Written by Emily James
October is Mental Health Month, a time where words like “wellness,” “wellbeing” and “self-care” become hot topics in workplaces and on social media. But how often have you stopped to consider what these practices actually are, and more importantly, how they can help you?
In this article, we’ll take you through what wellness actually is and why it’s important for everyone. We’ll also discuss some simple ways you can practise wellness in order to elevate your physical and mental health, and link some extra resources you can use to support your wellbeing:
- What is wellness?
- Why is wellness important?
- How can I practise wellness meaningfully?
- Where can I get extra support in practising wellness?
What is wellness?
Wellness is defined as the state of being in good health and aiming to maintain healthy habits in the long term. Pfizer describes wellness in more detail as “the act of practising healthy habits on a daily basis to attain better physical and mental health outcomes, so that instead of just surviving, you’re thriving.” You may also hear this concept referred to as “wellbeing” or “health and wellbeing,” which are different terms for the same principle of keeping well, especially when life gets busy.
To understand the concept of wellness more easily, it can be helpful to break it down into smaller categories. Here are some areas of your health you can start your focus on wellness with:
- Physical health: caring for your body through a healthy diet, regular exercise and appropriate amounts of sleep.
- Mental health: engaging with your surroundings by employing creativity, critical thinking and problem solving.
- Emotional health: acknowledging, accepting and processing your feelings and the feelings of others in a healthy way.
- Social health: developing meaningful connections and relationships with others, such as our families, friends, colleagues and wider community.
- Environmental health: connecting with the natural environment and making a conscious decision to care for nature (e.g., plants and animals).
- Spiritual health: finding meaning and purpose in one’s life. This can be informed by your faith, but does not need to be.
By focusing on these areas individually, improving your health and wellbeing can feel less overwhelming. You may find that some areas are more important to you than others, or some areas require more time and energy, and that’s totally fine. Tailoring your health and wellbeing strategies to suit your individual needs will give you the best chance at maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Why is wellness important?
Now that we’ve established what wellness actually is, you may be wondering why it’s actually important. Maybe you already exercise regularly, or have a great support system you can turn to during stressful times. However, a closer look at your habits might reveal that you’ve been neglecting certain areas of your wellbeing. Your diet may be excellent, but are you getting enough sleep? You might be a great listener when your friends need advice, but are you turning to them for help when you need it? These are questions you should ask yourself regularly to ensure you’re giving your body and mind what they need to function at their best.
It’s also no secret that nursing is a more physically and emotionally demanding career than most. Whether you’re a nursing student juggling your studies with work and other commitments, or an experienced nurse constantly picking up extra shifts, nurses often struggle to make time and space to look after their own health and wellbeing. As a result, practising wellness meaningfully as a nurse is especially critical, and can make an enormous difference to your life both inside and outside of work.
How can I practise wellness meaningfully?
We all lead very busy lives, and nurses in particular can feel that they never have time to focus on their wellbeing. However, practising wellness doesn’t have to be complicated, or take up hours of your time. Even just a minute or two of focus on your wellbeing can see a huge improvement in your physical and mental health, and by starting small with your wellness habits, you’ll be more likely to continue them in the long term, or build on them where possible. A small effort is always better than no effort at all.
So, how can you stick to your wellness practises? Here are a few tips and tricks designed to help nurses prioritise their wellbeing without compromising their other commitments:
- Maintain a healthy diet and drink plenty of water
- Exercise regularly (health.gov.au recommends exercising on most if not all days of the week, as well as avoiding long periods of sitting and sedentary time).
- Organise regular catch ups with your family and friends
- Get enough sleep
- Find a hobby unrelated to your job that provides distraction and fulfilment
- Plan your days and weeks in advance to get an idea of your busier periods and to leave time for rest and relaxation
- Implement mindfulness and meditation into your daily routine (use the links provided for more information on these concepts for beginners)
- Reflect on what you’re grateful for, what you enjoy and where you could improve on your health and lifestyle habits regularly
There are also resources and activities developed specifically for nurses and their specific health and wellbeing needs. The Nursewell app, for example, provides activities and resources that you can utilise as an individual or with others in your social circle or workplace. Find out more about the app and download it for free here. Alternatively, you can also use the Wellness Plan created by Nurse and Midwife Support to identify the strengths and areas of improvement in relation to your wellbeing in a visual way.
Where can I get extra support in practising wellness?
Managing your mental health independently can be very empowering, and can give you the skills and knowledge to encourage others in your life to do the same. However, there can be times in our lives that we need some additional support to maintain or improve our mental health. No matter how big or small your problems may feel, asking for help is a great sign of strength and can help your life for the better.
Remember, everyone’s health and wellbeing needs are different, meaning we’ll all interpret wellness differently. There’s no right or wrong way to practise wellness: your only priority should be your health and taking care of yourself.
If you feel like you need some extra support with managing your health and wellbeing, there are a range of resources and people you can turn to. You can visit this site compiling major mental health organisations in Australia to find a mental health provider that suits your needs, or you can chat to your GP to get a referral to a mental health specialist. If you are in crisis and need to talk to someone immediately, call Lifeline now on 13 11 14.
Disclaimer: The information and advice provided in this article is general in nature. For information specific to your individual circumstances, please speak with your healthcare provider.
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