WHAT IS WELLNESS?

Guest Contributor: Stacey Roberts PT, Owner of New You Health and Wellness

Stacey Roberts

Stacey is my friend and colleague. She has been a physical therapist since 1990, specializing in outpatient orthopedics and sports medicine. 

In 2003-2004 Stacey became a master herbalist to further her knowledge in the complementary therapies that her patients were starting to use.  From 2004-2017 she owned and operated a cash based health and wellness clinic on the Gold Coast of Australia specializing in in women’s health and hormones, and couples fertility. Her interventions combined conventional knowledge with complementary treatment emphasizing lifestyle changes in her patients regarding their eating plan, supplementation programs, and stress management to help  thousands of women and men achieve their health goals as well as create and expand their families.

After returning to the United States, Stacey was hired by a national physical therapy company to grow and develop their orthopedic outpatient practice. From 2016- 2020 Stacey has been an associate clinical professor at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s Physical Therapy doctoral program. 

Recently, in 2021, she opened New You Health and Wellness, a holistic cash based clinic where she combines her knowledge of wellness, hormone health and musculoskeletal health in the treatment of patients with issues related to musculoskeletal injuries/sports medicine, sexual health and pelvic health.

I am excited to have Stacey as a guest writer on my website.

You can find out more about Stacey at Newyouhealthandwellness.com

WHAT IS WELLNESS?

My guess is since you are visiting our website and this article caught your eye that you are a person who puts your health as a top priority in your life.  You want to make healthy and responsible choices for your health.  And if that’s the truth then while striving to make these choices you undoubtedly have come across terms like holistic, natural, organic, etc.  And I am sure you have come across terms like health and wellness before.  But have you ever thought about what they really mean? 

I have to admit, though I have spent the last three decades working with men, women and children to help them improve their health, I never really gave much thought to the term wellness before.  I mean, I thought I knew what it meant until I actually tried to narrow it down to a couple sentences.  That proved to be impossible. 

Every time I thought I had a comprehensive definition and discussed it with some friends, they would usually say, ‘Yeah, but, what about….?”  What I learned is this is a word that has a much bigger and deeper meaning than I had ever considered.

So back to the original question…What is Wellness? What does it really mean? 

According to Northwestern University that one little word covers many big areas.  After reading through their website I discovered why my attempts to narrow its definition down to a concise little description for this article just wasn’t going to cut it. 

At Northwestern’s Student Affairs Department they list the following Eight Dimensions of Wellness:

  • physical
  • emotional
  • social
  • intellectual
  • environmental
  • spiritual
  • vocational
  • financial

Physical wellness is not just the absence of disease or illness but it is about creating and maintaining a healthy physical body supported by a balanced physiology.  In other words, it’s not just about having healthy muscles and joints, but physical wellness includes striving to create an optimal balance of your whole physiology.  This includes what your hormone balance is like, how your blood sugar levels are being managed through the foods you eat and the exercises you do,  and what you are doing to manage your stress levels, just to name a few.   It’s about making choices that help you feel well physically and allow you to create an enjoyable fulfilling life.  Striving for physical wellness will allow you to function at the level that gives you the most joy and satisfaction.

Emotional wellness and physical wellness definitely overlap as do all these dimensions.  When we think about how we feel emotionally, this will often affect us physically and vice versus.  But if we had to narrow down emotional wellness in a few words or phrases you might come up with being in a balanced mental state or creating a state of mental health where life can be experienced in all its ups and downs. And at the end of the day when you choose to practice things such as mindfulness, meditation, or visualization you will find a balance.  Emotional wellness is about building resiliency, experimenting with ways to cope with stressful events or people.  It’s about seeking out relationships that support your mental health and not being afraid to reach out for help when you need it.

Social wellness encompasses connection.  Connecting with your community and developing meaningful relationship within your life.  Creating a network or networks of people to communicate with in a world that makes social isolation easier than ever.  Even if you consider yourself an introvert and would rather spend time alone, social wellness is still an important part of overall health.  Connecting with the community doesn’t mean you have to be with large crowds of people.  There are many ways for example to support causes in your community without putting yourself in uncomfortable situations.  We are social beings and it’s our responsibility to find the ways that we feel most fulfilled and balanced as we interact with our community and develop supportive relationships.

Intellectual wellness reminds us to participate in stimulating environments and activities to help tap into our creativity and intellectual ability.  It also involves thinking things through, making responsible choices and understanding that learning is a lifetime journey.

Environmental wellness is taking responsibility in whatever way you can to contribute to creating a healthy and thriving environment.  To focus on this dimension if each of us strive to do even one or two things to make the Earth on which we live a little better place, this would be the best gift we can give to the next generation. 

Spiritual Wellness is taking care to nurture your connection with a higher power.  It involves being compassionate, practicing gratitude, and sitting with oneself and reflecting on how you are living life in line with your values.  Spiritual wellness involves being aware of the mind-body connection as well as tapping into the very nature of our living soul.

