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Keys to Thriving: Why Burnout Cannot Only Be Treated

Posted By Chuck Gillespie, Monday, July 8, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Burnout has been classified as an occupational phenomenon by the World Health Organization (WHO). Just to be clear, occupation is defined as a job or profession. For some, that profession might be unpaid like caregiver or stay-at-home parent.

How is burnout resolved?Burnout occurs when physical strength, emotional strength, and/or motivation has reached a level of complete exhaustion, usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration. The issue of burnout goes beyond a treatment and diagnosis discussion. Certainly, understanding burnout is important and providing help is essential, but what strategies can be deployed to create a thriving environment at work or at home to reduce chances of burnout? What are employers, family members, friends, or you doing to determine how burnout occurs? Is it environmental or is it the culture of their workplace? Is it homelife? Maybe it is self-inflicted. Research shows a high percentage of people are disengaged at work and at home. Gallup’s Global Emotions Report indicates a high number of angry and unhappy people. These are statistics that should trigger action; but what are those actions?

Plenty of people will be happy to sell you a one-size-fits-all reactive program that promises high investment returns and allows the employer to check the box that they are doing something. A simple-to-implement-and-administer program might help individuals with burnout, but it will not solve the inherent problem. You are helping those people who have already burned-out—not resolving the reason it is occurring. Action like this is like fixing an oil leak in your car by adding more oil. It is easy to do, and you can say you are reacting to the problem. It is better than ignoring the problem altogether, but the problem still exists.

Enter your wellness strategy. How is burnout resolved? Ignoring it not the answer but is usually the course of action for many. It begins with looking at your environment and what can be done to make changes in the short-term and long-term. Are there opportunities to delegate workloads or allocate new methods that are more efficient? Are there ways to simplify the work? What training and education is available? These are all questions each individual, each employer, and each community must really analyze before taking action. But how do we go from burnout to thriving?

2019 National Wellness ConferenceConsider attending the 44th Annual National Wellness Conference (NWC), October 1-3, 2019, in Kissimmee, Fla., where more than 90 presenters will share keys to thriving in all Six Dimensions of Wellness. For even more ways to prevent burnout, come early and attend one of the National Wellness Institute’s Certificate courses focused on Resilience, Elements of Thriving, Worksite Wellness, or Financial Wellness. Through your participation in NWC 2019, you will discover simple ways to make changes to daily routines, and gain valuable tools and connections, so that burnout does not become an occupational hazard for you and the populations you serve.

Learn more about NWC 2019 and find additional wellness resources and trainings at NationalWellness.org.

Chuck Gillespie is Executive Director of the National Wellness Institute.

Tags:  burnout  Coaching  Keys to Thriving  National Wellness Conference  resilience  thriving 

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5 Things I Learned During an Unanticipated Job Search

Posted By Suzanne Hunt, Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

"Congratulations, you got the job!"

Everyone wants to hear those words, right? Well, in this case, I heard those words, except they were meant for my husband. In what I can only describe as a whirlwind, we were notified that my amazing husband obtained a promotion, and was being moved to a new location, in two weeks or less. I was proud, excited, and terrified all at once. Though this was a surprise to us both, my husband was going to remain with the same company, who would be there to support him throughout the process. I, on the other hand, had to turn in my resignation knowing the job search wouldn’t be an easy feat. Working in public health in the south is already difficult. Working in public health in higher education in the south is an even tougher job market. In the process of quickly moving, wrapping things up at my old job, and moving forward with an unanticipated job search, my plate was full! However, I managed to learn a few things along the way that have served as my roadmap during this process:

  1. Your resume is a living, breathing document; maintain it as such
    You wouldn’t go months, or possibly years without feeding your pet right? Well, the same goes for your resume. Don’t go months or years without updating it! Even if you can’t spare the time to work on it consistently as you achieve at your current job, make a continuous effort to maintain a document with your ongoing accomplishments. This ensures you will have something to go by when you are able to update your resume. Secondly, it’s 2019- make sure your resume doesn’t look like a word document from 1995. Regardless of what type of job or field you work in, your resume is the first way to market yourself, so you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot by having an outdated resume (regarding both content and visual appeal). There are free design websites where you can ensure your resume represents your personality, and performance in the field. One of my favorite sites is Canva, it’s free and easy to use!
  2. Establish and maintain relationships at your jobs
    Yes, I said jobs. Regardless of whether it was an internship, a graduate assistantship, or your first ‘real’ job out of school, it’s imperative to establish relationships with people during each experience. Arguably more important is maintaining these relationships because you never know when they can provide an amazing reference, letter of recommendation, or insight into a future job you’re looking into. After all, I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. Keep these people in your corner, because they can help advocate for your skillset, and current or past successes. Further, you never know when you might need them! In my case, my connections have been a continual help during the relocation process.
  3. Do your research
    I know this sounds so cliché, but what I mean is to do your research on the people in your industry. One of my favorite supervisors taught me this, and I am forever thankful. Even if you love your current job, you should still be making strides to learn about the leaders in your industry and how they got to where they are. I took the time to look at bios, talk to direct contacts, and even made the additional effort to talk to them myself. I have also been lucky to establish trusting relationships with a few of my supervisors-to where I felt comfortable truly asking about their personal experiences, and opinions. This insight has served to my benefit by helping me understand the intersectionalities between different aspects of the industry and the all-important hierarchy of working in higher education. Having this understanding has helped lead to several consulting opportunities, which I am thoroughly enjoying, while I continue my search for a full-time job.
  4. Utilize your expertise and passions—outside of work
    I know what you’re probably thinking here- what about work/life balance? I am still (and will always) advocate for balance, and doing things you enjoy outside of work! However, I volunteer my time outside of work with the National Wellness Institute (NWI) Emerging Wellness Professionals (EWP) Task Force because I have been a part of this organization since I was in undergrad. I am really passionate about what they do to support professionals in the wellness field like myself, and it has not only provided me with more contacts in the industry across the U.S., but it has also helped me learn more about the field that I wouldn’t have been able to learn in my previous jobs. Moreover, I have learned new skills, expanded my leadership capabilities, and now have connections with this organization that continues to support me, no matter where I go.
  5. Utilize weak ties to network!
    There is an aspect of luck that can play an important role in being successful, particularly when it comes to networking. In fact, according to Eric Barker, the author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree, he concludes that some of this has to do with taking small steps to network, meet new people, and properly invest your time in establishing and maintaining those relationships. This requires stepping out of the ‘box’ of solely networking on LinkedIn, or via that email that gets lost in someone’s ever-growing inbox. According to Barker, there’s a theory of weak ties, meaning the people who aren’t your closest friends, but one degree out, are the people who make the best connections. A lot of new possibilities or opportunities come from these weak ties because these are the people that are hearing about things (job openings, new ideas, conferences, leadership opportunities), that you may not be hearing about, and therefore present the possibility of something new and beneficial for your career. Weak ties have hands down been the most successful aspect thus far in my ongoing job search!

