If you are anything like me, striving for better wellbeing is never too far from your mind. We all know what wellbeing is and what we “should” be doing to make ourselves feel better, ease the path of menopause, and reduce the risks of umpteen different diseases.
The UK NHS states that there are 5 steps to mental wellbeing: Connection, physical activity, learn new skills, give to others, mindfulness.
But can we do it ALL consistently?
There is plentiful advice out there from various experts in their field but if you follow what each one of them advises it turns wellbeing into a full-time job! For those of us who already have full time jobs at home and work, wellbeing is often shoved to the bottom of the ever expanding to do list. That has been the case for me for years. After everything else was done, I was simply too tired to do anything more.
I am a self-confessed (recovering) people pleaser and perfectionist. I had an all or nothing approach to wellbeing. It had to be done to extremely high standards, at the allotted time, and achieve the desired results quickly. So yes, I set myself up to fail from the outset and found the whole business of wellbeing overwhelming. It was easier to focus on other things and keep busy.
Don’t get me wrong, I tried to do it. I thought that the keystone to wellbeing was exercise, and I had a stop start approach to gym memberships and running. Coupled with a growing resentment that my husband ALWAYS prioritised time for exercise, I failed to realise was that mine was not a winning strategy when it came to self-care. Exercise never became embedded in my routine, and I could always find an excuse to stop more than to start. My lack of attention to wellbeing contributed to episodes of burnout but also taught me some valuable life lessons (eventually).
It is only relatively recently that I considered other activities and approaches to life could be part of wellbeing. And even better, I was already doing some of it without realising. Wellbeing could be part of my life in a sustainable way that worked for me.
At the start of the year, I decided to name my pillars of wellbeing as: exercise (cardio/strength training/walking), nutrition (I hate the negative connotations of the word diet), mindfulness, rest/relaxation, and self-compassion.
I started small and decided to focus on exercise to rehab my broken ankle sustained at the end of 2022. I find that once I start to exercise more, the quality of my nutrition starts to improve. I still have days where I could eat better but I am ok with that.
I struggle with mindfulness and know that I get close to, what I call, mindfulness when I am walking or being creative. I have my best ideas when I am out walking, and I can switch off my brain chatter when I garden, knit, or sew. Three deep breaths are all that I seem to manage if I try to do breathing exercises, so three will do.
Rest and relaxation are important pillars of wellbeing and sleep is vital for my mood. Sweaty nights and menopause wreak havoc sometimes, but exercise and HRT are working wonders for that. I also include watching TV, reading, socialising, and me time in my relaxation/rest pillars.
Self-compassion is an ongoing project. I am learning to be a kinder friend to myself. The overwhelm that usually accompanies my attempts at wellbeing is reducing and as a result I am maintaining forward momentum.
Six strategies to help you manage wellbeing overwhelm
If you are feeling overwhelmed by wellbeing adding itself to the never-ending list of things that you “should” be doing, then I offer these 6 strategies:
- Turn your “shoulds” into “coulds.” When you think that you should be doing something, it adds an extra layer of guilt and shame that you do not need in your life. When you could do something, it infuses a sense of possibility and purpose. The feeling of resentment also reduces.
- Decide what YOUR pillars of wellbeing are. Your pillars do not have to be the same as everyone else’s. You might find it helpful to use a Wheel of life coaching tool to see where you are now and where you would like to be.
- Do one small thing. What I mean by this is to start small instead of doing everything all at once. I decided to focus on exercise at the start of the year. Set a goal if you find that helpful. I wanted to be able to do one full push up by the end of the year. It has taken 53 years and 4 months of strength training, but I have done it this week!
- If you have a crap day/week/month, that’s OK. Dust yourself off and start again the next day. Remember that you are human just like the rest of us.
- Accountability works well for when CBA (Can’t Be Arsed) kicks in. See if you can find an accountability buddy. I enrolled in “My Peak Challenge” this year and enjoy doing the strength workouts. I also joined one of the Facebook ambassador groups and find that posting my workout means that I am more likely to do something (however small). The group is filled with lovely cheerleaders.
- Do not compare yourself to others. Focus on being you. You already know how to be the best version of yourself so use that knowledge to your advantage. The strategies that make you successful in other areas of your life will also help you to improve your wellbeing.
One of the coaching tools that can be useful for addressing balance in your life is the Wheel of life. It is one of the tools that I use in my online coaching course “Your Life, Your Rules, Your Way.” It is a great tool for visualising how balanced things really are right now and then, after you make changes, as a tool to assess your progress. To find out more about the course please click the link.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) promotes wellbeing on an individual and societal level:
“Well-being is a positive state experienced by individuals and societies. Similar to health, it is a resource for daily life and is determined by social, economic and environmental conditions. Well-being encompasses quality of life and the ability of people and societies to contribute to the world with a sense of meaning and purpose.”
The WHO outlines 5 key action areas:
- design an equitable economy that serves human development within planetary boundaries;
- create public policy for the common good;
- achieve universal health coverage;
- address the digital transformation to counteract harm and disempowerment and to strengthen the benefits; and
- value and preserve the planet.
The global perspective highlights many other areas that you can have a positive impact on wellbeing. If we all take one small step, they add up to something worthwhile.