Vocational wellness is seeking out and participating in work that is satisfying to you and in line with our values.  It is finding meaning and personal satisfaction in the work that you do.

Financial wellness is all about the relationship we have with the money. It is so beneficial to explore the beliefs that we were raised with about money and decide whether these beliefs serve you or create more stress in your life.   Managing risks and preparing for the short and long term by educating oneself on what skills are needed to be financially responsible now or if mistakes have been made, to learn from them and find resources to help get in a more stable position financially is also a part of creating financial wellness.

When you think about it and take all of these dimensions into consideration, it may seem overwhelming or even impossible to manage.  But the truth is each day we are confronted with several or potentially all of these dimensions and if we just strive to become aware of that and aware of our thoughts and ultimately our choices each day in these areas, in a very short time we will be moving forward quite significantly towards creating optimal health and wellbeing. 

Part of doing that is also being kind to ourselves along the way.  Be okay with working on any one of these areas whenever you can.  And understand that some days will be more stressful than others. 

And always remember that being well is seeking balance in these areas over time.  Striving to be honest with ourselves as to what areas we do need to work on and congratulating ourselves on what areas we are doing well in will go a long way towards reaching our wellness goals.

It’s pretty evident that one word, with only two little syllables can have a big impact in the short and long run.

Be well 😊

Stacey Roberts PT

Newyouhealthandwellness.com


SPRING HAS SPRUNG

WAKING UP

Spring is here. It seems as if the earth is coming back to life; the birds are singing, the fish in my pond are swimming and the tiny plants are poking through the ground.

BEING IN NATURE

The sun felt so good on my face today! Admittedly, I would have loved to be on a beach near the ocean; but today, just being with me, on my deck, listening the sounds of nature, was perfect.

EXCITEMENT FOR NEW PLANS

As I sat outside, I made a mental list of all the yard work I want to get a start on; rake the beds, sprinkle on the Preen before the weeds take over and order the mulch. I have 2 trees that sadly need to be taken down and beds that need to be re-landscaped. I love to plan and plant my garden and my pots. I had visions of fresh mint and basil and rosemary. I love cilantro too, but that seems to be a difficult one for me to cultivate. My pots and my garden are ready to go but planting in late March, in Wisconsin, is not a smart choice. So, I will plan and just enjoy the vision for now. Maybe I will even start a few of my own plants from seed this year.

LIGHTER IN EVERY WAY

Even my taste in food seemed different today. Maybe it was because this was my last day off before I head back to my day job and I made an effort to make it feel like vacation. Maybe it was because the sun was shining. Maybe it was because my mind was filled with plans for late spring and early summer. I am not sure of the reason but today I felt happy and my body wanted lighter food. I have been trying to cut caffeine out of my diet and I have been successful. but I still love a warm cup of coffee in the morning (organic swiss water decaf). I didn’t even feel the need for coffee today. Today I was craving a smoothie. I looked up a few recipes, but as usual, I ended up creating my own concoction. Frozen Blueberries, Cacao Powder, Lakanto Drinking Chocolate, Acacia Fiber, Hemp Seeds, Spinach, Milkadamia Milk and Ice. I was going to add a few dates to sweeten it up a bit, but today I was happy I forgot because it was perfect just the way it was.

CHOICES ARE AFFECTED BY HOW YOU FEEL

I have come to understand, how you feel on the inside really does have an effect on the choices you make in your life. I have been paying close attention to how my eating habits change based on how I feel. When I go to work, I bring my breakfast, lunch and dinner with me. Unless I plan poorly, those days are easy as far as food choices. I make good choices because I plan ahead and my mood doesn’t get a chance to influence those choices. Whether I am having a good day at work and the time is flying by or even if I am having a stressful day and struggling to make it to my lunch break, my food is predetermined. My biggest struggles are the days I have to do work that requires me to sit at my desk. Whether that is balancing my checkbook and sorting out finances, working on a wellness plan or writing a blog post. These days I find myself wanting to snack on something. I try to make healthy choices but I go from wanting something crunchy. so I have some sugar snap peas and hummus, to feeling the need for something sweet, so I go for the apple with a side of pecans or some dried unsweetened mango. Then it is time for lunch, even though I am not truly hungry. I think you get the picture, and I will stop here so I don’t startle you with admitting to some of my other choices. 

FOOD AS A DISTRACTION

I have noticed that I seem to use food as a distraction from the task I need to complete. Even when the task is something I enjoy, I still struggle with my choices. At the end of a day like that, I feel exhausted and I haven’t even moved my body (this of course is another part of the problem).

NO GUILT

In the past, I have felt guilty about having a “bad” eating day. I have been doing a lot of introspection and soul searching. I am trying to examine all of my different moods and how they affect my food “cravings.”  I tell myself the same thing I would tell a client or a friend or anyone else. You are not a bad person! You are just a human being having a human experience. This, for me, takes the guilt out of the equation and this is a huge and beneficial first step.