Though none of these concepts are necessarily new, it’s important to refresh your lens and scope, in the event that like me, you embark on the adventure of an unanticipated job search.

Sabrina WalasekSuzanne Hunt, MPH, CWP provides leadership in the development of holistic approaches to wellbeing for students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

Tags:  job search  resilience  thriving  wellness career 

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Unleashing your inner Scarlett: building resilience in turbulent times

Posted By Ruth Kelly, Thursday, March 14, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Scarlett O’Hara, the leading protagonist of Margaret Mitchells’s epic Gone with the Wind, was arguably one of the most iconic characters of American cinema. She was charming, manipulative, vain, spoiled and captivating. However, swept up in the backdrop of the American Civil War this Southern belle discovered attributes and qualities she never knew she possessed. She exhibited fortitude, ingenuity, determination, courage, tenacity, and above all resilience – the ability to bounce back and keep going in the face of adversity. Her steely spirit was epitomised in her “As God is my witness …” monologue where fist clenched she vows that life will not break her and that she will survive at any cost. The theme of resilience is central to the development of this feisty heroine and it is a concept that has gathered significant momentum in recent years as a means of learning and recovering from life’s challenges and setbacks – our mental and emotional elasticity.

 Resilient business woman holding laptop

What is Resilience?

The Harvard Business review defines resilience as “the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity” - including trauma or significant stress. Resilience is not only the ability to weather a difficulty, but also to emerge from it stronger and better prepared to face new challenges in the future. In the corporate world, resilience has gained significant impetus because business leaders increasingly recognize that resilient employees are more likely to recover quicker from an adverse situation and that resilient teams build competitive advantage and growth opportunities. At its core, resilience means "bouncing back" from difficult experiences and finding the intrinsic drive, motivation, and wherewithal to achieve your goals in turbulent times. In other words, “resilience is the capacity to adapt successfully in the presence of risk and adversity” (Jensen and Fraser, 2005).

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2015) defines individual resilience as the ability to withstand, adapt to, and recover from adversity and stress. In essence, resilience implies maintaining or returning to one’s original state of mental health or well-being or achieving a more mature and developed state of well-being through the employment of effective strategies and techniques. Perhaps resilience is really the capacity to weather difficulties and embrace the changes that adversity demands – a deeper wisdom forged through complex and uncertain times. As K. Neycha Herford founder and CEO of The ReMixed Life™ states “resilience is an unwavering rebelliousness to bet on the best while navigating the worst”


What constitutes resilience?

The positive psychology movement founded by Professor Martin Seligman is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The Penn Resilience Program offered by the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania includes a set of 21 empirically validated skills that build cognitive and emotional fitness and strength of character. Fundamentally, the Program identifies a number of elements that are integral to building resilience:

  1. Self-Awareness – the ability to pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, behaviours and physiological reactions.
  2. Self-Regulation – the ability to change one’s thoughts, emotions, behaviours and physiology in the service of a desired outcome.
  3. Mental Agility – the ability to look at situations from multiple perspectives and to think creatively and flexibly. 
  4. Strengths of Character – the ability to use one’s top strengths to engage authentically, overcome challenges and create a life aligned with one’s values.
  5. Connection – the ability to build and maintain strong, trusting relationships.
  6. Optimism – the ability to notice and expect the positive, to focus on what you can control and to take purposeful action. 

Derek Mowbray of the Wellbeing and Performance Group UK proposes a ‘Resilient and Adaptive Person Development Framework’ with 3 spheres of personal control:

  1. Over oneself – self-awareness, self-confidence, vision and determination.
    Someone who is self-aware is more likely to empathize with others and understand what motivates them.
  2. Over responses to events – problem solving skills, organization.
    This control is rooted in the ability to negotiate effectively with others and to persuade others to consider alternate viewpoints and approaches.
  3. Over responses to people – relationships and personal interactions.
    This control is rooted in organizing oneself in chaotic situations. Someone who has the ability to organize themselves in chaotic situations also has the ability to be flexible and adaptable.

Mowbray identifies the following characteristics of resilient people:

  1. Enthusiasm for life and work.
  2. Capacity to see the future and “go for it”.
  3. Capacity to cope with threatening events and distress.
  4. Attitude towards life and work that is positive, full of energy and determination.
  5. Capacity to see the options, and to adapt effectively to meet and overcome challenges.

George A. Bonanno (professor of clinical psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University, U.S.A) in an interview in The New Yorker believes that one of the central elements of resilience is perception. In other words, it depends on whether we view an event as traumatic or as an opportunity to learn and grow. This is subjective and relative i.e. what one person might experience as overwhelming for another might be an opportunity to extend their personal boundaries and develop as an individual. 

It is agreed throughout the literature on resilience that it is a multi-dimensional concept. However, current research identifies a number of factors that are consistent with resilient people (Brown, 2010):

  1. They are resourceful and have good problem solving skills.
  2. They are more likely to seek help.
  3. They believe that they can do something that will help them to manage their feelings and to cope.
  4. They have social support available to them.
  5. They are connected with others, such as family and friends. 
  6. They are flexible, adapt to new and different situations and learn from experience, including mistakes and triumphs.


Women and Resilience

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” - Maya Angelou

Are women more resilient than men? In Gone with The Wind, Margaret Mitchell created a leading female character whose sheer tenacity and strength triumphed over unimaginable adversity. She epitomized a resilient spirit which resonated with Rhett Butler’s words to her that “hardships make or break people”. Scarlett had more than just strength of character and survival instinct though. She was strategic and not afraid to employ creativity and tactics to achieve her goals. Even though GWTW is fiction, research suggests that when the going gets tough women are in fact more resilient than men. In an article published in Nature (January 2019) researchers at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense studied seven populations that endured famine, epidemics or enslavement. The researchers found that during crises, girls and women lived longer than their male counterparts. Research by Andy Scharlach, a UC Berkeley professor of aging and director of its Center for the Advanced Study of Aging Services has shown that women generally retain far more resilience as they age than men. One of the reasons, Scharlach suggests, is that women develop richer social networks than men that are not as work bound, and not as sports bound, or activity bound. 

Between 2009 and 2010 Accenture conducted a global online and telephone survey of 524 senior executives from medium to large companies in 20 countries. Women Leaders and Resilience: Perspectives from the C-Suite sought to identify the value executives give to resilience as a senior primary quality of leadership. These leaders view women as slightly more resilient than men ‒ 53% reported women are very to extremely resilient ‒ 51% reported men are very to extremely resilient. 

Another study conducted in the UK Tough at the Top: new rules of resilience for women’s leadership success (2014) found that although both women and men define resilience in similar terms, they talk about the experience of resilience at work in different ways. Women, more often than men, talk about vulnerability when they describe what it means to be resilient. Also, more women than men equate resilience with the need to suppress their emotions at work. This suggests that women look at their likely career path and assume they will have to increasingly ‘toughen up’ to get to the top. Simply acknowledging that this is happening and encouraging senior women and men to speak out about their own experiences of vulnerability in climbing the corporate ladder could go a long way to countering this view.

