Wellness is currently the growing craze right now. But what does it really mean, wellness. So many people are joining the bandwagon with detoxification and cleansing, colonics, exercise and weight loss programs, herbal therapies, homeopathy all claiming to be well, however missing a few very important steps.
Wellness is more than a two dimensional concept. When looking at well-being four things need to be taken into account; the physical, the emotional, the spiritual, and the environment and relationship aspect. Most people simply concentrate on the superficial physical aspect of well-being. Over the course of the next few articles, we will explore all three of these aspects, how they are all inter-related, and how stress, diet, physical activities, and spiritual belief systems affect each of these aspects of well-being. In this article we will focus on stress.
When we talk about physical well-being there are many things that contribute. Of course most people are aware that diet is major contributor to health as well as physical activity. However, people seem to miss that stress is a major contributor to many physical problems experienced by people today.
Let's give an example: Jane is a 35 year old relatively healthy normal weight female that makes a visit to her physician with symptoms of a headaches and fatigue. Noted in Jane's physical is a slightly elevated blood pressure for her age. She has no family history of high blood pressure. Jane's social history reveals that she works a high stress corporate job that includes 10-12 hour days and she only gets 4 hours of sleep each night due to staying up completing projects from work. She doesn't take time for herself because she doesn't have time due to work.
In this case it is mostly likely that Jane is fatigued from the stress of her work, which is also contributing to her headaches. How does this stress affect Jane emotionally and in her environment and relationships? Well, in addition to her headaches and fatigue, Jane expressed that she has been more irritable lately and is not getting along with family so well in the last few weeks. She has noted her performance at work slipping due to her fatigue and she is much less tolerant of co-workers and clients than usual. Due to the stress of her job, she has not had the time nor the motivation to focus on her normal spiritual practice which for her included at one time meditation and going to church regularly. So, you see, stress alone has affected her entire cosmos of well-being.
So what is an appropriate well-rounded approach to Jane's wellness in this case? While a traditional health care provider might recommend and prescribe Jane an anti-depressant (or an herbal mood stabilizer, such as St. John's Wort), a nutritionist may recommend a specific diet, a physical trainer may recommend incorporating exercise, and a pastor recommend prayer, integrating all of these tools together rather than using them as isolated tools would best serve her; and while none of these answers are wrong answers (although it may be a little early in the process to start an antidepressant), they represent isolated solutions that if used alone would only partially benefit her situation. In addition, adding too many things on at once might stress Jane more causing her to become more overwhelmed and less motivated.
In this case, (assuming her diet is completely balanced and healthy), a gentle approach would benefit Jane immensely. Jane might begin, by incorporating some specific stress management techniques, as well as begin to incorporate some fun into her life. In addition, adding daily affirmations and short meditation session first thing in the morning and before bedtime would not only give Jane some dedicated "personal time" in the mornings and evenings, but would also begin shifting her focus of thinking and help her to become more grounded before she runs off into her busy day. Over time the addition of an exercise and/or yoga program could be added to further give her an outlet to release some her daily tension.
This is just one example of how stress affects all systems of wellness and how keeping it simple and incorporating basic elements of physical, emotional, and spiritual practices daily can drastically improve all aspects of total wellness.
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