All it takes is a day or two of sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aches, or pains and many of us are immediately headed toward our primary care doc’s office. Once we enter the exam room, we spill our symptoms all over the office; “I can’t breathe”, “my throat hurts”, “my head hurts”, “I FEEL AWFUL!”. But, the way you feel is not an emotion. It’s how your body feels and it feels awful.
So, we undergo an exam. The doctor and the nurse dutifully take our temperature, monitor our pulse and our blood pressure, ask us questions, do tests if necessary and finally give us their opinion about what ails us. Then the “remedy” is offered. Take this, do this and you will “feel better”. And, thankfully, it generally works. Our body’s symptoms improve and we “feel better”.
If only we were so in tune with our thoughts and emotions. While our body carries us through the day, it is our thoughts, emotions and beliefs that drive what we do, how we act, what we say, how we interact with others and how we feel. We are an intra-connected person. Our body is not separate from our mind, our emotions or our beliefs. It reflects, in physical form, what we think, feel and believe. Our wellness is mental, emotional and physical. We just pay more attention to the physical. And, for many of us, we only begin to pay attention to our mental and emotional wellness issues when our body begins to reflect the stress and strain of our lives.
Our wellness is also reflected in our relationships. Households and workplaces, the two environments in which we spend the majority of our time operate, in part, on the unseen emotional energy in the environment. At home our children, particularly young children are very sensitive to that emotional energy. As parents, we don’t have to say anything. The non-verbal signals we give off, which comprises most of our communication, says it all. Even if we are particularly adept at hiding our angry or hurt feelings there is always an undercurrent of hostility or sadness. And all of the other members in the household or workplace feel it and respond to it, sometimes negatively.
Our stress can look like sleeplessness, irritability, anger at the “drop of a hat”, overeating or not eating, tantrums – at any age, poor school performance, or any one of a host of behavior changes that appear inexplicable. As the adult in the family it can be productive to occasionally stop and examine our lives and ask ourselves a few important questions. “Am I overcommitting myself?” “When was the last time I took time for me?” “Do I even know what self-care is?” “Do I feel like I have to be Supermom or Superdad?” “Have I been so wound up for so long that I feel like a permanent pretzel?” “Can I ever stop worrying about the future long enough to be present now?” “How much of my past do I carry with me every day in my head?”
Some types of stress are a normal part of modern life. We are busy people. But, we become so accustomed to feeling stressed that we just think that the “stress”, is normal regardless of its source or sources. If you are stressed because you overcommit, the answer is to say “no” occasionally. It you spend all of your off hours from work chauffeuring children to and from, then maybe setting some priorities is in order.
As a parent, we may feel obligated to enroll our children in this, that and the other activity so that they can have the experiences and because we think that it is good for them. Realistically, we only have so much time, money and energy. As a family, sitting down and discussing family and individual wants, needs and priorities can help manage both individual and family stress that arises from overcommitting. It lets everyone in the family know that there is a process for decision making and it cuts down on some of the conflict that can occur when everyone is trying to get their own way. It also demonstrates parental values and helps children develop a host of skills, such as consideration of others, negotiation, prioritization and delayed gratification. And it helps create and maintain a household structure and routine.
If you struggle to set limits and boundaries, or you constantly worry about the future or ruminate over the past, then it may be beneficial to talk with a professional. If your physical health is becoming compromised and you know if would be beneficial to make lifestyle changes, but you are having difficulty getting started, talk to a professional. And, if your relationships with your children, spouse, partner or co-workers are challenging or difficult, talk with a professional. Our wellness is more than the appearance we present to the world. It is dependent upon our mental, emotional and physical states of well-being.