Writing for Wellness: Eight Dimensions, Eight Experiences

In our “Writing for Wellness” blog series, PRA staff are invited to share their thoughts on how the Eight Dimensions of Wellness operate in their lives. The Eight Dimensions of Wellness is a concept used to help define factors that contribute to overall well-being and understand how each dimension of wellness can be best balanced. The Eight Dimensions of Wellness were developed by Dr. Peggy Swarbrick and include:

  • Emotional—Coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships
  • Environmental—Good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being
  • Financial—Satisfaction with current and future financial situations
  • Intellectual—Recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills
  • Occupational—Personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work
  • Physical—Recognizing the need for physical activity, healthy foods, and sleep
  • Social—Developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system
  • Spiritual—Expanding a sense of purpose and meaning in life

This week we’re looking back at what our staff have had to say about each of these dimensions over the last year, which has posed myriad challenges to well-being, some unique to this moment, and some timeless.

Emotional

The Love You Give: Writing for Wellness, by Kyle Humphreys:

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I did not have a lot of emotional support growing up. This caused me to develop poor self-esteem; I would often berate myself for my mistakes and shortcomings, even though I understood that no one is perfect. The expectations I set for myself were unreasonable, and it wasn’t until I moved out to pursue higher education I learned that self-love is the most important kind of love. Self-love has helped me develop into a confident adult, and I now recognize it as an important factor in growth and recovery.

Self-love is a skill in the same way learning to use Excel is a skill. It’s not one you can put on your resume, but it’s just as important as any skill you would share with a potential employer. Someone who has high confidence in their self and abilities has self-love and is more equipped to face obstacles. People with low self-esteem see mistakes and challenges as fodder to punish themselves or a way to justify their lack of self-love, fueling their self hate.

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Environmental

Writing for Wellness: Environmental Wellness on Earth Day,” by Holley Davis:

Earth Day has always been one of my favorite holidays, mostly because of its timing in the northeast. I love seeing the world around me wake up from a long winter’s sleep, each day bringing more sunlight and greenery. When I was a child, my mother would plant a sunflower outside of my bedroom, so I could watch it grow from my window. There are so many pictures of me next to the sunflower, comparing our height—no matter how hard I tried, I never was able to outgrow it in a season. Having that routine, along with a well-organized room (one corner for my American Girl Dolls, one for art supplies), contributed to a sense of environmental wellness in my youth, even if I didn’t know it!

As an adult, environmental wellness has continued to be an important part of my life. I often say that my living and workspace is a reflection of my mind, so I try to keep my physical spaces tidy and organized. I still love plants, and have plants all over my house. I love tending to them and watching them grow. I have a coconut orchid that I’ve owned for 5 years that bloomed for the first time this month! Five years of hard work to figure out the best watering, feeding, and sunning schedule finally paid off.

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Financial

Financial Equity: Intersections of Mental Health and Race,” by Crystal Brandow:

As noted by Dr. Peggy Swarbrick and her colleagues, “Financial Wellness involves having financial resources to meet practical needs.”[1] These financial resources can help people to have a sense of control and a sense of freedom. Unfortunately, far too often, financial wellness is left out of conversations and interventions related to mental health recovery. Services may focus on financial education, but, historically, they do little to address poverty and promote economic empowerment.[2] This is concerning, as we know people with mental health conditions are more likely to live in poverty.

We also know that people of color are more likely to live in poverty. Concentrated poverty is a form of structural violence that can contribute to the onset of mental health conditions. As we explore issues of health equity (including mental health), financial wellness and wealth accumulation ought to be part of this conversation. There is a growing racial wealth gap, in addition to the income and wage gap in this country. The racial wealth gap, however, makes it challenging for Black people and other oppressed groups to have both means and opportunity.

