Making it Through - 8 Dimensions of Wellness: Staying Physically and Mentally Healthy
This article may seem a bit different than our typical financial and goal-oriented writings. With this being said, most of us haven't faced a global pandemic in our lifetimes, so there's a little more to cover this time.
Due to COVID-19, we are all facing abrupt interruptions in our unique and collective lives. Balancing careers, family and social lives were already, at times, stressful. To top things off, life just changed rapidly due to a worldwide pandemic.
COVID-19 has resulted in an existential health threat, schools migrating to online learning, changes in work circumstances, social distancing, and an overall increased level of uncertainty. This is tough stuff. It can be a struggle to know how to best care for ourselves and our loved ones right now. But, we're going to get through this. You will get through this.
As a financial wellness company, we recognize that financial health is only one dimension of the wellbeing equation - there's actually 8! As such, we want to lean in to offer you a little inspiration, a bit of theory, and some practical guidance to help support your emotional, intellectual, occupational, social, financial, physical, spiritual, and environmental wellness.
We hope the resources below provide some support as you navigate this unprecedented time in our history.
Psst…the wellness explanations and theory material is at the beginning and the easily-skimmed practical material is at the end, should you want to jump ahead.
It's All Connected
The eight dimensions of wellness are intricately linked. Good physical wellness improves emotional wellness. Poor financial wellness can negatively impact your emotional, occupational, social, and physical wellness. It's important to be intentional in addressing all of the dimensions and not to prioritize one over another.
Right now, you may be feeling anxious, depressed, fearful, angry, unsure of the future. Your brain could be foggy. You could have decreased energy. You may be losing sleep. You may have been furloughed, laid off, or expected to work even more.
These are the red flags of decreased wellness. How's it all connected?
Do you remember learning about a psychological theory called Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs? The basis of the theory is that humans have a certain number of needs and that these needs must be fulfilled in a progressive order.
Basic needs include food, water, rest, shelter, and safety. Once these needs are met, a healthy human is able to feel emotions like belongingness, love, and eventually, self-actualization. When our basic needs are threatened, for lack of better words, we freak out.
How do you feel when you realize you are down to your last penny? What happens when you're 'hangry?' How do you behave when you're running on a lack of sleep?
When our basic needs are threatened, our emotional brains kick in with flight, fight, freeze, or appease; our intellectual brains go offline. We lose focus at work. We cling more to our friends and family, or we start fights with our loved ones and push them away. We get knots in our stomach, headaches, tense muscles, and maybe even lose the ability to sleep. As time progresses and if left unhandled, life can become meaningless and the figurative walls can feel like they're closing in.
Emotional reactions are your brain and nervous system reacting to something desirable or undesirable that's happening in your world or your imagination.
Emotions motivate us to acquire necessary resources, to rest, to defend our egos, to repeat the actions that lead to contentment, to get away from threats (such as that wasp in the backyard) or to proceed cautiously.
A best course of action with emotions is to accept and explore their presence, understand what they are communicating, and use these messages to move into a logical understanding of what to think or do next.
1 // Emotional Wellness
SAMHSA identifies emotional wellness as an ability to cope effectively with life and build satisfying relationships with others. It is the ability to recognize, understand and manage your feelings in a healthy way; it is learning to cope with life's stresses and challenges.
Getting through tough stuff builds resilience. We learn that setbacks can be overcome. Emotional health can be maintained or improved through relaxing, having fun, and emotional processing. Listen to music, keep in touch with loved ones, light your favorite candle, play with your pet, watch your favorite movie, talk with a therapist or journal about your day.
COVID-19 may have heightened existing or brought about new emotions that we may not be able to recognize, understand or know how to manage.
Here are some emotional wellness resources that you may find helpful. We all struggle sometimes. We encourage you to contact qualified professionals if you find yourself or someone you care about struggling with mental and emotional health issues.