However, the assumption that toughness alone will propel a woman’s professional rise is erroneous. True resilience means being strategic as well as strong. It means showing ingenuity and imagination in overcoming challenges as well as demonstrating enough self-belief to look at setbacks not as failures but as opportunities to learn from the mistakes and grow. Perhaps, as many sociologists believe, women have had to fight harder for respect and equality so therefore had no alternative but to develop resilience. Also, it has been more acceptable for women to exhibit emotional vulnerability while men traditionally have had to portray a ‘stiff upper lip’. Perhaps straddling vulnerability and strength simultaneously builds empathy and compassion in women – essential building blocks of resilience. As the poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou writes in her essay ‘In All Ways a Woman’ women must be ‘tough’ as well as ‘tender’ and “the woman warrior who is armed with wit and courage will be among the first to celebrate victory”


Building Resilience 

The good news is that the capacity for resilience is not a static trait in either men or women but rather it is a skill that can be developed and mastered. The following are suggestions for putting resilience to work for you.

  1. Thoughts are Things - sometimes our deep held beliefs and thinking patterns can be counter-productive. Listen to your thoughts and identify the language you use with yourself when faced with a challenge. Is your self-talk supportive or critical? Is it limiting or empowering? By beginning to understand the power of your thoughts you begin to understand how they create not just your present experiences but also your future ones. 
  2. View Setbacks as Opportunities for Growth – this might sound a little Pollyanna-esque. However, by seeing the positive in our failures and setbacks, by looking at what we did incorrectly and what we might do differently in the future and by being willing to learn, grow and develop we avoid the futility of self-flagellation and instead empower ourselves to move towards the future with fresh knowledge, perspective and confidence. Patience and tolerance, especially of ourselves, is key.
  3. Social Scaffolding – surround yourself with people who support and care for you. By building strong social networks you are cocooning yourself in a web of sustenance and encouragement which will ultimately assist you in weathering life’s storms.  
  4. It’s OK not to be OK – sometimes when the going gets tough we need to be frank with ourselves about how we’re feeling, to honestly assess and appraise the situation and to work out the best strategy for moving forward. Owning and addressing our vulnerabilities is a sign of strength, not weakness. This applies to both men and women.
  5. Accountability and Responsibility – taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions is key to resilience. Blaming others for our failures or handing over our power by ‘allowing’ others to make us feel bad about ourselves in disempowering and emotionally draining. Good self-esteem and self-belief help build a certain imperviousness to the opinions, good and bad, of others.
  6. Change is inevitable - Charles Darwin said that the species most likely to survive is not the most intelligent or the strongest but ‘the one that is most adaptable to change’. By learning to be flexible and to embrace the complexities and uncertainties of life we are more inclined to ‘flow’ with the process of life. 
  7. Rest and Recharge – resilience does not equate with endurance. It might be a cliché but there is truth in the old adage ‘work, rest and play’. Get the balance right.  


Resilience in the Workplace

  1. Mindfulness – is gaining increasing impetus and recognition as a means of addressing a number of stress and cognitive related issues in the work place. Mindfulness has been found to boost judgement accuracy and insight related problem solving (Kiken, 2011) and enhances cognitive flexibility (Malinowski and Moore, 2009). MRI scans show that after an eight-week course of mindfulness practice, the brain’s “fight or flight” centre, the amygdala – which initiates the stress response, appears to shrink. 
  2. Response flexibility – Budgets are tight, projects get negative feedback and clients are challenging – all these things are enough to test anyone. It is important to cultivate enough self-awareness to be able to respond to rather than react to situations or people. The ability to pause, reflect, deliberate, consider possibilities and choose wisely is critical to building workplace resilience. 
  3. Innovate and set new goals – personal innovation means investing in and developing your own knowledge and talents. Continuing Personal Development courses are a productive way of expanding your knowledge base. Night classes are a creative way to develop your hobbies and personal interests and to build a social network. Always set new personal goals or milestones. 
  4. Work-Life Balance – it is critical to balance work demands with your personal life. Seeing family and friends, socialising, travelling, exercising etc. - doing the things that enrich you is essential to a happy and fulfilling life. 
  5. Good work networks – what supports are available in your workplace? Are you in a position to make positive changes in your team or organistion? Here are some ideas of what you can do:
    1. Encourage management to make a commitment to mental health and wellness initiatives to create a healthy psychological environment. 
    2. Simple ergonomics such as creating a healthy workspace i.e. lighting, suitable workstations and chairs etc. as well as taking breaks to stretch your body and fingers can all make a huge difference to wellbeing.
    3. Building good social networks at work i.e. team building days, nights out etc. Positive relationships at work boost employee engagement and productivity.
    4. Healthy eating options at work. Lunch time yoga classes or even donning the trainers and going for a walk are all positive actions to boost workplace resilience. 



In summary, resilience is a multi-modal dynamic concept which embraces physiological and psychological elements. Resilience means more than just ‘bouncing back’ – it means strategically adapting to and responding to change, adversity and uncertainty and emerging from the process with new perspective, strength and insight. One of the certainties of life is uncertainty and there will inevitably be obstacles and setbacks to challenge even the most resolute of us. However, by deliberately developing resilience we can equip ourselves with essential skills, approaches, and mindsets to navigate even the most turbulent times. The important thing is to keep going to remember that ‘after all, tomorrow is another day’. 

R – reflect on your values.
E – everybody has setbacks.
S – stay connected.
I – invest in yourself personally and professionally.
L – learn healthy and supportive habits and behaviours.
I – identify your strengths, talents and skills.
E – engage with tolerance and compassion. 
N – nurture mind, body and spirit.
C – cultivate a positive expectant mindset.
E – express gratitude. 



Brown, B. (2010) The Gifts of Imperfection, Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life, Hazelden, Center City, Minnesota. 

Jensen, J.M. and Fraser, M.W. (2005) A Risk and Resilience Framework for Child, Youth, and Family Policy, in Social Policy for Children and Families: A Risk and Resilience Perspective, Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA.

Kiken, L.G (2011) Mindfulness Increases Positive Judgments and Reduces Negativity Bias, Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2(4), 425-431.

Moore, A., & Malinowski, P. (2009). Meditation, Mindfulness and Cognitive Flexibility, Consciousness and Cognition, 18, 176-186.