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Intellectual

Writing for Wellness: Intellectual Wellness During a Pandemic,” by Sametra Polkah-Toe:

SAMHSA defines the intellectual wellness dimension as “keeping our brains active and our intellect expanding.” This broad definition encourages us to engage in creative and mentally stimulating activities while expanding our knowledge and sharing our skills with others. As I break down this definition internally, I think of the many avenues this dimension can be developed (through academics, cultural involvement, community involvement, and personal hobbies), and I think to myself, “what have I done over the past year to cultivate this dimension? Wait, actually, why haven’t I focused on this more? Oh wait, that’s right, that whole pandemic thing.” Yes, indeed. It’s hard to believe that in just a few weeks, we will be coming up on the 1-year anniversary date of the New York State on Pause order going into effect (you know, the date when we all started to take COVID-19 just a little bit more seriously). It is almost even more sadly unbelievable that 1 year later and we are, for the most part, still in the same place.

Over the past year, we have all had to make adjustments in our lives to adapt to a new reality to keep ourselves and others safe. One area in which I have had to adjust is becoming much more intentional about taking care of myself. Due to the increased isolation, lack of socialization opportunities, and increased anxiety, I was forced to think more intentionally about what I need to do to help myself survive this pandemic.

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Occupational

Combating Occupational Un-Wellness,” by Terri Hay:

As I headed into the 4th of July long holiday weekend, I was struggling to come up with a storyline for my Occupational Wellness blog. Working remotely has admittedly been a struggle for me on many levels, and attempting to conjure up wellness prose amplified my current state of unwellness. I love my job, the people I work with, and the company I work for, but the chaos and day-to-day unknowns that have emerged due to the COVID-19 pandemic have created what I am going to call a personal struggle with occupational unwellness.

As I closed down my “home office,” a.k.a. a dark corner of my dining room on Thursday, July 2nd, I decided I would take on a proactive wellness mission over the long weekend. I organized my desk area, made a thorough Monday morning “To Do” list, and secured a couple of wellness post-it notes to my computer screen (e.g., smile, stand up). I then took a simple personal inventory and set my intentions for the weekend intending to return to the office on Monday, feeling a little less unwell.

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Physical

Writing for Wellness: Just Me and my Shoes,” by Kristin Lupfer:

My physical wellness is strongly entwined with my emotional wellness. As Elle Woods said, “Exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, and happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” Not only does running make me happy, I also love to run with my husband. He’s safe, don’t worry!

In all seriousness, I find joy, peace, and release in running. Being outside and moving is my happy place. Running is special because it only requires me and is often the only time I am by myself. A pair of shoes and a good sports bra help, but all I need is me. No matter where I travel to in the country for work, or travel to around the world, I can go for a run.

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Social

Your Presence is Your Present,”written by Colette Scott:

The hustle and bustle of the holidays can be stressful in a normal year; however, add the events of 2020 into the mix, and the end of this year can feel overwhelming. How do we take care of ourselves, reduce stress, and manage the flurry as we close the chapter on 2020? To combat this overwhelming year, I took a new approach to self-care over the past month.

The first thing I did was to change my scenery. I was able to pick up my home office and work remotely from another part of the country. I have family in Arizona who I don’t see very often but miss dearly. I thought to myself in early September, “when in my life will I have the flexibility and opportunity to work from Arizona?” I didn’t think twice and made careful travel arrangements to spend 5 weeks moving from house to house, working during the day, and spending time with family during my downtime. The change of scenery (and weather) did wonders for my mood, outlook, and perspective. Not everyone can travel during these precarious times, but even a small change in view or location can adjust one’s mindset.

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Spiritual

Spiritual Wellness for an Agnostic?” by Dan Coladonato:

Most of my life, I have been an agnostic. Actually, I usually say, “Most of my life, I have struggled with agnosticism.” That is because I’ve repeatedly seen family members, friends, co-workers, etc. practice religion or a spiritual way of living to bring purpose and meaning to their lives. I suppose I’ve always wanted that as well; thus, I’ve struggled with agnosticism. One of the biggest influences in my life has been my grandmother, and she always relies on prayer and faith to get her through whatever challenges and uncertainty that comes her way. I believe at some point, everyone goes through something in their life that seems far to difficult to get through alone. Perhaps this something is even too difficult to get through with only the help of loved ones. Sometimes it seems that turning to a power greater than human power is necessary. I got to one of these critical points in my life where I needed to look beyond my agnosticism and keep an open mind to the benefits of a spiritual practice.

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