What do you think of when you hear the word Wellness? Do you think of weight, nutrition and exercise? Those are all important parts of general health and wellness, but there are also many other areas that contribute to an individual’s overall wellness, or as I like to call it, your Whole Life Wellness. These include things like self-care, financial health, job satisfaction and personal relationships.
When I work with coaching clients. We look at their whole life – what is working and what isn’t- to determine the right areas of focus for creating sustainable, positive lifestyle change. Approaching your wellness with a holistic view – one that takes into account more than just the number on the bathroom scale or the amount of calories you eat in a day – allows you see the big picture of your whole life and make changes where you feel most ready. This helps eliminate fad diets and exercise regimes that are destined to failure and instead, builds upon a person’s existing strengths and healthy habits.
To do this, I use a tool called The Wheel of Wellness, which helps you examine your life and give you a visual of how balanced or unbalanced certain areas are. This exercise helps you identify areas that you are ready to change – right now.
There are many different versions of the Wheel of Wellness. Here at The BOM, I created a custom version that I use with my clients – most of whom are busy working women. It breaks down wellness into eight areas that most often affect women’s whole life wellness:
Nutrition – Often food is the biggest area that women focus on when trying to improve their health and wellness. When it comes to nutrition, are you happy with your diet? Are their areas that you want to improve, like eating more vegetables or drinking less soda? What have your previous habits been when it comes to eating a well-balanced diet? What is your idea of a healthy, well balanced diet? In the past have you started and stopped new diets? The Wheel of Wellness can help you think about past behaviors and help you development a new way to approach a healthier relationship with food and establish sustainable changes for better health.
Movement – Notice I don’t use the word exercise. Exercise for many people (like me) has a negative connotation. It is something we have to do. It becomes another chore on our to-do list and as such, we don’t enjoy it. Movement can be anything that gets you up and moving, such as dancing, yardwork, or a formal exercise program. As someone who sits a computer for a bulk of the day, I felt the effects of sitting too long. My muscles start to scrunch up (that is totally a technical term) and I would be fatigued in the afternoon, even though I hadn’t done anything to physically exert myself. There are many other unintended consequences of too much sitting. Sitting is actually referred to as the new smoking because of its negative effect on personal wellness. According to Dr. James Levine, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and leading researcher on the health hazards of sitting too much “People who sit more are more prone to cancers, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon, I mean, multiple cancers”. It’s more important than ever to get your body moving in some way, every day. I am a firm believer that movement should be enjoyable. I encourage you to rethink the idea of exercise and look for ways to add enjoyable movement to your daily routine.
Self-Care – Do you take time for yourself? Do you prioritize your health and wellness? How do you cope with stress? Are you able to express your emotions (both happy and sad) to others? Or do you keep things pent up inside you? Do you keep your mind stimulated by learning new skills or is your down time filled with Netflix binges and staring at your phone? Just like lifting weights builds strong muscles, learning new skills helps keep your brain alert. How do you talk to yourself? Are you kind and patient or do you degrade yourself and have little respect for yourself and your accomplishments? Do you practice the fine art of saying ‘no’? Women often feel guilty when they take time for themselves, but it is absolutely essential. By making time to do the things that are good for our body, mind and soul, we show up in the world as our best selves.
Career – Are you living your life’s purpose? Do you know what kind of work makes you happy? Are you open to new ideas? Do you challenge yourself to learn new skills? Do you find fulfillment in your current job? If not, how do you cope with that? For example, do you gravitate toward the vending machine before starting a boring report? Do you drink excessive alcohol after work, in an effort to forget about the day? How is your work-life balance? Do you feel compelled to work in the evenings and on weekends? People with balanced occupational wellness are able to find joy and purpose in their work, even if it is not their ‘dream’ job and they keep healthy boundaries around work time and personal time.
Financial – This can be a sticky wicket for in a person’s Whole Life Wellness. When your financial life is a mess it causes a lot of stress. Often lots of bad habits (overeating, overspending, fighting with family) develop as way to deal with that financial stress. Tackling financial wellness may be big and scary for some people – but it is absolutely necessary, in order to have balance and harmony in all areas of your life.
Environmental – is the space in which you live. This includes your home, your work and your community. Are these places safe? Welcoming? Does they comfort you or cause you stress? Cleaning up these spaces can literally and figuratively free you from clutter that is keeping your from living your best life.
Social – Relationships are an important part of our overall wellness. This doesn’t mean that you have to oodles of friends, but you should have meaningful relationships with those you care about. Do you have a strong social support network? Do you able to maintain old friendship and make new friends? Are you satisfied in this area of your life?