Strengthening Personal Resilience – a programme to improve performance Derek Mowbray July 2012 Management Advisory Service www.mas.org.uk 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2015). Individual Resilience, Public Health and Medical Emergency Support for a National Prepared, Retrieved from http://www.phe.gov/Preparedness/planning/abc/Pages/individual-resilience.aspx

KellyRuth Kelly is a researcher and nutrition and wellness adviser. She holds a Ph.D in science from the University of Limerick, Ireland, as well as advanced diplomas in Nutrition and Weight Management and Emotional Freedom Techniques. She is a qualified Stress Management Coach and is currently self-employed at Essence Wellness which offers a range of services to private clients as well as the corporate sector including Corporate Wellness Programmes which cover nutrition, stress management and resilience building. She is a regular blogger to wellness websites in Ireland and is also a fully qualified Bio-energy therapist and Reiki Master.

Tags:  emotional wellness  intellectual wellness  resilience  success  thriving 

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A Mindful Approach to Change

Posted By Sabrina Walasek, Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Mindful Approach to Change

Some people are steady-as-they-go types. I’m prone to trying new things. And the power of making my own choices somehow made it all feel less risky—until the day it didn’t.

Twice, my husband and I left our jobs and home to spend a year traversing the globe. In 2010, we moved to Colombia and ended up spending four amazing years there. And when we returned to the States, I jumped right back into the flow, working on a creative project with awesome people. Life was good!

Then, that company suddenly closed shop. 

I decided to pursue a personal passion instead. I tried several strategies to gain entry into my desired industry, but I was met with obstacles each time. My previously sure-footed faith failed me. Life didn’t flow; it wobbled. I became tentative, questioning every decision I made. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic experiencing big changes or too many within a brief time period can create a perception that we are not in control of important events. This perception contributes to low self-esteem and even the development of anxiety or depression.

When a single change throws us off kilter, it often doesn’t take us long to regain “control.” But when we’re knocked off our foundation, it takes patience and self-compassion to truly right ourselves. 

Balance can be restored. Here are the steps I took.


Changing Thoughts Changes Reality

First, I paid attention to my thoughts and words. Yep, I was brooding on my “failed” career pivot and being really hard on myself. There is a saying, “Where attention goes, energy flows.” I was succumbing to negativity and dismissing the greatness in my life. 

I noticed one word in particular was warping my reality: “should.” The negative power of that word was subversively affecting my sense of self:

  • I should be making more money (I’m a loser). 
  • I should have a larger network (I’m unimportant). 
  • I should be more dedicated (I’m lazy).
  • I should be more skilled (I’m irrelevant).
  • I should stick to what I know (I’m foolish).

According to Psychology Today, the word “should” undermines our ability to do what we want to do and causes a host of negative feelings: blame, guilt, anxiety, stress. 

  • Using “should” with ourselves is disempowering. 
  • Using “should” toward others provokes anger and resentment. 

Once I realized all this, I vowed to stop using the word “should” — which was harder than I thought. It’s surprising how often “should” is used in conversation. 

To break this “bad” habit, I started replacing “should” with “could” or “want to.” For example, “I should network more” feels obligatory. If I don’t, I fail. (Plus, it goads me into rebellion.) Changing to, “I could network more” means it’s my choice. This small adjustment helped me realize I was in control of much of my daily experience. 

Notice how often you use “should.” What reaction does it conjure? Would it feel different if you tried “could” or “want to” instead?


Get Curious

Another strategy was to stop taking things personally and instead get curious. Instead of jumping to conclusions, I took the time to sit with my life’s roadblocks to gain perspective. I got quiet, took deep breaths, and asked myself: “What if this struggle is critical to my journey and my personal growth?” 

To be less judgmental and more curious, I contemplate these questions:

  • What would my compassionate self say to my critical self? 
  • Could any positives develop from this experience?
  • How does the struggle make me a better person?

Struggles are essential. They provide us with new perspective. Often, that “wrong turn” steers us to new and positive possibilities. Obstacles remind us to let go of the urge to control everything.

The next time you find yourself in a tug-o-war with life, stop and consider the underlying gift. Be kind to yourself and see if you can identify the value the experience may bring, even if it’s simply how to avoid something similar in the future.


Six Dimensions of Wellness

Six Dimensions of WellnessLastly, instead of obsessing on my profession pathos, my course reset involved taking on a well-rounded approach to assessing my life. I selected The Six Dimensions of Wellness, developed by Dr. Bill Hettler of the National Wellness Institute. The six dimensions of life examined in this tool are:

  • Occupational
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Intellectual
  • Spiritual
  • Emotional

In my assessment, I acknowledged the positives I experience in each area. Turns out, I am flourishing in many dimensions of life. Who knew?

Discovering this has helped me build energy and motivation to take on the areas of my life that score lower. It helped me see how I can weave my passion into the different dimensions of wellness. I realized I could enjoy life until the universe is ready to open the right door for me, which it did about a week after I “let go.” Out of the blue, a paid opportunity came to me with more ease than I could have imagined.

When we dwell on negativity, everything in and around us is impacted. By looking for the positives, we embody more balance and strength. We are able to see how rich and multi-dimensional our lives are. Seeing these bountiful parts helps to offset the struggling parts. 

Review the six dimensions and list all the positives that make up your reality. Embrace the abundance. If you feel there is an area that could use a boost to keep life more balanced, explore steps you “could” take to fill in gaps. 


Find Your Flow

Through awareness, mindful speech (to ourselves and others), contemplation, and self-compassion, we can steady ourselves when the unexpected hits. The “bad” stuff will always still happen — but when we get clear, curious, and positive, we keep on flowing. 

Sabrina WalesekSabrina Walasek is a long-time educator and lover of exploration and learning. She has traveled to more than 50 countries, embracing humanity and nurturing her sense of curiosity. She facilitates a monthly mindful women's circle and is a contributor to Whole Life Challenge's blog. Her website is www.mindfulspaces.org

Tags:  emotional wellness  intellectual wellness  mindfulness  resilience  success 

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Wellbeing in the Hospitality Sector

Posted By Pam Loch, Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The hospitality sector is the fifth largest employer in the UK

Following the Brexit vote, it is reported that some 330 000 of non-British workers are considering leaving the UK, with many having already made the move back home. While the impact of these staff shortages on the NHS has been well documented, the changing recruitment landscape is set to negatively affect a number of businesses in Britain, particularly within the hospitality industry. HR managers are having to adapt to these changing demographics, and are starting to place greater emphasis on wellbeing initiatives in order to prevent staff turnover over the coming years. 


The recruitment challenges faced by the hospitality sector

The hospitality sector is the fifth largest employer in the UK, employing approximately 4.5 million people. However, maintaining this status may not be easy, especially in the next year. In 2017 just over half of the industry’s workers (53%) were British. With the staff shortages anticipated due to Brexit, this statistic is concerning when you consider that the hospitality sector is anticipated to need to recruit 1.3 million workers by 2024. 

Both staff retention and recruitment are just some of the challenges facing the hospitality sector over the coming years, and for an industry that has historically relied upon non-British workers for its success, it is not surprising that 1 in 5 managers have reported a higher level of difficulty in recruiting staff in the last 12 months. In fact, 16% of businesses do not believe that they will fulfill staffing requirements with British workers by next year.