- Mental Health America | Mental Health Information For Disease Outbreaks
- NPR | Coronavirus Panic: How to Get Your Thinking Brain Back Online
- Psychology Today | Find a Therapist, Psychiatrist, or Support Group
- SAMSHA | Coping With Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks
- Crisis Text Line
- Disaster Distress Hotline
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
- National Parent Helpline
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
2 // Intellectual Wellness
Intellectual Wellness is engaging in creative and mentally-stimulating activities, learning and building skills, expanding your knowledge and sharing knowledge with others. People who pay attention to their intellectual wellness often find that they have better concentration, improved memory, and better critical thinking skills.
Reading, doing challenging puzzles such as crosswords or Sudoku, discussing issues with others who have opposing viewpoints, learning a new language or musical instrument, trying a new hobby, or teaching and tutoring others are all ways to maintain or improve your intellectual wellness.
While our academic and work environments have been dramatically changed as a result of COVID-19, there are many ways to maintain and stimulate intellectual wellness.
Here are a few below brainy links to explore.
- edX | Free Online Courses
- Code Names | Multi-player Online Word Game
- Random Trivia Generator | Online Trivia
3 // Occupational Wellness
Occupational wellness is a sense of personal satisfaction with the choice of work and study. It involves balancing work and leisure time, building relationships with coworkers, and managing workplace stress. Finding work that fits with your values, interests, and skills can help maintain occupational wellness.
COVID-19 has made achieving occupational wellness more challenging. Whether one is confined to working/studying from home with family, friends or roommates, or working the front lines, the pandemic has created unique challenges to occupational wellness.
Resources to help achieve occupational wellness.
- Coursera | Free online learning during COVID-19
- CNBC | Staying Connected While Working From Home
- Dale Carnegie & Associates | How to Win Friends and Influence People (in the Digital Age)
- What Is The Right Career for Me? | Career Aptitude Test
4 // Social Wellness
Social Wellness is satisfaction in personal relationships by building supportive relationships, developing a sense of connection, belonging and a strong support system, dealing with conflict effectively.
Building healthy social wellness might involve asking a colleague or acquaintance out for lunch, joining a club, setting healthy boundaries, using good communication skills that are assertive rather than passive or aggressive, being genuine and authentic with others, and treating others in a respectful way.
One of the biggest challenges many of us are facing right now is the drastic change in our social relationships. The truth is, extended time at home, distanced from others will challenge most people.
Fortunately, we can facilitate quite a bit of social interaction by supplementing our lives with technology. Play 'Heads Up' with 8 friends on HouseParty, watch a movie and chat with your family using Netflix Party, play trivia or Bingo or share a virtual meal using Zoom.
Check out a few ways to stay connected below.
- Netflix |A New Way to Watch Netflix Together
- House Party | Spend Time with People You Care About
- Zoom | How to Host a Video Meeting
5 // Financial Wellness
Financial wellness is a feeling of satisfaction in your financial situation. Because money is the means of meeting our core needs, finances can affect all aspects of wellness.
As the COVID-19 pandemic quickly progressed across the globe, individuals, businesses and the stock market have experienced unprecedented changes and challenges without a clear picture as to what the future will hold for our financial wellness.
SmartPath has launched a FREE Financial Help Center for anyone needing financial advice at this time. The site can be accessed at www.joinsmartpath.com/coronavirus.
The SmartPath COVID-19 Financial Help Center has:
Live Weekly Webinars (with replay): We'll explore topics like saving during tough times, sources of cash, COVID-19's impact on student loans, and many more.
Live One-on-One Financial Coach Chat : Get immediate access to experts who can answer questions, fast.
Mobile App for Tracking : Spending less than you make has never been more important. SmartPath Mobile makes it easy. Download via Android or Apple iOS.
Your Money Moves Assessment : 5-minute quiz to show you your personalized money moves to make during and after the health and economic crisis. Take your assessment at www.17moneymoves.com.
6 // Physical Wellness
Physical wellness is affected by physical activity, healthy nutrition, adequate sleep, and of course, is impacted by the other dimensions of wellness.
When working from home, remember to take frequent breaks to stretch, take a brisk walk, or to do a productive chore. Seek online resources that allow you to do simple workout routines from your home. Yoga videos, virtual dance classes, and interval training instruction are all ways to get moving without needing to leave your house.