NEW IDEAS

Since spring is in the air and spring is the time for rebirth of new things and new ideas, it is time to try something new. I will continue to plan my food for the days I work. I will continue to allow myself to eat intuitively on my days off that I am active. I know the change needs to be implemented on the days when I need to spend a good portion of my day sitting at my desk, exercising my brain. On these days I need to plan my food and schedule breaks. I am optimistic that this change will be a key part of creating more balance in my life.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR SPRING?


WINTER MOTIVATION

WINTER IS UPON US

Winter is upon us! In the Midwest that means cold temperatures and lots of snow. I personally love the change of seasons in the Midwest, even winter. The air is clean and crisp, the snow covered trees are beautiful and there are so many fun things to do outside that you can’t do in any other season. 

HIBERNATION

Winter can also seem like a season of hibernation. Lounging on the couch under cozy blankets, reading books or just being lazy. This downtime can be just as rejuvenating as the outdoor activities. The key is to find the balance.

FINDING MOTIVATION

For me, excuses seem to be more prevalent in February than in any other month. The excitement and fun of the holiday season is past. The new year motivation may have dwindled a bit (or a lot). Staying nestled under the covers for just 10 more minutes becomes more of a daily habit than an occasional Saturday thing. I struggle to find ways to break free of this February hibernation.

BACK TO BASICS & FOCUS ON THE “WHY”

I recently went back to basics, to the first program I purchased from Health Mastery Institute (HMI), the 66 Day Health Mastery Program. I continue to be amazed by how much information packed into this program. Not only does it give you a detailed program to follow for a healthy diet, it also gives you all of the reasons and science behind the program. The beautiful bonus is that the program also gives you exercises to help with motivation and helps you focus on “why” you are working towards changing your lifestyle. I think this is the key to implementing a program into a lifestyle.

SKIP THE “ALL OR NOTHING” MENTALITY

One of my biggest challenges with taking on a lifestyle change is an “All or Nothing” type of thinking. For example, “I ate a slice of pizza when I came home from work because I was starving, now all my hard work is ruined” or “I haven’t worked out all week and now I feel more tired and sluggish, I’m too lazy to make any real changes.”  With this type of thinking and self talk you simply set yourself up for failure. 

THINK IN “SHADES OF GRAY”

A simple and profound concept that I learned from the 66 Day Health Mastery Program is to think in “Shades of Gray”. I am not 100% perfect even on a great day and this is ok. Shades of Gray means that I accept that I am not perfect and that I can gauge my day, and all of the elements within my day, on a scale of 0% to 100%. For example: “I worked a 10 hour shift, I ate healthy balanced food that I planned ahead of time, I went on a 15 minute walk and I had popcorn when I got home from work because I was “craving” something salty and crunchy.” If I focus on my choice of eating popcorn so close to bed and only getting a short walk in for exercise, I feel like I sabotaged the entire day. If I look at my entire day on a scale of 0% – 100%, I can give myself a 100% for work, 60% for exercise, and 80% for diet. 

WE LEARN MORE FROM OUR STRUGGLES THAN FROM OUR TRIUMPHS

In my opinion, we can learn more from our struggles than from our triumphs. I can learn from this day by looking more closely at how much I ate throughout the day and perhaps add something more to the food I bring to work or pre-plan to have something to eat when I get home from work. I can look at my 10 hour shift and my 15 minute walk and be happy that I got a little movement in. This can show me that I only have so many hours in the day and 15 minutes is not bad for that day. Even on a day where you have little motivation and you stress eat, but you pay bills and fold laundry and do dishes. This is still a productive day, just not one that feels great. So it is a 50% day and you get to have a different day tomorrow.

CHANGE “I SHOULD” TO “I GET TO”

This brings me to another pearl of wisdom from the 66 Day Health Mastery Program. Stop using “Should/Shouldn’t Statements.” I should exercise. I should do yoga. I should meditate. I shouldn’t eat donuts. Even though these statements are true, they make you feel rebellious, don’t they? Feeling rebellious makes you want to do the opposite. Simply rephrasing these statements can have an amazingly positive effect. I am able to exercise. I get to do yoga. I choose to meditate. I have the choice to eat that donut. You can still choose not to exercise on a particular day and that is ok, after all, it is your choice. Just because you choose not to exercise on a particular day does not negate the 10 other days that you were able to and choose to exercise.

DITCH THE DOUBLE STANDARD

Love yourself at least as much as you love your children, or your spouse or your parents or your best friend. Think about how you would respond to one of them if they choose not to exercise for a day or any other scenario you can think of. Then respond to yourself in the same manner.

LEARN FROM TODAY & MAKE DIFFERENT CHOICES TOMORROW

Winter is a season that can be challenging to find motivation. You can choose to do anything you want to do. Experiment with these little changes, how you approach your choices and how you evaluate them at the end of the day. Even a 15 minute walk, or completing household chores or eating popcorn and  watching a movie after a long day gets you better than 0%. Learn from today and make different choices tomorrow.