While the statistics paint a relatively bleak picture, there are proactive steps that HR managers and employers can take in order to retain and attract talent. HR policies and strategies that take into account a variety of wellbeing initiatives have been shown to not only have a positive impact on the health and happiness of employees, but also a correlation on the quality of service that hotels and restaurants provide to their customers.


Mental health in the hospitality sector

It is reported that 70% of British hospitality workers feel overworked, and 45% will take time off due to stress at some point in their career. With a persistent narrative surrounding stress and stress-related illnesses that it’s all “part of the job," it can become difficult to change the stigma surrounding mental health struggles brought on by working conditions - particularly when workers simply learn to live with issues such as:

Fatigue: There are a number of causes for fatigue, particularly in businesses where night work is often mandatory, such as hotels. It is widely known that when circadian rhythms are interrupted, sleep during the day becomes extremely difficult. 

Furthermore, even in circumstances where night work is not required, long days and physical labour are a feature of many hospitality sectors, which only increases fatigue when adequate rest isn’t given.  

Anxiety: In an industry in which pay is often hourly, the fear of financial repercussions from injuries and sick leave can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety. 

Additionally, the daily expectation of potentially dealing with customers who may conduct themselves with rudeness or arrogance can also be a contributing factor to stress for a number of employees.

Depression: A recent study by the Centre for Psychological Research at the University of Derby, suggests that depression amongst hospitality workers can be influenced by a lack of motivation in the workplace, or what they refer to as ‘external motivation.' 

In other words, the motivation to work comes not from personal or ‘internal’ interest in the task, but external influences such as “I need to earn money”. This disconnect can not only impact the mental wellbeing of staff, but can also contribute to decreased productivity, absenteeism and high employee turnover. 


Effective communication is often the first step

Tackling the complexities of mental health undoubtedly requires effective communication between both employer and employee. However a recent study revealed that 44% of UK hospitality workers would not come to a colleague if they felt they had a mental health problem, and in the case of absenteeism, 38% of workers were afraid to tell their boss that stress and/or mental health was their reason for time taken off work. 

Perhaps more surprising is that 90% of hospitality workers believe that being prone to stress and anxiety would affect or hinder their career progression, and 40% believed it was their personal responsibility to deal with any work-related stress or mental health problems. In the most extreme cases, staff members who came forward with serious mental health complaints have, at times, been met with the insinuation that they should resign for the good of the company. 

While society, the media and organizations have done much to tackle the stigma of mental health, there are still concerns that by being open about the challenges we all face from time to time, there is still the possibility that it can seriously impact our career and long term financial security.

Creating an environment in which communication between management and staff is actively encouraged is therefore vital for a healthy workplace. Motivating staff to come forward in a secure environment where they feel comfortable to express their views, requests and grievances creates an environment in which workers feel valued, and are better equipped to perform their roles. 


The link between physical and mental health

Hospitality is often linked with physical work, including walking long distances, running and carrying in all sorts of conditions. Although the nature of this sort of work cannot be changed, it is important to ensure your staff are physically healthy. For example:

  • Frequent wellness checks not only provide employees with an insight into their own health,  but allows employers to take proactive steps in order to minimize the risk of absences from work through ill-health.
  • Try to ensure that staff take adequate breaks at the appropriate times, and finding cover for the remaining staff, even during peak times.
  • If you provide free meals to employees (particularly pertinent in the restaurant sector) try to provide healthy options in order to maintain high levels of performance, productivity and wellbeing.
  • Provide adequate equipment and uniform for your staff members for all weather conditions so that they are as comfortable and as safe as possible.
  • Providing out of work activities can encourage staff members to lead a healthy lifestyle, while also fostering a sense of unity and team spirit. This might include access to a gym (if available on site), team sports, regular group meditation and/or yoga sessions. 


Support and Respect

The psychological effects (https://click.booking.com/features/2018/06/12/prioritising-staff-welfare-hospitality/) of dealing with rude or even discriminatory customers are just some of the challenges faced by employees within the hospitality industry. We’ve all heard the axiom “the customer is always right” and in such a competitive market, it is understandable that companies are highly motivated by customer opinion, and the effect this can have on profits and brand reputation.

As a result there can be a disproportionately high value placed on customers, as opposed to the opinions of staff that are responsible for serving them. However what’s more difficult to quantify is the impact that unhappy employees can have on the overall success of a business, particularly when they feel unsupported. 

Unfortunately, 52.2% of hospitality workers have actually considered leaving their place of work due to a lack of support. The constant pressure from managers on their staff to maintain the outward appearance of happiness in the face of all kinds of customer attitudes, increases the feeling of discontent and the lack of a support structure. 

However, there are a variety of policies and procedures that if correctly implemented, can ensure that both employers and employees can benefit from an environment that fosters mutual support and respect.

One of the easiest ways to encourage support is through the standardization of procedures concerning customer complaints. By ensuring every member of staff adheres to uniformed company protocols, this can reduce any ambiguity on how a particular situation should be dealt with. This in turn can minimize staff members from feeling undermined by managers in situations that could be deemed subjective. 

Creating staff incentives and rewards can also be a great way to engage staff members, increase productivity, and ease any interpersonal tensions at work. By encouraging cooperation where employees work towards a common goal, tensions can gradually be eased through collaboration and teamwork. 


Wellbeing isn’t just a legal duty

Employers have a duty of care to their employees, which means that they should take steps in order to ensure their health, safety and wellbeing. However tackling mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and stress, should not be simply considered as a legal duty; it can be a key factor in building trust between staff and management, reinforcing an organization’s commitment to its employees.

It’s not always easy however, and often requires advice, guidance or training from individuals qualified to deal with complex and often serious issues. In circumstances where you may not have the resources or experience to deal with mental health conditions, it may be advisable to seek external help to ensure your staff have the appropriate level of support they need.

For many, particularly young people about to enter the workplace for the first time, the fast-paced and emotionally-charged environments produced by some hospitality sectors can create a negative stigma surrounding these types of industries. As a result, a growing number of people have decided against a career in hospitality. As society becomes increasingly concerned with the effects of mental health, it seems that a greater understanding of what wellbeing in the workplace truly means may be the key to meeting the growing need for hospitality staff.

Pam LochPam Loch is a writer interested in both physical and mental wellbeing in the workplace. Her interests have led her to become the Managing Director of Loch Associates Group, who are experts in Employment Law, HR Management and Health & Safety. She works with both employers and staff to ensure wellbeing in the workplace.

Tags:  emotional wellness  hospitality  occupational wellness  resilience  stress 

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I Skipped My Step Aerobics Class Today

Posted By Lisa Medley, Friday, February 8, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Instead of going to class, I went back to bed.

I didn't feel like it.

I wasn't beating up on myself for not going.
I wasn't judging myself for being "lazy."
I wasn't shoulding on myself. 