Being home for long periods of time under stressful conditions may cause some people to overeat, not eat enough, or adopt unhealthy eating habits. Practice eating mindfully and strive to eat healthy, balanced meals. Healthy eating can also help to boost your immune system.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, create a nighttime routine, and get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Questions on how to protect your or your family's health? Caring for an at-risk loved one or for someone who is sick? Please see the resources below.
- World Health Organization | Q&A on Coronaviruses (COVID-19)
- CDC | How to Protect Yourself, What to Do If You Are Sick
- University of Chicago Medicine | Sleep During the Coronavirus Outbreak
7 // Spiritual Wellness
Spiritual wellness is related to your values and beliefs that help you find meaning and purpose in your life. Spiritual wellness may come from activities such as volunteering, church, self-reflection, meditation, prayer, or spending time in nature. Signs of strong spiritual health include having clear values, a sense of self-confidence, and a feeling of inner peace.
To improve your spiritual health, it can help to create a quiet space for solitude and contemplation. Maintaining a playful, curious attitude can help you find experiences that offer hope, purpose, and meaning.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, taking some time for self-reflection, focusing on your sense of purpose, meaning and connecting with something bigger than oneself may help improve one's overall health and well-being.
8 // Environmental Wellness
This dimension of health connects your overall well-being to the health of your environment. Your environment, both your social and natural surroundings, can greatly impact how you feel.
It can be hard to feel good if you are surrounded by clutter and disorganization, or if you feel uncomfortable in your environment. At the macro-level, pollution, violence, garbage buildup, and water conservation are some of the factors affecting environmental wellness.
COVID-19 has had a very unexpected effect on our communities, which includes reductions in pollution being seen in large countries around the world. Some ways to manage environmental wellness include creating neighborhood watches, recycling, planting a personal or community garden, purchasing products with minimal packaging, avoiding littering, and conserving energy and water by turning off lights and faucets when not in use.
- NASA | Airborne Nitrogen Dioxide Plummets Over China
- National Institutes of Health | Environmental Wellness Toolkit
- Netflix | Tidying Up with Marie Kondo
What dimension of wellness do you feel are your strongest? What areas have been impacted?
Times are tough right now. While there may be no guarantee of a better day, there is usually the potential for one.
Setting goals for yourself in each area can help you feel more fulfilled and optimize your health. If you have areas you would like to improve and need a little support - seek out support from a friend, family member, or counselor, or SmartPath Financial Coach.
COVID-19 Wellness Checklist
Focus more on the things that you can control. Focus less on the things that you can't control.
Get enough sleep. Eat well and take your vitamins!
Set limits to how much news and social media you consume each day. Stay informed, but reduce stressors.
Exercise - take a walk around the neighborhood or go for a hike (but stay 6 feet or more from others). Fresh air and sunlight are great for your immune system and can increase your mood and decrease your anxiety levels. If you can't get out of the house, try some home exercise – there are online videos and apps that can guide you through basic workouts during this time.
Socialize – even while social distancing, staying connected is important! Use alternative methods to socialize and check in with friends via Facebook, Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, House Party, Netflix Party or simply a phone call.
Watch that new Netflix show - bonus points if you host a Netflix Party which synchronizes video playback and adds group chat to your favorite Netflix shows. Solve a puzzle. Color in an adult coloring book. Start a garden. Organize your home. If you need some ideas or just want to try something completely new, Instructables is a great do-it-yourself website with tons of craft ideas and how-tos.
Schedule your day. Keep your routine. Maybe get out of pajamas each day or...don't. But, try on those jeans from time to time, sweat pants waistbands can be deceiving.
Don't put too much pressure on yourself to accomplish big things, though. Remember, this is an exceptional time, and the biggest achievement may be to get through it with your health and well-being intact.
See if mental health resources are available for free through your work EAP or discounted through your medical provider. Additionally, there are many virtual therapy options who are offering free and discounted sessions for new users.
Focus on the future. You've done hard things before. This is a difficult time, but you can get through this.