Our Whole Health: A Different Kind of Balance Sheet
As working parents, we pride ourselves on our ability to balance work, family and household responsibilities, proclaiming ourselves “healthy” in the absence of any diagnosed illness. But for all our efforts, do we really feel balanced? At the end of the day, do we fall short of feeling truly well?
Perhaps we need to consider a new kind of “balance sheet”: one that invites us to pay attention, not just to physical symptoms, but to the health of our whole person.
Our whole health “balance sheet”has five (5) essential variables:
- physical health
- nutritional health
- environmental health
- emotional health
- spiritual health (connectedness with ourselves, others and the world around us)
Changes in any of these variables that make up our whole health create a ripple effect that impacts the bottom line of how we feel. Let’s use stress as an example: Our brains and bodies are designed to operate under short-term stress (think of how we’re able to jump out of the path of a oncoming bus). Unfortunately, we don’t fare as well under prolonged stressful conditions—the kind imposed by our modern-day work and family environments. Chronic stress increases our cortisol levels and prompts storage of abdominal fat, compromising our heart health and lowering our immunity. It also triggers food cravings as our brains call for a sugar fix to provide instant energy, and for sugar and fat-laden foods to provide “feel good” neurotransmitters that temporarily soothe frayed emotions. Over time, these food choices lead to impaired insulin sensitivity, suppressed immunity, problematic cholesterol levels and chronic inflammation. Chronic stress can also invoke feelings of isolation that further hinder our ability to maintain our health. So what can we do to avoid this cascade of health-robbing effects? By understanding how the five aspects of our whole health are interrelated and why we feel the way we do, we become empowered to choose for ourselves diet and lifestyle changes that can help guard against the ravages of stress. These might include eating more whole (unprocessed) foods, engaging in regular physical exercise, exploring relaxation techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises, and making time to connect with friends, get involved with a community of people with similar interests, and to enjoy the outdoors.
Would you like to become a more active participant in your own wellness? Start by taking a look at your whole health “balance sheet,” and considering which aspects of your health–physical, nutritional, environmental, emotional and spiritual– might benefit from some extra care and attention.
You may contact Donna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donna Moore is an attorney, employee wellness consultant and registered yoga teacher (RYT). Having advised employers for over a decade on a range of employment and benefits related matters, she is dedicated to designing and implementing workplace wellness initiatives that recognize the practical realities of working lives and operate to the mutual benefit of employers and employees.