I usually go to a step aerobics class (yes, it still exists!) on Tuesday mornings. I love it! I get to sweat from every pore of my body, my brain gets to work out too as it is keeping up with the choreography of steps, and I don't have to create anything; I just show up and do what the teacher tells me to do.

This morning however, I checked in with my body and my energy and wasn't feeling it. This kind of class takes at least 75% energy in the tank and I didn't have it. I had worked on a deadline driven project over the weekend — not my norm, and it happens sometimes — with a headache that comes on from time to time (ladies, you know what I mean), and was needing to slap on a quasi-sunny "good morning!" to my son as I shuffle around getting him off to the bus stop in 17 degree weather.

Instead of going to class, I went back to bed. I asked my body what it FELT like doing and that was the reply. I have been practicing being kind to my body long enough that I can trust that when I listen to its needs and respond, I feel better. I don't have to "figure it out" or think my way though feeling better; I FEEL my way to feeling better. 

My body tells me the truth of my internal experience. Without should’s, shame, or pressure to meet impossible expectations from the outside world.

Your body does too. Imagine the freedom of tuning into your internal state and having your inner voice be enough. Embodying the truth that YOU ARE ENOUGH.

How are you FEELING in this very moment? What does your body need to feel good, even better? Even an incremental step, an eye dropper amount of action, a micro movement

Without the need to please anybody except yourself.
Without the guilt of so-called "selfish."
Without the external have to's.

With full on permission.
For your body.
For your life.
For your best self.

Let me know how it goes!

Liberate Your Light,
Lisa Medley

Lisa MedleyLisa Medley, MA serves as a Wellbeing and Body Intelligence Expert. She supports her clients to cultivate positive relationships with their body for sustainable inside-out wellbeing. Lisa believes in reintegrating the body and its wisdom to support the evolution of our divine human potential. Learn more at SoulisticArts.com. Check out her new Instagram page as well: @soulisticarts.

Tags:  boundaries  emotional agility  emotional intelligence  emotional wellness  Lisa Medley  resilience  spiritual wellness 

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NWI Member Spotlight - February 2019

Posted By NWI, Friday, February 8, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Meta CommerseMeta Commerse, MA, MFA, CWP

Meta is a wellness practitioner using the indigenous modality of story medicine. She grew up in Chicago, Illinois among activists, teachers and writers of poetry and music during the Civil Rights and Black Arts movements of the 1960s and ‘70s. There, her life was shaped by a strong activist tradition. It was equally influenced by domestic violence that taught her to resist, to imagine and seek something better for herself and her family, and that compelled her to move away from systematic silence. 

Starting her wellness career as a body worker, a path of learning opened up before her. She learned about the mind-body connection where the body’s state tends to reflect that of the mind. She took a holistic approach to her work focusing on clients in chronic pain. Newly pain-free, most of the women in her practice began spontaneously sharing untold stories of trauma. These stories stunned Meta who felt unprepared to hear them, but listened out of respect. Listening to them eventually reminded her that she had an untold story of her own.

By 1992, Meta made a commitment to heal her life and soon enrolled in a six-month group for women survivors. That group offered her a community conversation in which to see the brokenness that can result from child sexual abuse. She was able to feel the old emotion she had carried in silence for so long, and later looked for a more extensive, holistic program to continue the work. Finding none, she developed one of her own. 

In 1994, with much community support, Meta launched a program for women in Atlanta, Georgia, where she offered it for the next ten years. During that time, she returned to school to explore the problem of violence. She became a teacher committed to helping more people with what she was learning. She learned to see domestic violence as a problem extending far beyond private homes, that it knows no borders and has no limit. It can appear between two people or two nations. She learned that domestic violence is a public health problem impacting lives in personal and public spaces. That domestic violence is a spiritual problem that has wounded the spirit and soul of humanity throughout history. It can be spoken in words or imposed through systems. It can impact the lives of vulnerable people, of men, women, children seeking asylum, or of people denied the care they need. Ultimately, the more she understood about domestic violence, the more she knew about peace.  

Problem Solving 
Meta studied with gifted teachers, especially one who frequently drew from quantum physics. One of his axioms helped her approach the problem of violence with more intention and to see it more clearly. He taught, “Inherent in every problem are the mechanics for its solution.” To her, this meant that persistent study of a problem points the way to an answer. Finally, within the increasing random violence in our country, she learned to recognize the roots of chronic pain and to see violence as rooted in pain. This pain seeks an outlet. Sometimes we direct our pain at ourselves, in various forms such as depression or addiction. Sometimes we direct our pain at others as in bullying or other forms of personal offense. Imagine every perpetrator, every tyrant being driven by such pain! Meta sees this pain as the energy of our untold stories, (of individuals and of communities). Now she asks her students a few key questions: “Do you know your story?” “Do you know its value?” “What have you done with your pain?” She also learned that this medicine was the way of our ancestors, learning how they used sacred memory, words and story, to teach, heal, and generate deep change. 

Today, Meta lives and works as an independent scholar in Asheville, North Carolina. In her groups, classes, readings, and performances, she demonstrates the power of story. Now she knows that through healing work, peace — the principle of harmlessness — will indeed return to the human heart. Teaching this medicine, she writes across genre exactly as her own story medicine emerged. She teaches the value of story to her students exactly as life proved the value of her story. She knows that personal healing and wellness is the beginning spark of community healing and wellness. She learned in her early experiences of struggle, activism, and violence all that she needed in order to seek wholeness and to teach peace. She is grateful for these lessons.  

Meta speaks about story medicine wherever she is called. Contact Meta at wordmedicinewoman@yahoo.com, or storymedicineworldwide.com

Tags:  emotional agility  emotional wellness  Meta Commerse  resilience  story  story medicine 

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Congratulations Michele Mariscal on Your Book Accomplishment!

Posted By NWI, Friday, February 8, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Michele Mariscal with her new book Growing Through GriefOn February 5, 2019, NWI member Michele Mariscal launched her new book Growing Through Grief: The Alchemy of Healing From Loss.

Getting beyond a loss is never easy; the pain can feel as if it will never end. Growing Through Grief helps grievers bring hope back into their lives and provides actionable steps for healing. Whether you’re experiencing new grief or feeling the pain of a loss from long ago, you’ll find encouragement and support in this book. If you know someone who’s grieving and can’t seem to move forward, this book can be a beautiful gift. It is available on Amazon and Kindle.

Tags:  emotional agility  emotional wellness  grief  grief book  Growing Through Grief  mental health  Michele Mariscal  resilience 

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What to Consider Before Consulting a Physical Therapist

Posted By Dr. Brent Wells, D.C., Thursday, January 10, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

x-ray of hand making OK symbol

Photo: Owen Beard on Unsplash

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) boasts more than 95,000 members in the United States alone. Although many of those members are not licensed physical therapists, a majority of them are chiropractors, podiatrists, rheumatologists, neurologists and other respected medical professionals who take an active interest in their client’s overall wellbeing.