Family – For some, family can be a huge motivator for healthy change and a source of support. For others, family can be the trickiest part of their Whole Life Wellness – after all, we can change our jobs or our diets, but we can’t change our family. If the area of family is a source of ongoing stress and frustration, ask yourself how you can make changes in your life or behavior to make that area less stressful. This could look like delegating household chores, establishing better communication with your spouse and children, setting clear boundaries, having clear expectations for you immediate family members.
For each area on the Wheel of Wellness, indicate how satisfied you are on a scale of 1 (least) to 10 (most).
Once you’ve completed your Wheel of Wellness, think about how even or uneven it looks. Are there areas that you would like to improve? If so, where would you like to see it move on the scale?
For example, if you want to improve your physical wellness by eating a healthier diet, you may decide that you need to eat more vegetables every day. You know that eating more veggies is important for reducing diseases like cancer and diabetes. You also know that eating more veggies will probably help you lose weight. So, on an intellectual level, you know you should eat more vegetables. Right? (we all know that). But how do you FEEL about eating more vegetables? Thinking about your current vegetable consumption – let’s say it’s one or two servings a day. How do you FEEL when you think about increasing that to the recommended 5-9 servings a day? Write that down. It’s okay to be scared, to be sad, or on the flipside, to be excited. It’s important to acknowledge how you feel because it will help you think about what actions you can take now, to help you feel more ready for making those bigger changes later on.
For each area ask yourself the following questions:
It’s important to look at your whole life wellness, even if you only want to focus on one or two areas. Before you can make any changes in your focus areas, you may discover that you have to make changes in other areas first. When I work with clients, the most common focus area is losing weight. When we review their Wheel of Wellness there’s usually stuff happening outside of their physical wellness that is preventing them from making lasting change. Not having enough time to exercise or prepare healthy meals are common issue among the working moms that I coach. If this is the case, we may opt to tackle self-care or work-life balance first, so they can be better prepared to make other changes directly related to weight loss.
For example, one busy working mom I coached, Lisa, wanted to lose weight. However, when she completed the Wheel of Wellness, she rated her self-care at a 3. It became clear that this was an area that she needed to tackle, before focusing on weight loss. Lisa felt like she didn’t have any time to exercise or eat healthy. She just felt overwhelmed between work and family obligations. What she really needed to feel better was some time to herself. Like many working moms, Lisa felt tremendous guilt about not spending all of her free time with her two children. Her kids missed her and wanted to be with her as soon as she got home from work. Through the Wheel of Wellness exercise, Lisa acknowledged that even though she wanted to, she was not ready to add exercise or new healthy diet habits into her life just yet – making that kind of commitment would have just made her feel even more overwhelmed and guilty.
As Lisa went through the Wheel of Wellness questions and created her Whole Life Wellness Vision, she realized that she needed to take some time for herself, in order to be the best mother she could be. Over the next month, Lisa practiced taking time for herself. She went to grocery store alone. She scheduled her annual health check-up, counting it as ME Time. She set aside time to get her hair done and set up a date night for herself and her husband. She found ways to recharge that worked for her and her lifestyle. The next month when we met, she was ready to make those changes that more directly affected her physical wellness, such as meal prep and incorporating daily exercise into her routine. Even though her initial goal was to lose weight, upon closer inspection Lisa had to embrace self-care as a way to lead a healthier and more balanced life. She also had to give herself permission to shed some of the mother’s guilt around wanting some ME Time.
Between now and next week’s class your homework is to think about the Whole Life Wellness areas you want to change over the next 12 weeks. I want you to spend some time thinking about why you want to make change in these areas. Why are these changes important to you?
After you’ve completed the Wheel of Wellness Exercise, select up to three areas to work on over the next 12 weeks. Even if you want to make improvement to all 8 areas of your Wheel of Wellness, limit it to no more than three, to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed by too much change at one time. Remember this is a journey – not a destination. Once you have made progress in one area, you can move on to the next area.
Next week we will work on creating a Whole Life Wellness Vision Statement. What does your Best Self look like and feel like? What does your perfect day look like? Be thinking of these things between and next class. To help you think about what your best life looks like, I’m giving away my FREE Big Beautiful Life Workbook, designed to help working women set and get big beautiful goals!
I’d love to hear about your Wheel of Wellness. What areas are going well and where do you want to make changes. Be sure to check in and share at The BOM on Facebook!