holistic

Self-Care and the Pursuit of Wellness

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When I talk to others about what stress management looks like, there’s one word that is usually brought up in the conversation: self-care. This buzzword that people mention seems to be thrown around without anyone truly understanding what it means or looks like practically. I want to challenge myself and you to think of self-care as more than the temporary relief of a bubble bath, video game, movie or whatever else pop-culture defines it as. Rather than talking about self-care and stress management, let’s talk about what it might look like to pursue wellness which requires a deeper look into how we are doing holistically.

When looking at wellbeing, we can gauge how we’re doing by looking at five different parts of ourselves: social, emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual. As we look into what each of these mean, let’s think about how we’re doing in each of them right now.

 Social - the relational aspect: do we have meaningful connection with others throughout the day? Are we isolating ourselves or over exerting ourselves in our social commitments? How are we engaging with others?

Emotional – our emotional state: are we in tune with both our positive and negative emotions? Are we denying ourselves from experiencing both the highs and lows of our life? Or are we being consumed and overwhelmed by either one of them?

Physical – our bodies: are our bodies telling us we need more or less of something? Perhaps we are a little tired and hungry so we grab extra caffeine and easy-to-reach snacks that fuel us temporarily. Are we noticing that our bodies need stretches and movements after sitting all day? Or maybe our bodies needing rest because we haven’t stopped moving. 

Mental – our thoughts: are our thoughts racing and preoccupied with something? Are we avoiding making a decision or not wanting to think about a particular event?

Spiritual – our core self: are we honoring who we are? Regardless of faith or spiritual practices, we are valuable individuals. So, are we connecting and being kind to ourselves?

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 So, how do we move towards our well self? Think about what it looks like when we’re doing well in each of these areas. For example, are we feeling connected to others when we eat meals with co-workers or are we needing a one-on-one coffee run with a close friend? Are we melancholic and need to practice gratitude or do we need to let our emotions run free for 10 minutes to be able to refocus on our responsibilities? Do we need to get 6 hours or 8 hours of sleep to feel restful? Do we need to write a to-do list to organize our thoughts or do we need to practice containment to not bring our work stress home? Do we need to rediscover what our preferences are or do we need to spend time reconnecting with our faith beliefs?

 There are more questions we can ask ourselves to prompt how we’re doing in each of these areas.  Regardless of what the questions are, are we pausing regularly to assess how we’re doing? The more frequently we’re able to gauge how we’re doing, the more sensitive we become when we stray from our well self. As we incorporate these steps into our lives and practice them regularly, we’ll be able to advocate for our needs and be kind to ourselves.

About the Author:

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Alex Song, RP, Apprentice, is pursuing an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Denver Seminary. Alex is passionate about helping people become their most authentic and true selves. She loves helping people navigate their life pursuits, identity formation, and career aspirations. She feels honored to walk alongside clients as they share their story with her, inviting her into that sacred space. She desires her clients to live life purposefully and well through evaluating their physical, spiritual, mental, social, and emotional health. As clients navigate meaning making, she works with clients to equip them with the tools to live their best life. Alex desires to connect with the Asian population to help them advocate for their voices as they pursue what wellness looks like. Alex is a Colorado native and enjoys exploring new coffee spots, watching movies, and catching up with friends.

Is “Fitspiration” Worthy of Aspiration?

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Are you constantly looking in the mirror to see if you have lost that five pounds yet? Or always thinking about your next meal and whether it will fit in your diet regimen? Do you feel anxious if you haven’t completed your exercise routine? You are certainly not alone. Many women everyday wrestle with body image and obsessive patterns concerning food and exercise. Disordered eating is a very common issue for women.

There is a new trend on social media called “Fitspiration.” Many women will tag themselves after their workout or eating a healthy meal and tag #fitspiration on sites like Instagram and Facebook. Studies have shown that there are over 5.2 million pictures on Instagram with this hashtag (Holland & Tiggemann, 2017). This hashtag highlights women with a certain body type, which is unattainable for lots of women. It also does not highlight the health benefits of diet and exercise, but rather obtaining a certain appearance. This can lead to discouragement for women who don’t feel like they match these women's images and it can send them spiraling into unhealthy eating behaviors.

One study compared a group of women who posted photos of fitspiration with a group of women who posted pictures of travel who were both tested for behaviors of disordered eating and compulsive exercise. Even though the women who posted fitness pictures appeared healthier, they scored higher for patterns of disordered eating (Holland & Tiggemann, 2017). The women posting fitspiration photos also scored higher for compulsive exercise, which is associated with more extreme levels of exercise that can lead to fatigue, injury proneness and social withdrawal (Holland & Tiggemann, 2017). It appears that the women posting about fitness are motivated more by perfectionism (Goodwin, Haycraft, Willis, & Meyer, 2011) and the drive to obtain the ‘socially acceptable’ body image  rather for the benefits of health (Holland & Tiggemann, 2017).

Images like these and many other factors in life can encourage unhealthy behaviors of eating and working out. Changing these behaviors is not as simple as finding the will power. There are multiple levels of thought, will, and heart all at play. It takes time to determine where the depths of insecurity have originated and how to work through it. Please check in again as we continue to unpack this complex topic of disordered eating and ways that lead towards true healing and freedom.

 

continuing the conversation

 

There is a much needed conversation around women and disordered eating, where the questions of “how do I know when I am falling into patterns of disordered eating?” or “what drives me to habits of disorder eating?

If you or someone you know would like more help to navigate through your relationship with food, I would encourage you to check out our group called “Navigating Your Relationship with Food: From Disordered Eating Towards Recovery.” There will also be a part two of this blog that will delve deeper into the underlying dynamics behind eating disorders.

About The Author:

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Amy McCann, RP, Apprentice, is earning her Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Denver Seminary. She is open to seeing many types of clients of all age ranges. She is trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and desires to help couples strengthen their relationship. Amy earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Movement Science from the University of Vermont, and desires to help her clients in a holistic way. She is passionate about people finding true freedom and healing in every area of life. Amy also has rich cultural experiences with living overseas and enjoys cross-cultural work with clients. Amy is originally from Boston, but loves living in Colorado with her husband. They enjoy hiking, fly fishing, playing games with friends, and eating ice cream.