For patients who willingly participate in it, well-managed physical therapy has countless benefits, including:(APTA) boasts more than 95,000 members in the United States alone. Although many of those members are not licensed physical therapists, a majority of them are chiropractors, podiatrists, rheumatologists, neurologists and other respected medical professionals who take an active interest in their client’s overall wellbeing.

  • Increased range of motion
  • Decreased pain
  • Enhanced pain tolerance
  • Reduced swelling
  • Improved muscle tone
  • Revitalized mental health

Despite the increased availability, however, it can be difficult for a patient to feel confident when choosing a physical therapist. To make matters seem more complicated than they need to be, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 200,000 physical therapists working on American soil as of 2016, with a steep increase of about 28% since then.

What Is A Physical Therapist?

According to the World Confederation for Physical Therapy, a physical therapist goes by many names: physiotherapist, kinesiologist, and chiropractors just to name a few. Regardless of the title, physical therapists provide a variety of essential services. Typically, their carefully cultivated techniques help patients restore, develop, or maintain function and mobility in any part of the body.


Patients seek help from physical therapists for numerous reasons, including but certainly not limited to the following:

  • Injury
  • Injury prevention
  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical promotion
  • Illness
  • Disease
  • Age
  • Environmental conditions
  • Professional goals

woman getting physical therapy


In short, physical therapists work diligently to help patients improve the quality of their life, whether that be simply regaining the ability to walk or competing in a marathon. It’s important to consider your needs and expectations before scheduling an appointment with a physical therapist.


What to Expect During Routine Physical Therapy

Although every patient is unique and all physical therapists use different methods, the average PT session involves a series of required activities and exercises. Especially if the therapist is legitimately qualified and professional, you can expect the following things to take place during most routine physical therapy appointments:

  • A comprehensive examination to analyze the patient’s physical limitations and therapeutic requirements
  • An evaluation of data from the initial analysis to make clinical decisions regarding the patient in question
  • Development a diagnosis and prognosis
  • Formulation of an effective treatment or intervention plan
  • A consultation about any potentially helpful referrals to outside healthcare professionals
  • Implementation of the aforementioned treatment plan
  • Gather data during each session to determine the expected outcome of treatments
  • Recommendations regarding self-care

If you experience anything that diverges from what’s listed above, be sure to communicate your concern with the therapist as soon as possible. It may be that you’re simply participating in innovative treatments. However, too many deviations should raise red flags.


doctor examining x-ray

Photo: rawpixel on Unsplash

How Does Physical Therapy Work?

Physical therapy is effective at helping patients in numerous ways, and the reasons for that are quite clear according to the experts. However, patients are always urged to consider their current physical fitness level and general health when formulating a treatment plan. Although physical therapists are specially trained to coax the body into regaining range of motion, strength or flexibility, they are not miracle workers.

Physical therapy works best when a patient is ready for a challenge. Licensed therapists can teach various exercises and stretches or introduce patients to specialized equipment to use independently but they cannot force patients to comply. Since effective physical therapy typically requires several weeks, individual self-care is an important part of the process and should never be underestimated.

During most therapeutic sessions, therapists will work with the patient to achieve pre-set goals. Throughout the process, but depending on the physical requirements of the patient, the following treatment techniques will likely be used:


Muscles and joints can become stiff and tight, especially after long periods of inactivity. Physical therapists assist patients with deep stretches to loosen muscles and tendons and improve overall functionality.

Strengthening Exercises

By improving the strength of the muscles in the body, patients thereby enjoy enhanced balance and increased range of motion. Physical therapists use graduated weights to boost the patient’s forte as much as possible.

Core Strengthening

The strength of the body’s core is perhaps the most important part of physical fitness. Therapists work on stability by guiding patients during various workouts that target the abdominal and thoracic muscles.

Application of Ice or Heat

Introducing heat and/or cold to muscles and joints can decrease pain, increase range of motion, and promote better blood flow throughout the body. Physical therapists use heat and/or ice treatments at the beginning or end of most sessions, especially with patients who have sustained an injury.

Acupressure or Chiropractic Massage

Targeted massage, also known as chiropractic massage or acupressure, is perhaps the most enjoyable part of most physical therapy sessions. Experts providing chiropractic massage use state-of-the-art procedures to relieve pain, make necessary adjustments to the musculoskeletal system and boost circulation.

Electrical Stimulation (E-Stim)

Used primarily as a tool for physical therapists, e-stim treatments send waves of dense electrical currents to certain parts of the body. Physical therapists will subject various muscles or nerves to controlled stimulation for the purposes to encouraging movement, sensation and blood flow.

NOTE: In some cases, a physical therapist may utilize ultrasounds or x-rays to determine the extent of an injury or monitor improvements. Ultrasounds may also be used to stimulate blood flow post-therapy.

When Is Physical Therapy Better than Medication?

Properly monitored and responsibly used prescription medication has its merits. However, physical therapy may be a better option for some people. Pharmaceuticals are often laden with potentially harmful chemicals and can present dangerous side effects. On the contrary, physical therapy tends to lean toward a more natural, holistic approach to healthcare.

Therefore, physical therapy may be better than medication when patients are experiencing adverse side effects. However, one should err on the side of caution and consult with a doctor before abruptly stopping any medicinal regimen. Often, routine physical therapy can serve as supplemental rehabilitation when used alongside the proper medication.

Who Can Benefit from Physical Therapy?

children playing outdoors

Photo: Mi Pham on Unsplash

Fortunately, physical therapy is safe, effective and appropriate for people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. In fact, there’s an entire PT specialization that focused exclusively on children and another for the elderly. Expect the treatment options to be tailored around each patient’s unique needs and characteristics.


Dr. Brent WellsDr. Brent Wells, D.C. is graduate of the University of Nevada and Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Oregon. As the founder of Better Health Chiropractic in Wasilla, Dr. Wells is highly respected in his field as one of the premier chiropractors in Alaska. He specializes in rehabilitative therapies which include acupressure, chiropractic massage, adjustments and natural pain relief at his multi-disciplinary clinic.

He enthusiastically continues his education with ongoing research on spinal conditions, neurology, physical therapy, biomechanics, and trauma. As an active member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians, Dr. Wells also supports numerous studies and volunteers at the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation.












Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Tags:  accupressure  chiropractic  massage  physical therapist  physical therapy  physical wellness  resilience 

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Triathlon and The Wellness Wheel

Posted By Jim Efthimiou, Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Jim Efthimiou NWIA newsletter editor Australia

Life may seem overwhelming at times, especially in today’s hyperconnected world wide web of ubiquitous "social" media contending how to live the "ideal life." Technology’s promising panacea of progress with cultural connection has seemingly sewn the seeds of social disconnection and personal distraction. This leaves little time in one’s daily schedule to squeeze-in an "ideal life," let alone "life" itself. In such times, one may benefit from remembering Wellness is defined by various dimensions.

