By: Liz Wilson
“Mindfully focusing on wellness in our lives builds resilience and enables us to thrive amidst life’s challenges.” National Wellness Institute
Wellness is a relatively new construct that encompasses our level of connectedness to the world around us. It involves our social and support networks and relies on our commitment to our personal recovery. It is also very different for each person. For me wellness means my moods are stable or manageable (be it through self-help, therapy or medications) over several months at a time. In fact, time is a huge indicator of my level of wellness; I never trust an emotion-driven major decision about finances, romance, etc. unless that emotion and my reasoning regarding the issue stay constant for weeks or months.
As I have practiced this idea of delayed decision making for about a decade, I have learned to trust myself more and more. For example, if I like Randy a lot and think we are a perfectly imperfect match I have several choices in the rush of euphoria and other positive and negative emotions. A decade ago, I would often prematurely disclose my feelings (which may have been inflated) and unintentionally sabotage the relationship. Today, I am able to reason with myself about my emotions and resulting behaviors, always taking a wait-and-see attitude (note: I am waiting on me, not him…assessing our compatibility based on reason, not just emotion or mood).
Having a good, updated Wellness Plan (https://ibpf.org/blog/creating-my-wellness-recovery-action-plan-wrap-how-can-i-help-you-help-me) allows me and those around me (whom I share and disclose to) to see a snapshot of how I conduct myself when I am well (as well as when I am not). If I am not practicing good hygiene, for example, or wearing make-up, I am not well and decisions become more difficult to make and rely upon. This is not just a human trait; my cat was recently very ill (snake bite) physically and quit playing altogether for about a week. I acknowledge that nature ebbs and tides, just like me. It is not about trying to reach 100% wellness, it is about managing our wellness at every level and even planning for when we cannot manage our wellness before we face crisis.
A key component to my wellness is my social and support network. When I was young I dreamed of people around me who would allow me total freedom, but that isn’t support. Support involves calling me on my bull-crap, something only a select number of friends and support people can do. Choosing your supporters to complement your strengths and weaknesses, then, becomes essential. My mental health team has no problem calling me out, so I trust them as much as close friends to recognize when my wellness wanes. However, I need a lot of validation and empowerment. I used to try to get those things from romantic relationships. Now I get them from a steady stream of internal validation and an eclectic collection of friends. It is too much for me to expect a partner to constantly validate or empower me…a draining task unless delegated out.
The National Wellness Institute identifies the following areas of wellness, each of which can positively or negatively affect your level of overall wellness:
On your journey toward wellness, take it easy on yourself and remember: “Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart