Health isn’t just about taking care of your body but about understanding the interconnectedness of different aspects of your life. There are actually 8 dimensions to consider. The Wellness Wheel is a useful visual aid that helps you find balance so you can be your healthiest and most resilient self.
The 8 dimensions of wellness are:
The emotional dimension of personal wellness has received a lot more attention in recent years, with a focus on mental health. This is a fantastic development that provides all of us with tools to address many of the feelings that cause trauma in our lives.
The core tenet of emotional wellness is about being attentive to your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, whether they are positive or negative. This dimension puts priority on managing emotions and stress in a productive way and can help us deal with troubling situations, cope with change and respond resiliently to life events.
Some of the themes that fall under emotional wellness include:
- Acknowledging positive and negative feelings
- Becoming adaptable to changing situations
- Caring for your mental health
- Addressing body image problems
- Improving your self esteem and self worth
- Maintaining productive relationships
- Stress management and coping habits
Here are some examples of how to prioritize your emotional wellness:
- Saying “no” to requests on your time when you need to – without guilt
- Building a strong support network
- Feeling good about who you are both physically and intellectually
- Managing stress by learning from experiences rather than avoiding stress
This article focuses on dealing with stress, which is a fundamental part of emotional well being. Stress is a part of everyone’s daily life. It can not be avoided and is crucial to our growth as individuals. Stress helps motivate us and gives us a boost of energy to complete important projects, study for exams and finish difficult tasks that will ultimately benefit us. But too much stress has its downsides. Chronic stress is bad for both your body and your emotional wellbeing and it is crucial to address the sources of our stress to reduce burn out and illness.
A few of the biggest causes of stress include (but are not limited to): financial problems, employment or academic pressure, poor health, loss and grief, and relationship problems.
Our bodies will tell us when we are experiencing chronic stress. Be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Depression and anxiety
- Feeling out of control
- Stomach problems and frequent butterflies
- Back, shoulder and neck pain
- Skin reactions like acne or hives
- Trouble sleeping
- Substance abuse as a way to cope
Coping with stress requires us to be self-aware and willing to discover the sources of stress. When identifying why you may be stressed, ask yourself a few questions about sources. Is it your job or studies? Are you having relationship trouble with a loved one? Are there financial worries or a stack of important bills? Or perhaps your health problems are going unaddressed?
Stress management requires us to take an active role in resolving or addressing these problems as opposed to avoiding the problems and hoping they go away on their own. Here are some key ways to practice stress management:
- Become comfortable sharing and discussing your feelings with others
- Practice self compassion- we all make mistakes and that’s ok. Practice forgiving yourself and internalizing that everyone errs in life and no one is perfect.
- Set boundaries- over extending yourself will likely result in falling short of your commitments. Let your boss, colleagues, family and friends know what is a reasonable expectation of your time and energy. You do not need to apologize for saying no.
- Make time to socialize- all work and no play is a recipe for burnout. We all need social interaction with friends and family to keep our energy levels up.
Practice relaxation strategies- whether you meditate, practice yoga or have a series of daily self-affirmations, taking a break from your day to day tasks is an important part of being mindful and present in our bodies.
- Eat well and exercise regularly- try cooking at home and moving your body everyday. Skipping meals and sitting at a desk for hours on end is detrimental to our physical and mental well being
- Help others- volunteering for an organization or cause that you care about or being available to support friends takes you out of your own stressful headspace and back into the community.
Growth Mindset and Self Awareness
You may have heard about the concept of having a growth mindset. This term has become very popular in academic and professional settings as a way to handle failure. The idea of a growth mindset was coined by Dr. Carol Dweck as a way to categorize her students that rebounded from failures versus those that were devastated by small setbacks. Having a growth mindset means that your focus should be on making an effort and learning from an experience rather than on success or failure rates.
Dr. Dweck’s findings were that individuals who believed that their talents are innate gifts that come fully developed as part of their personality have a fixed mindset. Their qualities and intelligence are carved in stone and they feel an urgency to prove themselves repeatedly. Feeling that one only has a certain amount of intelligence, personality or even moral character creates a mindset that failure points to an inherent deficiency in your most basic characteristics. For these individuals, putting forth effort in a task is a bad thing. Being smart or talented means that one should never need to exert effort and smart people do not make mistakes.
Other individuals believe that their talents can be developed through hard work and input from others. Their achievements are not limited by a finite amount of talent or intelligence. They focus on learning and the effort that comes with mastering new skills. This allows them to grow and even acquire new talents. Our true potential is unknown; it is impossible to see what the future holds. Therefore the time we spend training and toiling creates a passion for learning that supersedes our hunger for approval.
The good news is that our brains are very malleable and resilient! We can change our mindset in order to manage stressors and reduce feelings of insecurity and defensiveness. This starts with self awareness. Don’t ignore signs of stress or fight against it. Acknowledge that your problems are not insignificant and it is okay to not be okay. Additionally, embrace confidence in your abilities and the values you bring to any situation. You may not be the fastest worker on your team but perhaps you are the most detailed and your work needs fewer revisions.
Lastly, take responsibility for mistakes and see setbacks as an opportunity to learn. The next time you come up against a difficult situation, remember that you are not starting from scratch, you are starting with a wealth of experience and knowledge with an increased likelihood of success!