The Forgotten Component of Health: Wellness

The Other Component of Health

I bet a lot of you reading think a lot about your physical and nutritional health, but do you ever think about your mental health? I remember when I first started doing Small Changes, Big Results by Ellie Krieger, almost four years ago now (click here to read about my journey), that wellness was my weakest area (nutrition and fitness were the other two). And this is likely a common problem, not just for me.

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According to Ellie:

“The third component of the program is often overlooked by fitness-minded people. They realize it is important to eat better and move their bodies more, but they’re surprised when I tell them there is one more key factor – to examine their lives to determine the biggest stressors, and figure out ways to reduce or eliminate them. You can learn to eat a nutritious diet and exercise regularly, but if you ignore your mental health and emotional well-being, you won’t feel good.”

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Oops. I know I’m guilty of this. What about you?

Stress: Pain in the Neck…Literally

I found myself rethinking my approach to healthy living when I woke up at 6:30am this past Sunday with excruciating neck pain. My neck had been sore most of the weekend, but on Sunday morning, I could barely move, and I felt sharp pain radiating from my neck even though I was just laying there. Not fun.

As I lay there, I wondered how to remedy my situation. I felt like traditional medicine would only focus on treating the symptoms with pain medicine. And though I did take some, I really wanted to think about my situation from a more holistic perspective. What was the cause of the pain? That was what I needed to fix, maybe for the present but mostly for the future. I didn’t have to think long before I came to the conclusion that I’d been working myself into the ground the past few weeks without giving de-stressing or relaxation a second thought. Heck, I couldn’t even make myself get a decent amount of sleep. Sound familiar?

Later that morning, my dad (we were visiting my parents) decided to turn to Dr. Weil for some advice, so he consulted his copy of “Spontaneous Healing.” I’d quote the book, but it’s at my parent’s house, and I just ordered it on Amazon today. Hopefully, I can share more later. But, basically, the book confirmed my suspicions. We read that neck pain, even if tied to a previous injury, is usually related to stress. Hmm…

I knew I’d been pushing myself a little (way?) too hard, but what was I doing about it to counter that stress along with other, everyday stressors? I tried to think back to the last time I’d paid any attention to relaxation and de-stressing. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d thought about either of those things. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d gotten at least 8 hours of sleep. In fact, as I tie all of this together, I’m reminded of how I didn’t pay as much attention to the wellness challenges of Small Changes, Big Results. I guess I’m stubborn like that. Always pushing rest and relaxation to the side burner. In some ways, I don’t feel like I deserve it. Like I haven’t earned it or something. Who knows.

Going Forward

But, I think it’s time to re-evaluate things. Healthy Living is about more than just food and fitness. And I guess I could just pop some pain medicine every time my body flips out, but I’d rather fix the cause than treat the symptoms. Stress is going to happen, but what can I do to minimize it? Additionally, what can I do to better handle it?

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According to Dr. Weil from this article:

“While it is always worth trying to change external situations that are destructive, keep in mind that you have a choice as to how situations affect you. In time, you can learn to change your reactions to them – simply making changes to what you see as the external aspect of stress (such as getting a new job, moving, ending a relationship) does not give people tools for managing future problems any better. Therefore it is also important to learn how to relax and protect yourself from the harmful effects of stress.”

So, what does this mean for you? If you’re good at relaxing and handling your stress, then, probably not much. And I’d be surprised to see you’re still reading this, though maybe my train-wreck-workaholic-self does lend some entertainment value. Either way, I hope to be more like you one day. But if you’re stressed out like me…if you’re paying little or no mind to rest and relaxation, then I invite you to start doing so.

My Plan for Better Managing Stress

My plan is to spend more time (even if only 5 minutes a day) focusing on relaxation and learning how to better handle stress. I think I’m going to take another look at my SCBR book and maybe do just the weekly wellness challenge for the next 12 weeks. But, I’m also planning to do additional research to find more helpful info. It’s time to pay more attention to the third aspect of healthy living – wellness. Care to join me?

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You can start now.

Challenge: The first challenge in SCBR is to spend 5 minutes focusing on your breath. Pay attention to how it changes. Do you feel more relaxed? I tried this last night right before bed and fell asleep. Not sure if that’s what Ellie was going for, but I did feel more relaxed, at least. I’m not going to give away all of Ellie’s challenges, but this 5 minute breather is one that is simple enough, anyone should be able to include it in their daily activities. If I can do it, you can too!

Ready for more?

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Reader questions: Do you devote time to relaxation? How do you handle stress? Do you have any recommendations for further reading on relaxation and stress-management? Please share in the comments!

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Comments

  1. says

    I try to squeeze in some yoga every day to relax. But other than that, I really don’t take much time for myself. I just started law school and it’s a constant go-go atmosphere. People said it would be like a 9-5 gig, but they were just being optimistic. It’s long hours and sometimes preparing for class is more important than taking some me-time. I do try to have at least an hour, though, where I’m not doing law school work. I’d go crazy, otherwise!

    • says

      I hear ya, Liz! I feel like I’m constantly on the go. Sounds like you’re doing the right thing by trying to make sure you still get some you-time!

  2. says

    I am very lucky to be leaving a job next week where an easy week was 60 hours. To de stress I would get up and workout in the morning (Yeah TurboFire!), then spend my cool down playing with my cats and taking my puppy on a quick walk outside. The quite mornings always help me relax, you just need to take a few moments and fully enjoy what is around you.

    For books, I would have to say PUSH by Chalene Johnson really changed my life . My husband makes fun of me because she is my fitness girl crush, but what she has to say really hit home with me. I can’t wait to see what books get talked about :)

    • says

      Hope you find a job with better hours after this one! 60 hours is brutal! Exercise is definitely a great way to de-stress. I think I would be crazy now if it weren’t for Zumba. :)

      I looked up the PUSH book on Amazon – looks like a great read!

    • says

      Hi Clare! It’s so tough to find the right balance, right? Good luck to you, too. I’m going to try to post some ideas for relaxation, etc., so maybe you’ll find those helpful, too? Thanks for sharing my post with your readers! :)

  3. says

    Sorry to hear that you were in pain! For me the best thing I like to do for “relaxation” and stress release is to laugh. I watch funny youtube videos and spend time on sites like tumblr and stumble upon to find things that make me happy and that make me actually laugh out loud. It’s the best (and cheapest) way to make a bad/stressful day more manageable. Oh and now that I’ve typed out that answer I’ve realized I have an even better one lol. Another huge thing that helps is exercise. As you know, I love zumba and I’d take a class every day if I could but they aren’t cheap so that’d only lead to more stress. But running has been a large factor in stress relief. I don’t know how to describe it really, but the feeling I get during and after puts me in such a great mood!

    • says

      Ah yes, laughter is a great idea! :) I do agree with you about fitness helping, too. I think Zumba has been a great way to keep me in check.

      I wonder if you could volunteer with the instructor you do classes with now? Maybe you can ask them if there’s something you can do to help to get a discount or free classes?

    • says

      I find it very difficult to relax, too! I’m hoping to research more stress management and relaxation techniques, which I’ll be sure to share here on the blog. Hopefully, they help you out, too! :)

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