Wellness. A word that’s bandied about a fair bit these days. Partly due to updated Health and Safety Laws recognising that employers have a role to play in monitoring more than just the physical health and safety of their employees and partly, I suspect, because a lot of people are feeling plain unwell.
In a nutshell, wellness encompasses physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
It’s okay to admit that despite having meaningful employment, a roof over your head and reasonably good health, you’re sometimes left feeling a bit, flat. You’re busy. You’re trying to eat well, to stay connected, to be there for your partners and kids, to make time for friends.
It’s a tall order keeping everything in balance. Even when we know what’s good for us, that we should say no to some commitments and yes to time out, it’s easy to become the mouse on the wheel.
And that was me a year ago. Tired, grumpy, frustrated. I hit the wall. One day, I couldn’t get out of bed. A friend put me on to the Smiling Mind website which offers guided meditation for free. The focus is on breathing, relaxing and being. The theory behind the programme used by 1.5 million people worldwide is that increasing mindfulness helps manage stress. Mindfulness, I’ve learned, is a big player in my sense of well-being.
As a secondary school teacher, I often discuss “stress” with my students as they struggle to manage assessments, part-time jobs, extra curricular activities and socialising. I explain that stress is unavoidable, that we have to learn ways to manage stress so that it doesn’t overwhelm us. For many the teen years are their first real experience with stress and it hits them hard, quickly spiraling into depression and anxiety.
If Smiling Mind doesn’t sound like your cup of green tea, think again. Even committing to one small activity every second day or so helps. Through the programme, I’ve learned to shut off the talk in my head which is pretty constant (especially Sunday nights thinking about the week ahead). I walk and run for physical wellbeing but fell into the habit of using that time to problem solve in my head. Now I allow myself the run/walk to just be. To enjoy the sound of the sea crashing on the beach, to see the light reflecting off the foam and to feel the sun on my back.
I’ve also stopped using drive time to plan ahead. Now I just sing. Instead of trying to do three or four household jobs very Saturday, I aim to do one and do it well. When my children start talking to me about their day, I stop cooking and listen. It’s all very well being a multi-tasker but it’s much more fulfilling to pace yourself.
Well-being and mindfulness remain a work in progress. There’s no overnight fix. It’s a commitment to yourself. To slowing down and trying to be in the moment. If we can do that, we can focus on the little things that matter.