Wellness is being intentionally aware of and making active decisions to live a healthy and meaningful life. Engaging in wellness involves an effort to increase balance in the many areas of your life (i.e., emotional, physical, spiritual, social). Your thoughts, feelings and daily experiences influence your well-being. The impact of stress if not addressed or managed can have a detrimental impact on your life. With the amount of stress that is experienced every day it can be difficult to manage without having maladaptive consequences in certain areas of your life. But there are multiple ways you can begin to address the stress in your life and work to achieve enhanced well-being. You are unable to completely get rid of stress, but there are many ways you can manage it.
One way to start is to begin to prioritize yourself. In our society, you are often tasked with meeting the needs of others and you can lose the opportunity to meet your own needs. It would be beneficial for you to commit to taking time to consider what your needs are and how you might meet them. One exercise you can implement is to take a moment to sit and identify your needs. Jot them down and refer to them routinely to make sure you are making steps to find ways to meet those needs.
Another way to prioritize yourself is to take time for yourself. You might find this hard to do. You might in fact have an extremely busy schedule and you have to juggle many familial and work obligations. But part of making the commitment to having better emotional and physical health is putting in the time and effort to enhance your well-being. Begin to think of ways that would allow you some time to yourself, even if you start with just ten minutes a day. Have a list handy of what you would do if you get a few minutes to focus on yourself. Set reminders of the importance to take time for yourself.
The key in obtaining wellness is to find activities that are beneficial to you. That means that you might have to try out a few to see if they work. You also might need to create a range of activities and utilize specific ones based on how you feel. For example, categorize your activities by strength of effectiveness and how much time you have. For example, if you are stressed, engaging in mindfulness might be more effective for you as opposed to drinking a cup of tea. Rank order your activities so you know which ones to use and when. In addition, identifying activities by time will allow you to prioritize which activity would be helpful and effective based off of how much time you have available. Finally, one additional thing you should consider is placing self-care activities in your schedule. By actively placing it into your schedule makes it a priority. Begin to shift your thinking regarding self-care and remind yourself that you deserve it and that by engaging in it will allow you to be healthier in order to continue tackling the stresses of life. Try and value the time you set aside by not moving your self-care activities unless it is an emergency. Work up to valuing it as importantly as you would any other activities, (work, doctor appointments, etc.).
The following interventions are other ways to increase your overall wellness.
- Deep Breathing is an easy intervention in the sense that all you need is your ability to breathe and you can do this quite easily in any setting. Pay attention the next time you are stressed and see if your breathing is faster. By intentionally slowing your breathing down, you automatically begin to slow all of your other physiological symptoms.
- Mindfulness is a guided meditative practice that encourages you to stay in the present moment and allows you to take a non-judgmental approach. Mindfulness has shown to be effective in the reduction of stress as well as many emotional and medical conditions. There are many apps available to help you in your practice of mindfulness.
- Yoga has become very popular in recent years and there are many forms of yoga practice available. Consider whether yoga would be right for you. Yoga has many benefits including strength building and increasing flexibility. Include a yoga practice that has a meditative practice and you can also receive the benefits of relaxation, stress relief and heightened awareness. Remember to check in with your primary care physician before starting new forms of exercise.
- Energy Psychology or Energy work is based on the premise that the human body is an energy system. If dysfunction is found in any part of the energy system, disruption will be experienced in the emotional or physical realm and can lead to emotional and physical manifestations. An energy healer can assess where the disruption is in the system and treat it. See a credentialed energy provider to see how energy work can be beneficial to you.
- Biofeedback is an intervention that measures your physiological symptoms in order to give you a sense of how relaxed you are or not. Providing you with a graphical representation of your physiological symptoms gives you a real time look into your levels of relaxation. Once you obtain this information you can utilize other stress management exercises to help you increase your experience of relaxation and reduce your stress.
- Journaling is an intervention that can be used in psychotherapy to help increase introspection, gain clarity and help with regulating your emotions. Targeted journaling (journaling focused on an exploration of your thoughts and feelings) can be helpful if done intentionally and on a regular basis. Journaling, especially along with monitoring by a mental health professional can be very insightful.
- Art allows one to be expressive and it is often used as a healing exercise or a stress reduction or creative intervention. You don’t have to be an artist to engage in art activities. Try using an adult coloring book or collaging or even doodling – the benefits are still present with these other modalities. Also, consider incorporating art into your journaling. Often times our emotions are not at the verbal level and art can be helpful in aiding you in managing your emotions when you are having trouble finding the words.
Whichever intervention you choose, the point is to be intentional about your self-care. Start small and set a goal of incorporating one new self-care activity into your schedule. Once you become successful with that activity you can move on to see what other activities you would like to incorporate. Good luck on your journey of obtaining better self-care!