Posted on August 9th, 2019
Ask Not What You Can Do for Your Wellness, But What Your Wellness Can Do for You!
When we talk about Wellness, we are generally talking about those things that can help you improve your overall quality of life, holistically. Our Health and Wellness Initiative, My Health My Choice My Life, focuses on improving physical health behaviors for peers in TN with Mental Health and Substance Use Conditions.
Wellness can seem like nothing but work at first but, bear with me for a moment here: I don’t know about you but I like feeling WELL & GOOD!
I can’t tell you how many days and years I have spent not feeling well & good. In my 20’s I suffered from debilitating agoraphophia, depression and anxiety and, even though I was trying my best to maintain what I thought was a healthy weight (i.e., Slim Fast shakes and those teeny tiny microwave dinners that came with the Slim Fast Plan) I had no idea that I was going about it the wrong way. I was tired, lethargic even, depressed, scared to leave my home because I would usually have terrifying panic attacks, I suffered from racing thoughts that were always negative and nagging and terrorizing. I had big dreams back then, like going to college, but I could not function well enough to complete even a single semester.
Thankfully, magically even, a guru (also known as my Stepfather) appeared on the scene (guru is just a fancy Sanskrit word for teacher, btw) and took an interest in me after my beloved Great-Grandmother passed away because he could see that I was really struggling. He had also fought his battles with depression and anxiety and had learned how to manage them. He taught skills like positive thinking and mindfulness in the 60’s and 70’s in self-help seminars and he began sharing these things with me in conversations on the phone. I didn’t realize we were doing wellness coaching and peer support at the time but now that I look back on it, I am certain that’s what we were doing.
He taught me that I was more than my stream of thoughts, and that I could manage them at will. Thoughts come and go on their own all day long, no need to hold on to any of them – especially the ones that cause worry and anxiety. This was a mind-blowing realization at that time and still is!
And, speaking of managing thoughts, he introduced me to a powerful practice we use in our Whole Health Action Management (WHAM) workshop called the Relaxation Response, or Meditation. Meditation leads to greater clarity, focus, and relaxation among other things. It can get you out of your head and into the present moment, into the world, and if you do it while walking in nature, for example, you can take in even more of the beauty of this planet. More beauty!
Studies show that with regular practice you can achieve all of this and more:
- More focus
- More mindfulness
- More joy
- More clarity
- More relaxation
He also taught me about moderation. Moderation is the key to many things, including healthy eating habits. We talk a lot about portion size in the wellness workshops we facilitate. Enjoy the foods you love – in moderation. And, at least occasionally, everything in moderation, including moderation!
And then, there’s deep breathing – what’s the first thing someone says to you when you’re upset? “Take a deep breath!” Breathing deeply into the diaphragm brings more oxygen into the body and creates a sense of calm. You can do this anytime, anywhere. Simply breathe in slowly through your nose until you feel your belly, and not just your chest, rise. Exhale slowly and fully and repeat. More oxygen is a good thing, but you may want to try this sitting down until you get used to the feeling
And, of course, there’s physical activity, or exercise.
Interestingly enough, when I started exercising along to videos (this was before the internet came along) I suddenly had more energy and didn’t feel the need to sleep until 2 or 3 o’clock in the afternoon. My mood was better. My muscles came alive. I felt good & well! Exercise releases those feel-good endorphins we all want to feel and the effects last for many hours afterward. More feeling good! These days, one of my main physical activity wellness tools is Bellydance. The movements are fun, empowering and invigorating and they also improve self-confidence. Who knows what you may discover about yourself when you begin seeking the wellness tools that work for you!
But, I can hear you saying to yourself, I just don’t have time to exercise like I want to. Well, the good news is that the general recommendation for most people is just 30 minutes per day, most days. And you don’t even have to do it all at once. You can do 10 minutes of chair exercise or stretching or walking in place at your desk at your morning and afternoon breaks, take a 15-minute walk at lunch and 5 minutes of any activity that gets your heart rate up after work to fulfill this!
30 minutes per day seems like a teeny tiny investment when you get back so much more:
- More energy
- More Healing
- More Anti-Aging
- More being well and less of being sick
- More Fun
- More Flexibility
- More Confidence
- More Life – Longevity – Living Longer
Which actually equals More Time – yes!
While it’s true that we have to invest some time, energy and effort into our wellness, we get back so much more!
Developing a Wellness Toolbox for yourself may include the tools I use and many others as well. The sky is the limit when it comes to choosing the tools that work for you. Consider investing some time to figure out what you need to have in your Wellness Toolbox. The tools you choose may change over time, and that is totally normal. Make a list and keep this list handy so that you can refer to it when you need to.
SAMHSA has a wonderful wellness tool on their website that you can use to assess which of the 8 Wellness Dimensions you may wish to improve upon in your life, along with wellness tips.
You may also find a Peer Wellness Coach in your area
If you are experiencing any of the Mental Health symptoms I have mentioned, it is important to talk with your Healthcare Provider.
The time you don’t spend in the Dr’s office is also vitally important to your Health and Well-being and this is where Wellness comes in. This part is up to you.
I would love to hear about what your Wellness is doing for you. You may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: Roland’s Photograpy
Dina, a Johnson City, TN native, earned a BS in Psychology and an MA in Storytelling from ETSU. She has worked as a case manager for victims of domestic violence and began working at Frontier Health as a Peer Wellness Coach for the TDMHSAS Wellness Initiative My Health My Choice My Life in 2015.
She received several honors in this position, including keynote status for the 2017 Art for Awareness event in Nashville and the “Advocate of the Year” award at the 2018 Certified Peer Recovery Specialist Conference in Manchester, TN.
Dina began serving as the Statewide Peer Wellness Coach & Trainer in November, 2018, and she is committed to serving peers receiving services in the state of Tennessee and also to her team of Peer Wellness Coaches. Dina is personally committed to wellness, enjoys acting and theatre arts, belly dance, and being active in the great outdoors.