Each dimension is equally important as a "spoke" in the Wellness Wheel. And just like a real wheel’s structural integrity is compromised when one spoke is too loose — or another spoke is too tight — the beauty of the Wellness Wheel’s dimensions is its effectiveness as a model for well-being, to ensure a well-balanced "smooth" ride through daily life.

Likewise, a well-balanced smooth ride is required in Triathlon. Not only during the cycling portion of the race, but also during the preceding wwimming, and subsequent running, portions of the race.  

Physical wellness is evidenced by the founders of the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, in 1978, debating which athletes were the fittest of swimmers, cyclists and runners.  They decided to find out by combining each discipline’s toughest endurance race on the island of Hawaii,(comprising a 3.8km open water swim, 180km road cycle, and 42.2km marathon run), into one race, on one day, as a Triathlon, with the winner being billed as the "Iron Man."  This race, held in October each year at Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, has become legendary as the "World Championships" for the sport of Long-distance Triathlon. Entry to this race is reserved for professionals, and by qualification for winners of sanctioned races held throughout the year around the world in various locales of varying terrain.

One such locale, Subic Bay, Philippines, recently hosted 1200 athletes from around the world who gathered to compete in its sizzling cauldron a scorchingly sunny Sunday, to win outright the crown of Ironman Philippines, or within their Age Group, to qualify for the World Championships. 

I was one of those participants, travelling from Australia, to test his mettle to win a medal in the triathlon.  

Transcending the physical, spiritual wellness emerged as a vital component in traversing the 226 km torturous terrain. Beyond sheer muscular strength, the sultry Subic Bay volcanic-inferno-like climate demanded strength of spirit and temperament to maintain effort relying solely one one’s own body for locomotive power.

Like life, many emotional highs and lows were experienced during the long-distance triathlon race.  Emotional wellness was necessary when being elbowed by errant arms, and grabbed by grasping hands reaching forward during the swim in the luxuriously warm tropical waters.  It was crucial during such hectic times not to panic. Many a time, one’s composure had to be regained by remembering to breathe. Whilst this may seem obvious, it is easily forgotten in trying times, even by the Pros, who can suffer performance anxiety during the mass swim start. Maintaining mindfulness by breathing properly in such a stressful situation facilitated a smooth swim.

Correspondingly, intellectual wellness was demanded for decision-making to support endurance. Skipping a hydration station to save time meant the brain faded due to lack of electrolytes. Compounding a debilitating thirst was the extreme heat blanketing ice-cold water bottles, which melted them into lukewarm thermoses in mere minutes. 

Decision-making by appropriately adjusting bicycle gearing was therefore crucial during the 180km ride along an alternatingly rolling and flat expressway, traversing tropical mountain ranges and luscious rice paddies. Steadily climbing rolling hills, it was not uncommon to be overtaken by riders madly mashing to get ahead. Swiftly descending those same hills, you could often overtake those same riders, as they had worn out their legs on the long, grueling climb.

Battling against biking competitors was intensified by battling against nature’s elements.  Long uphill climbs interspersed by short downhill descents became even more challenging when humidly hot conditions gradually boiled over with a bang of thunder, bringing a fierce storm. Parched tarmac abruptly transformed into rain-soaked, wind-swept roadway. The resulting wet-n-wild sojourn often produced a menacing hail-storm that had you clenching your handlebars, struggling to stay upright!

Just like stormy weather fronts, emotional lows (and emotional highs) pass. Recognising this temporality was important in maintaining momentum. Looking around at the tropical forest scenery helped "lighten" the load of baking-buns and blistering-feet (in addition to being ice-drenched by volunteers), which made those aches and pains intermittently disappear. 

"Stopping to smell the roses" is a well-worn cliché for good reason. Occupational wellness — balancing work and life, is increasingly important in today’s 24/7/365 always-on hyperconnected world. When work involves a sedentary occupation, the antidote is activity, and lots of it is provided by the sport of Triathlon.

The sport is said to be addictive, due to the emotional high enjoyed in overcoming challenges by completing such an arduous event — think of the "runner’s high" endorphin rush, only multiplied by a factor of three, due to already having swum 3.8km and biked 180km, before getting to the starting line of the marathon run!

Social wellness was experienced on several levels at Ironman Philippines. In addition to locals making you feel like family with their "Mabuhay" welcome spirit, there was a special camaraderie amongst participants.  Competitors on course were more like colleagues, because in Triathlon, the real opponent is your own body — and mind.  For this is a non-drafting race, where one cannot race in a group, like bunched-up Tour de France cyclists, but must maintain minimum 10 metre front-to-rear distance from other cyclists to avoid the wind-cheating benefit of drafting.  Simultaneously solo, yet among a group of 1,200 fellow competitors, you were at times overtaken and other times overtaking. Despite the race, and because of the chase, constantly changing place, managing to make many friends out on the course and following the race, exchanging tales of triumphs and tribulations added to the conviviality.

Of noted social wellness, on a broader community-wide scale, Sunrise Events, the organiser of Ironman Philippines, arranged for truly memorable and touching Finisher’s Medals, designed by award winning sculptor Daniel Dela Cruz, who stated, “The title of the medal is ‘Alab ng Puso’ and it’s the fire in the heart which I think each and every triathlete needs to be able to finish the race.”  

Additionally, each of 1,200 medal ribbons were hand-woven by survivors of war-torn Marawi in southern Philippines, who maintained hope amidst adversities, perseverance, and the fight to revive the true identity of the Maranaoan and their culture. “First, we wanted to do this to help the weavers, but we were shocked to learn that our equipment was destroyed. We encountered a lot of other challenges but I kept telling them this is going to be one of those that will prove that we can get back to our feet,” said Salika Maguindanao-Samad, who, along with her husband Jardin, led the efforts in making the medal ribbons. “We were inspired and thankful because this is also our livelihood before that has somehow been forgotten but now, it’s giving us hope.  We encouraged them to bring back weaving because that is something that we can be proud of and not be known for all the wrong reasons of being labelled as terrorists. We want to show that we are known for something much bigger than that and that we have a culture,” said Jardin. “That’s what we want the world to know about us.”

Watch an inspirational video on the making of the medals here.

Jim Efthimiou, National Wellness Institute of Australia Management Committee Member and newsletter editor, who whilst not qualifying for the World Championships in Kona this year, takes solace in the words of the famous philosopher Aristotle, who once said: “A gentleman should know how to play the Flute… but not too Well!”  And with that succinct summary of the "Wellness Way" from two millennia ago, he will continue chasing that elusive Kona qualification slot—for the pursuit of happiness is the happiness of pursuit. For more information on Triathlon and the Wellness Wheel or how to complete a Triathlon with minimal training for time-constrained individuals, feel free to contact Jim anytime at AirmaxPowerBreather.com

Tags:  Australia  emotional wellness  International Wellness  physical wellness  resilience  triathlon 

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