Sure, we ask each other ‘How are you doing?’ as a casual greeting, but this question serves as social etiquette, rather than a genuine check-in. When was the last time that you stepped back and took an inventory of your life?
The World Health Organization defines health as multi-dimensional and it is not merely the absence of disease or ill health. See more information here: World Health Organization(WHO) Definition Of Health – Public Health There’s social health, environmental health, sexual health, mental health, spiritual health, and many others. Many of us focus only on our physical health, such as monitoring our weight, drinking water, and getting exercise. However, we may be neglecting other equally important dimensions of health. For example, spiritual health isn’t just about practicing our religious or spiritual beliefs, but also living our values and finding meaning in the experiences we have.
Project School Wellness has a Wellness Wheel activity that directs you to rate your satisfaction with 8 dimensions of wellness: environmental health, financial health, intellectual health, mental & emotional health, spiritual health, social health, occupational health, and physical health. Once you rate each slice of the wellness pie, see how smoothly your wheel would roll, in order to determine what areas of health you could improve. See their page for how to get the activity: Wellness Basics: The Wellness Wheel – Project School Wellness.
Environmental health is feeling safe in different settings in our lives, but also practical considerations such as pollution or air quality. Project School Wellness has a video explaining 8 dimensions of health and describes environmental health as a two-way relationship with the Earth and land we live on. See it here: What are the Dimensions of Health? – YouTube. In the summer, the environment was a significant concern, due to the fires. Many people were evacuated and nervously waiting to find out if their homes got burned down or when they could return home. For many of us, we couldn’t exercise or be outside for long periods of time, because of the air quality. Often we take for granted aspects of our health and don’t realize how important they are, until they become compromised.
To assess your environmental health, consider what green practices you follow such as turning off lights, conserving water, or recycling. Ask yourself how often you enjoy spending time in nature and if you can find appreciation for each of the seasons in the climate where you live.
Financial health is fairly straight forward, such as ensuring you spend less than you earn, budgeting, saving for the future, or considering purchases before impulsively buying. Most of my clients can easily answer how their finances are and whether they are a source of stress. To improve financial health, consider connecting with your bank or credit union to learn about services available to you and ways to save or invest your money. Often banks have financial advisors that can explain tax free savings accounts, retirement funds, investment accounts, or education funds that may help you or your family with your long-term financial goals. Sometimes we become stressed with our financial situation in the present, but budgeting or automatically shifting money into different accounts for saving or specific bills, can help people feel confident that they are managing their money proactively. We can slowly chip away at our debt if we have a solid plan.
Intellectual health is an interesting dimension. It’s not simply about IQ, but how we approach learning new things and how we deal with obstacles or failures. Do you beat yourself up if you make a mistake? Do you spend the next hour or significant period of time contemplating your mistake and ruminating about what you could have done better? Are you open to lessons that present themselves in errors and mishaps? Our minds, like our bodies, need stimulation. Often, I will crave something interesting for my brain to chew on, such as a new perspective or concept I have not learned about before. Consider including people and pages that inspire you on your social media scrolling. For instance, I follow the Gottman Institute on Facebook (see here: The Gottman Institute | Facebook), which is a leading organization for couples therapy. They often have inspiring posts and information about healthy relationships and communication strategies for couples.
Social health is the quality of relationships that we surround ourselves with, such as having open communication about our needs and boundaries. Do we feel a sense of belonging in the communities we live in? Do we have people in our lives that share our passions, interests, or beliefs that we can connect with? During the pandemic, many of us have been isolated from loved ones and provincial and federal regulations prevent us from gathering for important events, such as funerals or weddings. Some people are moving during this time and it is hard to connect to clubs or leisure activities because many facilities remain closed or meet ups cancelled.
Make sure to find time to enjoy your social contacts and take breaks from arguing about vaccines or other COVID-related conflicts, which many of my clients report to be highly draining. Though we may disagree with others, it is possible to take a break from expressing our beliefs and simply enjoy the company of that other person. Set a boundary with each other and commit to having fun or engaging in the activity. Though conflict is inevitable and a normal part of life, too much conflict can fracture our relationships and we forget how wonderful it is to spend time with people we care about.
Emotional and mental health involves identifying and managing feelings and stress. My clients know that I love this feelings wheel emotionwheel_0423 (thejuntoinstitute.com) from the Junto Institute and I explain to them that feelings are one-word to describe how they feel. Many of us will say thoughts such as “this sucks” and attribute that to a feeling. Looking at the feelings wheel, you’ll notice it is colour coded. Closer to the center, the feelings are more broad, and towards the edges of the wheel, the feelings are specific. It is helpful for us to know that hope is a relation to the general feeling of joy and disappointment is a relation to sadness. Of course, emotions are not simply felt one at a time, and we can feel several of them at once. This is important, because we can have conflicted feelings that can be opposite or contradictory over one situation or person. Grief is a strong example of this, where there are numerous emotions, particularly if the grief is ongoing like what is happening with loss of normalcy with the pandemic.
If my clients are emotional during session, I encourage them to express them and to not hold their breath. Sometimes when crying or deeply distressed, we hold our breath, but breathing allows us to process the emotion. Next time you have a strong emotional reaction, focus on your breathing, even exhaling through your mouth to exaggerate this process and draw your focus.
In summary, taking an inventory of all the dimensions of our health can help us identify our strengths or what we are doing well, and also what we can improve on to better take care of ourselves.
– Check out Therapist Aid’s self-care checklist to assess your self-care: Self-Care Assessment (Worksheet) | Therapist Aid.
– If you are a student and do not have a job, check out this version of a wellness wheel your_wheel_to_wellness_inventory.pdf (uni.edu).
Drop a comment and tell us at Whitevalley how you are doing with your wellness and if your wellness wheel rolls smoothly!
Jenni Radmacher, RN; Counsellor