I taught several online wellness workshops for the UNH community after spring break and am currently teaching an online self-compassion class for Health & Wellness. I strongly believe doing this work has helped with my own mental health by being able to connect with my community and be reminded that I am not alone. Sharing what I know to be helpful for my own mental health reminds me what I need to do and am already doing to care for myself. And, I love sharing knowledge and practices with others so that they too can have more skills to face stress and emotional discomfort with kindness, openness, and motivation.

What has been your favorite tech-free hobby? 
I have joked that I never realized how many hobbies I had until quarantine: cooking, gardening, reading, snuggling with my cat Ms. Kitty, watching the birds on my feeders, learning to watercolor, napping, staring out the window, not watching TV, daydreaming about my next trips, and meditating.

What do you do to stay active? 
I take long early morning walks, do strength training, yoga, hiking, cleaning my house, and working in my yard weeding, mowing, planting, mulching. I love mulching so much. I joke that my next job may just be mulching people’s flower beds.

What has been your favorite food to make while in quarantine? 
At first it was bagels but now we have moved on to getting local ice cream from Emery Farm. A small dish of ice cream at night has been so comforting and essential. And, I learned how to make chai which has been a delicious treat for me and my partner.

How do you find motivation to stay healthy and active while in quarantine? 
I don’t want to get sick and I don’t want to make others sick. I wear my mask when I am in public, am continually washing my hands, disinfecting my house, and I’ve been physically distancing and staying home as much as possible, even after the state began reopening. I am being very cautions with the Coronavirus–I listen to Dr. Fauci.
Again, I listen to my body and actively work to be kind to myself. When my body is tired, I let it rest. When my body is restless, I let it move. When my mind and heart are heavy, I sit gently with myself to explore what’s going on and how I can skillfully respond. And when I make mistakes or push myself too much, or don’t push myself enough, I try not to beat myself up. I am not perfect; I never will be. And a quarantine and pandemic are no time for perfection. Heck, it is never a good time to strive for perfection! For me, perfection shows up by working hard –I have had to learn to let go –just a little bit.
What has been somewhat challenging for me is that I am naturally an introvert, so in some ways I am thriving being in quarantine. But this also means I have had to really push myself to reach out to friends and I find myself exhausted after social encounters. This continues to be something I am trying to work on and remind myself that although I love being alone, social connection is important and I always feel good in the moment when I connect with people I care about.

Have you seen or felt any improvements in your physical or mental well-being after making positive changes in your life? 
Yes! I am less irritable, less sad, gentler with myself, have better boundaries, am more creative, and I feel emotionally and physically strong. All of this helps me feel motivated and make skillful choices that will enhance my wellness.

Do you have any positive words of encouragement for others to create a healthier lifestyle?
Give yourself the same kindness you would give to a good friend who is hurting. You can do this by listening to yourself, hugging yourself, talking to yourself in a soothing tone, and asking yourself “How am I feeling? What do I need?” This is self-compassion. Continue washing your hands, wearing your mask, and practicing social/physical distancing. And, wear SPF daily!

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