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Recover Your Well-Being

True health during the pandemic requires replacing what was lost.

Source: Maridav/Adobe Stock
Source: Maridav/Adobe Stock

This pandemic may be causing your well-being to slip away without your consent. For your mental health’s sake, you desperately need to find ways to recover it.

Maybe you feel like you’ve had your life turned inside-out. Maybe you feel like you’ve had the rug pulled out from under you, and you're trying to figure out how to recover. Maybe you've found some good, or positives within the pandemic and want to hang on to those as well. Regardless, it feels anything but normal. These unprecedented times may have you feeling chaotic and out of control.

Is this the ‘new normal,’ as you are so often told? ‘Normal,’ in your pre-pandemic existence, likely offered you many of the ‘checks and balances’ in your day-to-day life that kept you somewhat stable. Now, many of these routines, relationships, rituals, and responsibilities have been stripped from you, and you just don’t feel the same level of well-being you felt before. You may be feeling empty and ungrounded and not exactly sure what’s causing you to feel that way. This 'normal' may feel like a frightening forecast.

True thriving, under any definition of 'normal,’ requires you to adopt daily practices and ways of being that address all areas of your well-being. If the definition of ‘normal’ that you are living under right now has stripped many of those from your daily life, now, more than ever, you need to be intentional about finding ways to replace them.

Let me explain.

In the field of health and well-being, we break wellness into various dimensions. True well-being is far more than just the physical. It is like an interwoven tapestry of several dimensions of your life, and each dimension requires fostering for you to be well, or flourish in that area. If one thread gets damaged in a tapestry, the whole piece may suffer the consequences.

To achieve a holistic and comprehensive sense of well-being, several areas of your life require focus and attention. Although some sources may vary, the dimensions of wellness most often cited are emotional, social, physical, intellectual, spiritual, environmental, and vocational. These are the dimensions of your life that, when authentically cultivated, lead you into a high sense of well-being.

Additionally, according to the field of neuroscience, you mold to every experience. In other words, you are constantly and consistently adapting to every moment, and creating an increased capability to live from the states you experience most often. Good or bad, you are perpetually transforming to every moment of every day, whether you know it or like it.

To be well and flourish, routine attention to every dimension of wellness creates for you a higher capacity to live from those states. If you want greater wellness in any dimension, you need to engage in routine experiences that foster that wellness. You may already accept this truth in exercise, but it is true of all the other dimensions as well. You are constantly adapting to what you most often experience. The more you do anything, the better at it you get. Further, neuroscience also teaches us that little shifts, day after day, go a long way in impacting our overall well being.

In your pre-pandemic life, you may have had daily or weekly practices built into your routines that fostered the various dimensions. You may have become so used to having those behaviors as part of your day-to-day life you didn’t think about their tremendous impact. You may have had relationships, connections, passions for something you were involved in, intellectual challenges or movement built into your daily routines, and so forth. You may have regularly attended a gym, meditation group, social group, dance group, coffee house, been conscious about time in your relationships, spent intentional time with intellectual endeavors or spent time traveling.

The possibilities of how you addressed the dimensions of wellness in your pre-pandemic life are many; the point is they may have had an essential impact on your overall well-being, maybe even at a level beyond your awareness. Now you may have a vague sense of grief or loss and not be able to pinpoint it accurately. Or you may be very aware of the things you are missing but hadn’t recognized their cumulative impact on your sense of well-being. Without these things routinely in your life, your sense of well-being may be slipping away.

But there is hope, and intentionality is the key.

Recovering your well-being during and after this pandemic is a two-pronged approach of understanding and implementation. First, understand the different dimensions of wellness, their massive impact on your life, and what they mean to you personally. Include in that understanding that nothing changes until you change your experience, and little, consistent changes over time can have a profound impact on your capacities for well-being.

Second, because "nothing changes until something changes,” implementation is crucial. I recommend a very intentional approach of doing something daily, or several times weekly, and maintaining a record of your progress. Because little changes add up, a few small and consistent activities can create a significant shift. Keeping a simple checklist on the refrigerator of your daily actions in each area can serve both as a reminder and motivation to keep your well-being at the forefront of your attention. Additionally, the more your regular routines have been uprooted, the more intentional you will need to be about compensating with an alternate activity.

Each dimension may mean different things to different people. Pay attention to what they mean for you and realize that many activities may overlap dimensions. Answer the following questions:

  1. What have I done for my emotional health today?
  2. What have I done for my social health today?
  3. What have I done for my spiritual health today?
  4. What have I done for my intellectual health today?
  5. What have I done for my physical health today?
  6. What have I done for my vocational health, or the purpose I bring to activities outside of myself?
  7. How can I improve my environment or surroundings in a way that is more conducive to my health?

Remember, activities can be as simple as sending a text, making an overdue phone-call, learning something new, or cleaning out a closet. The point is to be proactive about including them in your life.

Let’s hope we are moving toward a whole-new future 'normal' of possibility and potential. Until then, you have more control over your temporary well-being than you might have thought; however, it takes awareness, intentionality, and implementation.

More from Alane K. Daugherty Ph.D.
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