Wellness, Defined and Its ImportanceAuthor: Massage Heights
Wellness is considered having a good state of physical and mental health. Since mental health and physical health are tied to one another, complications with one can impact the other. However, this means that improving your physical health can positively affect your mental health and other aspects of your life. Improving wellness is an intentional practice, and requires a holistic approach to making good choices in different areas of your life..
More than a year and a half ago, wellness was impacted in unprecedented ways due to the pandemic. While there were many physical changes that occurred in our lives those changes touched each category of wellness. It is a good time to reflect on what wellness means to you and how you can improve it in intentional and holistic ways while still processing the impacts of the challenges recently presented.
The pandemic has highlighted how our physical bodies respond to trauma, fatigue, poor sleep, tension headaches, and body aches. These are all common indicators that we are trying to navigate ongoing stress. Diversity from person to person means that we may experience variations in physical reactions to stress that those we know, but is important to take steps to address these physical manifestations.
Practices For Physical Wellness:
It may be beneficial to try new physical activities that you have not participated in before, or start something that you have been meaning to get around to. For example, if you have a habit of running you might try introducing swimming into your movement routine. If you have a habit of going for walks, consider listening to something mindful such as a podcast or a meditating app. If you don’t currently have a physical activity that you routinely enjoy consider making time to stretch throughout your day. Ask friends and family about their physical activity habits to find more ideas for taking care of your physical wellness.
As the pandemic progressed religious and spiritual practices expanded their offering by conducting services virtually. Religious communities and churchgoers have needed to adjust to the loss or adjustments to sacred spaces and gatherings, especially during significant seasons like Easter, Ramadan, and Passover or other occasions when traditionally, a group would gather together.
Practices For Spiritual Wellness:
Learn more about the many ways to access spiritual or religious communities. There is an opportunity to participate in religious discussion groups through platforms like Zoom and Google as well as consult with spiritual leaders for support while navigating uncertain times. Consider that just like there are many ways to connect with others outside of being physically present there are ways to find religious community as well
The concept of social distancing, can seem confusing and make us feel disconnected from others, especially if we have spent a lot of time in the past in social settings. Humans naturally tend to seek connection and relationships in social situations. While it’s easy to know the importance of keeping our distance from others meeting in virtual settings, these methods may feel less intimate require more effort, and increase feelings of isolation. The whiplash of changing from what we are used to, to following quarantine guidelines, to trying to return to “normal” can feel overwhelming.
Practices for Social Wellness:
Consider whether or not speaking with a mental health professional or close friend can be helpful while navigating this change in social interactions. The ability to discuss feelings of confusion or isolation without judgment is the very essence of social wellness. During these conversations take time to pause and recognize emotional responses and show gratitude for the moment when normally you may ignore how you’re feeling. It is also important to ask yourself and speak with people who will understand when you need advice and when you just need someone to listen.
Occupational wellness involves achieving satisfaction and improvement in your life through meaningful employment. Throughout the pandemic, this aspect of wellness has continually been redefined as work environments have faced considerable changes. If you are not functioning in a healthy or productive environment, occupational wellness can decline.
Practices For Occupational Wellness:
It is important to set clear boundaries around work items to prevent any negative effects from impacting other areas of our wellness. Consider updating your workspace to include more natural light and make sure you have all of the necessary physical tools needed to complete your work. Make sure you have a clear understanding of workplace COVID-19 expectations and communicate your need to feel safe in a workplace setting. Most importantly, do not ignore the need to protect your health and take time away from work if you are ill.
Intellectual wellness means participating in creative and mentally stimulating activities, learning, developing new skills, and sharing these items with others. A lack of intellectual stimulation can reduce the production of chemicals in the brain that help us feel happy and satisfied by learning.
Practices for Intellectual Wellness:
During your free time, take time to research a topic of interest that you’ve always hoped to learn more about. Spend time with someone who has a field of study, job, or lifestyle than you and discuss your separate knowledge and areas of expertise. Take time to brainstorm what you would like to do differently at your job or what your future occupation might look like.
Placing yourself in enriching spaces has become increasingly important during the pandemic. We have had to implement creative ways to gather in spaces that protect the health of others. The need to gather with others safely while engaged in activities or productive tasks highlights the importance of where we are when we are performing any undertaking. The social influences, attitudes, and thoughts of others that surround us on a daily basis also make up our environmental wellness.
Practices for Environmental Wellness:
Make sure to keep in touch with important people in your life like friends, family, mentors, coworkers, and community members. Make an effort to have conversations with people you may see more often because you live near one another. At the same time, it is important to make boundaries that protect your alone time that allows you to re-energize during the day and week. Consider items like the noise level you’re comfortable with and how many hours you need to yourself. And remember to make time to go outdoors and receive the benefits of vitamin D, and endorphins that help maintain mental and physical health.
The pandemic has demanded that we take stock of our cultural wellness as people and as a community. Stresses like inequality proliferate by structural oppression and racism continues to hurt us and those around us. African Americans, American Indians, and Hispanic persons are three times more likely to require hospitalization from COVID-19 and are twice as likely to die from the virus as Caucasian persons. Similarly, Black and Hispanic communities receive smaller distributions of vaccines as compared to COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Practices for Cultural Wellness:
Listen and educate yourself on perspectives, facts, stories, and experiences different than your own, and remember that your perceived reality may differ greatly from your neighbor or peers. Learning about new cultures, rituals, and traditions, is shown through research to improve wellness. It is also a good time to consider attending virtual or in-person events that expose you to different groups of people. Take time to reflect on internal biases. It’s possible that at times you have acted according to ethnic, gender, religious, or sexual stereotypes, but changing this starts with recognizing how your thoughts may need to change.
While challenging, the pandemic can be a source of resilience if managed well. Emotional wellness demands that we stay informed and process our reality, but resist panic and create periods when we can feel calm and reduce sensory load.
Self-Care for Emotional Wellness:
Prioritizing emotional wellness may mean that we need to practice habits that are considered basic but are proven to be effective. Getting enough rest, eating consistently throughout the day, and slowing our pace if we feel fatigued can help with our capacity to process and experience emotions in a healthy way. “Stepping back” can help us remember that what we feel internally is valid and real. We are expected to have feelings about our experiences, especially the unfamiliar times we have faced since 2020.