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Wellness, Mental Wellness and Trauma Recovery

Wellness has become a powerful buzz word that is currently being used to describe a variety of experiences. This is particularly noticeable in January, as this is the month of “the new me”. And although wellness is actually very important, it often gets confused or misunderstood by many. When you think about wellness, what words come to mind?

Maybe you believe that wellness is about always being happy, or having the perfect self-care routine that includes a warm bath, candles, and a good book. Or maybe you have been told that you have wellness if you don’t have a mental illness, or that wellness can only come to fruition when you are stress-free.

But wellness is more than that. Wellness is dimensional, because it is not just one thing. Instead, it is made up of dimensions that add to your life in a positive and meaningful way.

Several studies have identified eight dimensions to wellness. These are:

  1. Emotional: the way we cope and manage life and relationships

  2. Environmental: this focuses on the spaces we occupy that add to our daily life

  3. Financial: the satisfaction we might have with current and any future financial situations

  4. Intellectual: feeling intellectually stimulated and having creativity

  5. Physical: taking care of our physical health

  6. Occupational: having personal satisfaction with our professional life

  7. Social: experiencing meaningful and important relationships

  8. Spiritual: the way we might perceive our purpose and meaning in life

Think about it this way. If you are having a difficult day, do you notice that you are more likely to feel better when you make changes in different areas of your life? Or only when you focus on one? It’s likely the former… as we tend to look at the dimensions of our life and assess how each one may or may not be contributing to a difficult day. Continuing with the example above, after assessing in more detail your day, you might notice that:

- you didn’t wake up on time to make it to your morning movement/active session

- you skipped lunch

- you were reactive with others

- you had a difficult time focusing at work because of an argument with your partner

- your work deadline was moved to tomorrow, so you don’t have a lot of time to finish your project

- you are struggling to feel connected to your friends

- you have been sleeping on your couch because there was a leak in your bedroom and it is getting fixed

As you can see, there are different areas to what led you to have a difficult day. It’s the accumulation of all of these experiences that set the stage for the way the day turned out. So when we look at wellness, we want to make a big picture assessment of each of these dimensions. Which dimensions played a part in your well-being today? How did you address each dimension?

It’s also important to address mental wellness after trauma. When someone has mental wellness, they will be emotionally and psychologically healthy. They will also have better relationships, a greater sense of purpose, and more fruitful and powerful experiences at work, school or with others. Trauma can immediately shatter this for many, so prioritizing mental wellness is crucial for recovery.

Mental wellness in trauma recovery might look like:

  1. identifying old negative beliefs and how they shape you

  2. noticing experiences that don't align with those negative beliefs

  3. nourishing relationships that bring you joy, calm and safety

  4. choosing to respond instead of react

  5. giving back to others or to the community

  6. reframing challenges and mistakes

As you reflect on what wellness and mental wellness might mean for you and how it might look like in your life, use the dimensions listed above. Remember, it is the accumulation of all of these dimensions that can improve your overall wellness (and mental wellness). This is all part of your trauma recovery.

If you are starting your trauma recovery process and are looking for some additional resources, check out my new workbook. It has over 100 pages, and it is full of information to help you explore many of these dimensions in the context of trauma recovery. Click here for more information.

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