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Pathways to wellness

Updated: Aug 30, 2020

Written in collaboration with Dr. Eynav Accortt



Wellness is the new buzz word these days, especially as we face the recent challenges of COVID-19. As the pandemic and its effects drag on for months it seems that the world has finally woken up to the importance of wellness.

What is wellness? Is it purely subjective? Is it objective? If you ask me, I would say it is a combination of both.

I always tell people that I was truly born at the age of 25 (over 2 decades ago). This is when I woke up to the meaning of wellness for me, realizing what works in my world and what doesn’t. Learning what works is a process, which is the reason why I chose to change my life so drastically and to pursue a career in wellness.

As I navigate the pathways to my own wellness, I discover more layers of my bio-individuality. It is a beautiful process. If at times it feels uncomfortable, I have learned to embrace this process.

In the past 20 years I have discovered that wellness is a balance and a dance of a few fundamental elements that are non-negotiable: meaningful relationships, my home environment, stable emotional health, consistent movement/physical activity, enjoyment and contentment in my career, and last but not least, real, wholesome unprocessed food.

Dr. Accortt and I chose this beautiful cairn picture to represent our blog post because it symbolizes the delicate balance of the needs and wants in one’s life… the ones that give you strength and depth and are not to be compromised. The ones that lead to overall wellness.

Please remember, the more stones you add on your bio-individual cairn, the more you have to balance, and it could potentially become unstable. This could lead to feeling overwhelmed or pulled in too many directions.

What do you choose to balance on yours?

Inhale love and exhale gratitude,

e.


I always thought that “wellness” was just another way to say good mental health. Or if I was in an inclusive mood and wanted to consider physical health too, that it was the opposite of disease. Wellness is so much more! As you can see in this image there are actually (at least) six dimensions of wellness, developed by Bill Hettler, MD, in 1976. This interdependent model describes a whole person approach to wellness.

We often focus on the physical and emotional pathways but what encourages me is that we can improve our wellness on the other dimensions and have improvement trickle over! For example, when we take (drag) our kids hiking they eventually get lost in the beauty of our surrounding hills too. We can teach them all about nature while getting physical exercise, spiritually connect with the Earth and connect with our loved ones, and it all leads to an improvement in our mood.

COVID-19 is a new virus and there is a never-ending stream of updates. The uncertainty about the virus and the changes that are rapidly unfolding no doubt make most of us feel on edge. COVID related stress can certainly interfere with our pathways to wellness! This is normal, and mild anxiety can actually motivate us to take to take action to protect ourselves and others, and to learn more about the pandemic. That being said, we all like stability, routine, and a sense of control over our environments and experience tremendous stress when there are disruptions in our normal lives! Despite these disruptions and daily challenges, there are several steps you can take to optimize your overall wellness and thrive in the face of COVID-19.

As a perinatal mental health specialist, the majority of my suggestions below are geared towards pregnant and new mothers but can be applied to anyone!

1. Prioritize Self-Care: Remember the acronym R.E.S.T. (image below) and keep in mind that during these unique times self-care might include limiting/minimizing your media/news consumption and being creative about how you exercise:


2. Access Social Support: Related to Therapy, above, social support can be invaluable at this time - especially for women who have mild (not severe) symptoms of anxiety, depression or stress. However, COVID-19 presents unique barriers to engaging supports, particularly those outside of the home. Partners are a logical first choice, but if one is not present (or able), it may be helpful to seek outside help from family or friends. One silver lining in the COVID-19 cloud is that many restrictions on telehealth – particularly teletherapy and telepsychiatry – have been lifted. Many providers and support groups have quickly pivoted to offer meetings and therapy online. Here are some notable resources for women who are pregnant or new moms struggling with anxiety or depression: Postpartum Support International offers daily on-line support groups, links to local resources in all 50 states, and an online provider directory. The Bloom Foundation hosts virtual support groups. Maternal Mental Health Now has designed a new resource to help you feel prepared to adjust to the emotional demands, joys, and stressors of trying to conceive, pregnancy and parenting.

3. Experience all of your emotions: Dr. Kessler who is the world’s foremost expert on grief was recently interviewed and suggested that we are currently experiencing several types of griefs (collective, anticipatory). All of the feelings that come along with this COVID-related grief are overwhelming and trying to stop them to avoid feeling sad or angry in our grief will not help. Kessler says: When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad." Give yourself permission to feel. Disappointment around creating a new birth plan? Anxious about rescheduling your baby shower? Let those feelings move through you and move on. "Let yourself feel the grief and keep moving." 4. Radical Acceptance: Taking the approach of radical acceptance can be important when dealing with an overwhelming situation such as the current one. It is about recognizing and accepting the truth of the situation, even if it is difficult. It is also not burying our heads in the sand. For example, it is not continuing with our daily routine like nothing has changed. Many of our typical routines have changed substantially. It is recognizing what is and where we can act and respond accordingly. It is realizing what is out of our control, but also what is within our control.

Especially now, during the COVID pandemic, I encourage you to give yourself a Wellness Week! Take a few hours and focus on how you can improve your wellness on at least 3 of the 6 dimensions pictured above. Simple steps like going for a walk can make significant changes to your health and well-being!


Dr. Eynav Accortt

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