By Dr. Nina Radcliff
For most of us, daily life doesn’t look the same these days. We are living in times of COVID-19 era uncertainty, which presents added stress. Here are steps you can take to help de-stress and nurture your personal wellbeing.
Dimensions of Your Wellness: Each aspect of these pillars of wellness can affect your overall quality of life. When it comes to your health, it’s important during this time to consider all aspects of wellness in order to subdue stress, reduce the risk of illness, and ensure positive interactions. Here are 8 commonly recognized “Dimensions of Wellness”
- Physical — Health, safety, physical vitality, active lifestyle practices, nutritious diet, and quality sleep as well as medical screenings, preventative actions and adherence.
- Emotional — Ability to cope effectively with life and build satisfying, healthy relationships with others. Having confidence and an ability to control feelings, behaviors, and life’s challenges (understanding it builds resiliency while learning that setbacks can be overcome). It includes medical support, when needed.
- Occupational — Contributing your unique talents which provides a sense of satisfaction with your choice of work. It involves balancing work and leisure time, building relationships with coworkers, and managing workplace stress.
- Environmental — Connecting your overall well-being to the health of your environment, the surroundings you occupy. It’s difficult to feel good if you are in an environment with lots of clutter or disorganization, or one that makes you feel unsafe. Make your space work for you.
- Social — Having a sense of connectedness, belonging, and “we’re in this together.” And, too, maintaining healthy relationships with loved ones is critical.
- Intellectual — When you recognize your unique talents to be creative and seek out ways to use your knowledge and skills while staying informed and challenged.
- Financial — A feeling of satisfaction about your financial situation. Finances are a common stressor, so being able to manage worry about this aspect of your life helps your overall wellness. Today, the goal for many is to navigate through this challenging time.
- Spiritual — Being a part of the common good. Your values and beliefs that help you find meaning and purpose in your life. It may come from activities such as volunteering, self-reflection, meditation, prayer, or spending time in nature. Offers hope, purpose, and meaning.
Which do you feel are your strongest currently? Which need work?
Monitoring Stress Levels: Stress is a normal reflex to changes or dangers in your environment that can help motivate you in taking needed survival actions. However, when stress becomes chronic, it negatively impacts every aspect of your health—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Too often, stress builds up slow and insidiously, making it more difficult to recognize. Spotting the signs and symptoms can help you address issues before there’s harm:
- Physical Signs: Digestive problems (diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting); pain or tension (headaches/migraines, tensed muscles); elevated blood pressure or heart rate (the “fight or flight” phenomenon); and difficulty sleeping.
- Mental and Emotional Signs: Irritability, restlessness, anger, anxious or depressed thoughts, difficulty concentrating, unable to remember things, withdrawing from family and friends, feelings of being overwhelmed or unmotivated, and poor decision-making (e.g., risk taking activities, aggressive driving, gambling, increased alcohol consumption, illegal drug use, smoking).
De-Stressing: Don’t wait for stress to build-up to the point it’s affecting your health and well-being. Act today, and every day to de-stress:
- Powerful 2-letter, life-changing word: “NO.” At first it may be difficult to turn down requests from family, friends, community, or work. But saying yes to everything or, just going with the flow, can be detrimental, adding to your stress and less time for self-care.
- Say “YES” to Self-Care. That’s any activity you deliberately do in order to care for your mental, emotional, spiritual, physical healthy and overall wellness. While varying from person-to-person, touchstones of self-care include being physically active, balanced eating, quality sleep, fostering positivity (whether it’s your thoughts, social connections, or behaviors), and relaxation, leisure and “me-time.” It’s saying yes to what’s important to your well-being, which allows you to better cope with stressful situations and be resilient:
- Fresh air (in the great outdoors). Science shows doing so decreases the body’s stress hormones — which, in turn, can reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, poor sleep quality and premature death. Consider eating outdoors, taking a walk, gardening, enjoying coffee on a patio or visiting a park.
- Smiling and laughing, often. Physically, laughter can put a damper on the production of stress hormones — cortisol and epinephrine. A good sense of humor and laughing permits you to have a better perspective by seeing situations in a less threatening light. It can help you relax.
- Moving your body! It is one of the best stress relievers around—decreasing stress hormones, as well as boosting production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that elevate mood and are our body’s natural painkiller
- Refuel! Emotional health can be maintained or improved by engaging in regular leisure and recreational activities. Our mind and body need rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation—it was not meant to work 24-7. As we resume a “new” normal, be cautious of filling your time with busyness and a myriad of activities.
- Engage in activities that involve each of your senses: Smell, taste, touch, sight, and sound. Listen to music, eat a favorite food, light a favorite candle, garden, play with pets, and watch the sunset.
- Be involved with projects that aligns with your values, interests, and skills – and take time to enjoy!
Setting goals and identifying action for yourself in each area of wellness can help you manage stress while optimizing your health.
Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures.
She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist. Author of more than 200 textbook chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.