Now more than ever, wellness is at the front of all our minds. So, what is wellness and how does it relate to our mental health?
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) definition is “Wellness is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
We all have mental health and it can vary throughout our lives, depending on our experiences and life situations. Lockdown has had a heightened effect on our mental health with:
- Increased use of technology to work, shop and socialise.
- Feelings of isolation, physical absence or loss of loved ones.
- Being locked up with family, without space or a channel to release.
Yet, mental health may still not be an easy subject to talk about.
Growing up in a small village, my mum suffered with her mental health. She was highly intelligent, yet never got true help. As a young child and teenager, I remember experiencing ridicule, shame and prejudice towards my mum’s mental health, often from adults. It stayed with me for a long time. My experience brought firsthand understanding and empathy for those suffering from mental health problems.
I now know that, with professional support, peoples’ stories can turn out to be very different. Tough experiences can help us develop grit and resilience. With support and new purpose, people can achieve great heights.
Public figures are now talking about, and not hiding from, their own experiences of mental ill-health. Be that anxiety, panic attacks and depression to repeated feelings of low mood and feeling unwell.
Sports personalities like England’s Football Team Manager Gareth Southgate and film superheroes like Chris Evans (Captain America) are sharing their experiences. English actor and comedian Stephen Fry is a well-known figurehead and the President of UK’s Mind. Young royals like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and their ‘Heads Together’ campaign all help to reduce the stigma around mental health.
However, we can still hold mental and emotional scars. Our wounds can surface when we least expect, especially when we are under extreme stress. Taking the time to be kind and tend to our wounds first can bring about healing and great strength, building our capacity to support ourselves, and others.
A trip to Tibet taught me about the power of kindness and compassion, not yet so familiar in our UK culture, and the great impact this can have to heal ourselves and others.
Dr. J Travis’ Wellness Inventory Workbook is brilliant, a really useful starting point. A progression of his “Illness – Wellness Continuum”, that he developed for the medical profession in the 1970s. Dr Travis’ inventory enables clients to self-assess, and then plot their strengths and areas of deficit, bridging the gap in traditional medicine – revealing the interconnectedness between our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.
In this holistic approach, “thinking, feeling and sensing” all make up the elements of mental health, whereas “work and play, relationships and communication” form part of our emotional health. Developing self-awareness and self-responsibility is empowering, bringing the choice to act – be that to talk to a trusted friend, to seek professional help, via a therapist, coach or the NHS / GP or to leave alone at this time.