About three years ago, I was in a hard and painful season. I was going through some transitions I couldn’t understand, feeling lost and alone and…let’s call it what it was…depressed. I remember feeling like everything was out of my control. I felt myself withdrawing from friendships, neglecting my physical health, and spending money in ways I thought might make me feel better (but didn’t). All around, I just wasn’t doing well.

Around that time, I decided I needed to take control of something. So, I went to the gym for the first time in, well…too long. Working out became part of my daily routine. As I started to work on my physical health, I remember feeling like my mental health began to improve, too. When I was at the gym, I felt in control of my thoughts and emotions. I felt good about the choices I was making, which made me feel more confident. I found a new community, which helped me reconnect to myself and others. My wellness felt interconnected in a new way.

With everything going on in the world and our lives with COVID-19, I’ve found myself back in that place I was in a few years ago – feeling out of control and lost and exhausted, and honestly, a little bit apathetic about it all.

I recently remembered something I learned about years ago in graduate school. It’s called “The Wellness Wheel”. It’s a model that says there are seven unique aspects to wellness, and they integrate to make us “healthy” people. The idea is that if we only focus on one aspect of our health, we’re missing the point.

We’re missing out on a truly holistic way of living. Finding a sense of balance requires us to take a look at every aspect and to honestly consider where we’re thriving (and where we might be lacking). 

With the wheel and its seven dimensions in mind, I’ve put together a week of wellness practices, each day of the week focusing on one the seven dimensions of wellness. I invite you to join me for one week:

  • to together reflect on how much attention we typically give to each area of our lives
  • to find one small, practical way to practice each aspect of wellness, and
  • to become more in tune with who we were created to be

Sunday: Spiritual Wellness

Our spiritual wellness is about having a set of values and beliefs that add purpose to our lives and considering how our actions align with those values. Spending time exploring our spiritual lives, asking questions about our faith, and connecting to spiritual communities is crucial to our overall wellness. What better day of the week to practice spiritual wellness than Sunday?

Daily Practice Ideas:
  • Participate in some way with your community of faith. Attend church (online if you or your community is not able to meet in person yet), or meet up (virtually if necessary) with someone in your close community.
  • Write out a list of questions you currently have about your faith. Pray through one of these questions, expressing your doubts and fears to God.
  • Actively live out your values for others by finding an organization whose mission you can get behind, reaching out, and asking about current ways to support them.

Monday: Physical Wellness

Physical wellness means making choices that actively support the health and safety of our bodies. This doesn’t just mean exercise and food, although those are important. It’s also about sleep and how we manage stress and recognizing the toll our everyday lives can take on our physical bodies.

Daily Practice Ideas:
  • Find 30 minutes to get physical! Stand up, move around, go for a walk around the neighborhood, or get in a quick at-home workout.
  • Try cooking a new, healthy recipe for yourself or your family.
  • Commit to going to bed at a time that allows for at least 7 full hours of sleep.

Tuesday: Intellectual Wellness

When we practice intellectual wellness, we’re committed to being life-long learners, practicing creativity, and sharing knowledge with others. 

Daily Practice Ideas:
  • Read at least 25 pages of that book you’ve been meaning or wanting to read. You can do this over your morning coffee, over your lunch break, or right before bed.
  • Listen to an episode of a podcast that introduces you to new ideas or challenges your thinking. 
  • Spend 30 minutes in your creative element of choice, like painting or writing.

Wednesday: Emotional Wellness

Emotional wellness refers to how well we can understand and express our emotions. Hello, enneagram 3 over here…expressing emotions is not my strongest suit! But, knowing how to handle our emotions has a huge effect on how we manage stress and cope with life in general.

Daily Practice Ideas:
  • At the end of the day, make a list of three things you were grateful for that day. Take a moment to process the joy and positivity you feel.
  • Be vulnerable with someone you trust. If you’re hanging on to an emotion, take time to process through it, and then share it with someone.
  • Apologize to someone for something you’ve been holding on to. This is one way to practice coping with negative feelings without the burden of self-criticism.

Thursday: Financial Wellness

Financial wellness allows us to be content about where we are financially, both now and as we look into the future. Money can be an uncomfortable thing for people to talk about, so sometimes we neglect our financial wellness in an attempt to avoid thinking about it altogether. And for many, COVID-19 has added additional financial stress and worry.

Daily Practice Ideas:
  • Take a look at your spending over the past month, paying attention to the categories that went over your budget.
  • Make a list of three things you want right now and three things you need right now. Learning how to tell the difference is so important for our financial wellness.
  • Take a spend-free day. Cook from what’s in your pantry and put off other unnecessary expenses.

Friday: Social Wellness

Our social wellness relates to how strong our support networks are and the general quality of our relationships with other people. For most of us, COVID-19 has severely stripped our social wellness, leaving us without opportunities to gather and connect the way we’re used to.

Daily Practice Ideas:
  • Call a friend without a purpose or agenda – just call to check-in.
  • Resolve conflict in your household. With so much time being spent at home with partners and kids, it’s likely that some forms of conflict have come up. Don’t avoid these situations. Approach them confidently with grace and compassion.
  • Schedule a social gathering for your friends (plan this one in advance!), and if necessary, make it virtual. Schedule a game night, wine and cheese night, a painting party…there are many things that you can do face-to-face as well as virtually, so get creative!

Saturday: Environmental Wellness

The last dimension is environmental wellness, and it’s probably the one most of us think about the least. Environmental wellness means taking care of our environment, from our households to our local communities to the globe.

Daily Practice Ideas:
  • Declutter a room in your house! Environmental wellness starts at home.
  • Try a day of meatless meals. Eating less meat is great for the environment, and it’s fun to try new creative ways of cooking!
  • Go outside and enjoy and appreciate nature. This could be watching the sunset from your patio or going with your family on a hike somewhere local.

A week of wellness. Simple, daily practices to help us be more intentional about how we’re doing.  Knowing that we are wholly and wonderfully made and loved already, just as we are, we do these practices with self-compassion and gratitude. We do them because we are uniquely wired to do good work. And in order to show up fully and authentically for others, we have to keep growing and do the hard work of getting to know ourselves.

Be well, dear friends.